What do you get the Mainer who has everything?

How about a hand-woven herring scale basket that’s been in a time capsule since the 1960s?

These ash baskets, made for the herring pearlessence industry, were woven by Passamaquoddy craftsmen for companies that used them to gather fishermen’s discarded fish scales.

The companies processed the opalescent material on the scales into coloring for lipsticks, paint and other products.

The baskets were collected by a well-known Jonesport-area fisherman named Oscar Look, who stored 800 of them in his warehouse. Look’s baskets, made in the 1960s, have never been used.

Fast forward a few decades. Look died in 2007, and three fishermen from Jonesport eventually took over his wharf and warehouse, where they discovered the baskets. They struck a deal with Save Passamaquoddy Bay to sell them as a fundraiser.

For nearly a decade, Save Passamaquoddy Bay – a coalition made up of Downeast residents, Canadians and members of the Passamaquoddy tribe – fought corporate developers who wanted to bring a liquefied natural gas terminal to Passamaquoddy Bay in Washington County.

They succeeded, but were left with numerous legal bills and research costs.

The group sold many of the baskets to help fund their battle, and now the rest are for sale through a partnership with the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM).

Practically speaking, these wooden baskets were long ago made obsolete by cheap plastic baskets and the disappearance of Maine canneries. But now they are collectors’ items.

Gretta Wark, senior director of philanthropy at the NRCM, explained that the baskets with a green stripe were made for the Mearl Corp. of Eastport. A handful of baskets made for Argenta Products, also based in Eastport, feature a reddish-brown A and a stripe that circles the basket. The Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, Wark said, has an Argenta basket in its permanent collection.

The baskets cost $200 each, plus tax and shipping. Seventy-five percent of the sales will help Save Passamaquoddy Bay pay off the last of its legal bills and “protect the bay from inappropriate development.” The other 25 percent will go to the Natural Resources Council of Maine.

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