We first started hearing about Picnic, the ever-expanding craft show in Portland, from some of our past Meet subjects who were signed up to show (and sell) their wares at the biannual event. With the December holiday Picnic coming up at Thompson’s Point next week, we decided to learn more about its origins. We called up one of Picnic’s cofounders, Amy Teh, to talk about Maine’s maker culture, what’s on tap for this year’s Picnic and where that name came from.

LEAVING LAS VEGAS: “Maine wasn’t on my radar really, growing up in Las Vegas,” says Amy Teh. But 12 years ago when she and her partner (now husband) Noah DeFilippis were living in Brooklyn, he made it clear he was itching to be done with crowded New York. DeFilippis grew up in Standish. “Come try Maine,” he said to her. “And I did.” They bought a house in Portland and today operate Pinecone + Chickadee, a funky gift store with a vintage vibe on Free Street. But before they opened that bricks and mortar store in 2011, they lived a somewhat nomadic life, traveling to craft fairs all around the country.

WHAT WERE THE WARES? Teh was a longtime graphic designer who had studied at Academy of Art University in San Francisco as well as the University of San Francisco. They made cards and T-shirts, with DeFilippis silk screening in the basement using Teh’s designs. “We’d be driving all the time to Boston, New York, D.C. It was fun because it was like a working vacation.” Their baby son Darby (now 12) went on the road with them.

NO LIGHTHOUSES: Then in 2008, they decided that their new(ish) hometown needed a different kind of craft fair, like the ones they were hitting in their nomadic days. There were talented Maine artists they thought needed a venue. “Etsy hadn’t taken off yet. A lot of people didn’t have their own website, and we thought Portland had a lot to offer.” Their idea was for a “less traditional” craft fair. Meaning, what exactly? What might be sold at a traditional craft fair? “That’s a good question. I would think, lighthouses and doilies maybe. But that is funny because I do have a new design that does have a lighthouse on it.”

SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS? We had to ask, what’s with the name? The couple called it Picnic because the first craft fair they planned for Portland was in summer, and they had a vision for an event where local bands would perform. “The idea was to come hang out all day, shop, listen to music and picnic on the grass.” The name stuck, even when the event evolved to be a twice a year event including one in December, when no one wants to sit on the grass in Maine. They skipped the September 2017 Picnic because its customary location, Lincoln Park, was undergoing renovations, but the fair should be back there next year.

CURATING CRAFTS: That first year, they signed up 60 vendors. These days, Picnic is more than twice that size, but still, not everyone who applies for a spot gets in. “We do have to turn people away, which is not an enjoyable part of doing a show.” A rotating jury picks the vendors; they gave the nod to 130 craftspeople for the Thompson’s Point show, making it the biggest ever. If you get weak from shopping, like we do, Verbena, Coffee by Design and Bread & Butter will be selling refreshments.

UNCOMMON COMMODITY: What’s the most unusual thing one might find at Picnic? “I do have a vendor that makes jewelry out of small animal bones. I think beaver and raccoon, stuff like that. It is called Wishbone Jewelry.”

MAKERS MARK: What’s Teh’s theory on why Maine is such a good place for makers? “I am not going to say anything eloquent here, but it seems as though there has always been a vibe that appreciates handmade goods and small business over big corporate places. I don’t know why that is. Maybe because big corporations haven’t had a big presence?” (Until now, we both agree, with chains like Anthropologie, West Elm and Urban Outfitters now only a couple of blocks away from Pinecone + Chickadee.)

SANTA-FREE SHOPPING: There will NOT be a Santa on hand at Thompson’s Point for Picnic. But there is a photo op. “We have a Yeti photo booth.” Come again? “You can get your photo taken with a Yeti. We have a guy who dresses up like a Yeti monster.” That’s the Abominable Snowman for you “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” fans.

Mary Pols can be contacted at 791-6456 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: MaryPols

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