Sadie Bliss

Name: Sadie Bliss

Age: 39

Title: Executive director

Company: Maine Crafts Association, which operates the Center for Maine Craft, West Gardiner and starting in July, Maine Craft Portland

About: Our mission is to support craft artists by supplying educational, marketing and retail opportunities. Website: mainecrafts.org

What’s your biggest challenge right now?

Fundraising and having the capacity for fundraising.

Specifically at the Center for Maine Craft, maybe because it’s a little more rural, we are challenged to have full staff. We had an assistant manager position open for a while, and we did hire somebody and they realized they couldn’t do it at the capacity they needed to, and they didn’t realize it until the last minute. A lot of the people we were looking at were from pretty far away. That’s a challenge. The positions we’re offering, the assistant manager is a full-time position. That one is looking for a more specific, developed skill set. And we’re always looking for sales associates and that’s a part-time hourly position, and we’re looking for someone who can fit a part-time hourly position into their life.

We try to be competitive in pay and I think we are, compared to other, similar positions. But it’s an entry-level position.

For my organization, we’re a statewide organization so we’re challenged to better serve the parts of the state we’re not physically located in through our programming. Our Maine Crafts Weekend is a statewide studio tour, and we support them by driving traffic to them. And we have a 7-month apprenticeship between a master and apprentice and that can take place anywhere in the state, and we travel to them for the few meetings we have.

Also our Center for Maine Craft and now our new store, Maine Craft Portland, sell the work of artists from anywhere in the state, but clearly they are located in one physical location so they are serving the public better in that location.

And in general, we work to brand craft in Maine and Maine as a place that has a lot of fine craftsman. That in theory is supporting people all over the state, although it’s harder to track.

What’s the best advice you have ever received?

To assume other people are acting or speaking or functioning with good intentions.

It’s easy to say if something’s not going well, and assume the other person is a jerk and react that way. You can take a step back and assume they are trying to do the right thing. It’s a more kind and peaceful way to approach a situation. If you assume that, hopefully, that is true, and when you have to get into a conversation about what’s going on, they’re going to be less defensive and you will end up with a better conversation, a better result and a better relationship. If someone is really trying as hard as they can and trying to do the right thing, and you approach them as if they are a jerk, it’s going to out a wall against progress being made.

I do that with my staff and my contractors and my kids. And I hope people are doing that with me because I don’t always do everything right, but I am always trying to.

How do you foster creativity in yourself or your staff?

I try to identify or help my staff self-identify what they like and what they are good at. And on a day-to-day basis, shift their job description or involve what they are doing in the things they like most and are best at.

In a holistic way, when they are doing things they’re good at and feeling successful and rewarded, they will be in their best setup to be problem solvers and be working creatively. In general, happy fulfilled people are more creative and better problem-solvers, so I would foster that environment.

What’s your biggest fear?

I have a pretty big, immediate project I am working on. Most of my energy is going toward opening Maine Craft Portland by July. I am having a personal learning curve being in the general contracting position to get through a renovation. I have a lot of experience with retail and I have been running and overseeing the Center for Maine Craft for almost 10 years. I have opened a gallery before, but I haven’t in a busy downtown location opened a major facility before. Personally, I am going through those steps and finding my way. That’s my biggest concern right now.

In the little bit longer term, that this new space will sustain itself and have been a good idea and prove out our hypothesis that it’s a good location and that it’s needed and wanted and supported by the community.

It’s located at 521 Congress St. It’s 1,400 square feet. We’ll try to be open for a few days before the First Friday Art Walk.

What’s the future of the maker economy in Maine?

I have no doubt that people will continue to make things. A lot of the trends that are happening now will get further developed and continue, like maker spaces, where there’s several artists working in the same facility and sharing some of the resources and costs.

I think there is a strong Maine brand that will continue to be popular outside of Maine. There will be more infrastructure for smaller companies to sell their products outside of Maine or outside of the country, through third parties that will help take some of the layers or confusion or the hoops out of selling internationally.

We’re working through our craft apprentice program to help support the next generation of emerging artists through in-studio learning in a one-on-one kind of way. It can be a hard life and a hard business and hard to get out of school and get right into making your work and figuring out how to sell it, if you want to go in galleries or online, in craft shows, or more of a production line or do high-end custom work. It’s not a simple thing.

There is a lot of support and interest in makers and in small-batch things. Crafts can be a narrow definition, as far as hand-made objects using traditional techniques, or it can be wider to include craft brewing and kombucha and different kinds of specialty foods and breads, using the language of it being small batch and crafted. And other kinds of things like boat-building that are definitely a different industry but kind of thinking about doing things in a careful way, in a well-crafted way. I think that culture in Maine is really strong. There are certainly things pushing up against it like Amazon and all the competition in any kind of way. But I don’t see that making crafts slow down or any of these small-batch industries. I think there’s a lot interest in the media in them and it’s supported by people. If people are interested in the stories and the experiences and the authenticity of it, I think it will continue.

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.