GARDINER — This weekend artists and crafters across Maine will open the doors to their studios and shops and invite the public to see what they do and how they do it as part of Maine Craft Weekend.

In Gardiner, one of the event’s featured cities, the Craft Weekend gives the owners of the Purple Shed Woodworks an opportunity to show people the kind of work they do — an opportunity that has been curtailed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The business is the creation of siblings Jason and Renée Ledoux, who made a decision after the 2016 death of their father to step away from their jobs as a project manager and emergency room nurse and do something different. They landed on fine woodworking.

The Ledouxs’ woodworks will be part of the annual statewide tour of craft studios, businesses and events that highlight the array of products made in Maine. They also give the public a look at the life and work of the people who make everything from cutting boards and furniture to blown glass and spirits.

Gardiner is one of six featured cities that will be taking part, with a citywide slate of events. A number of city studios and businesses will be taking part, including Circling the Square Fine Art Press, Alan Claude Gallery, Cattywampus Studio and Sebago Lake Distilling.

Other events, like the indoor/outdoor craft show at the Majestic Craft Store, a wood turning demonstration and trunk show at Monkitree, and displays of art, embroidery and pottery at local businesses, are also a part of the weekend’s events.

Melissa Lindley, executive director of Gardiner Main Street, said the event showcases many central Maine artists who will be able get wider exposure for their work along with businesses by creating a hub of activity in a central location.

Purple Shed Woodworks moved into its Water Street location nearly a year ago from the purple shed in Portland where Jason had been doing his woodworking. It wasn’t new territory for either of them; they grew up in Gardiner and had moved away.

Renée Ledoux said the shop had been the basis for the online business developed during the pandemic, and the place for people to come to pick up custom orders. They started opening the shop on Saturdays during the spring, and that has continued through the summer and into the fall. At the same time, they have been taking their work on the road to display at craft shows in Maine and Vermont as they gear up for the holidays.

This weekend, the shop will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday only.

“Something that came from the pandemic was a push to support local, which helped our business, and I know a number of other small businesses it definitely helped,” Renée Ledoux said. “People decided to really lean into that and realize how important it is to rely on your community and local small businesses when everything was kind of going wrong.”

Even as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, other factors are making buying local an attractive option. One is the slowdown announced this week for some mail handled by the U.S. Postal Service; the other is the ongoing delays in international shipping and supply chain interruptions.

“You realize how big the chain of supply and the chain of demand is through all of this and supporting your local artist or your local business is so vital in this time,” Renée Ledoux said. “It should always remain that way; that’s how your community is going to grow and blossom.”

While the weekend is a chance for people to shop, it also highlights the role that artisans and makers play in their local economies.

Sarah B. Coleman of Mainely Antler Baskets, weaves a basket in October 2019 during the Northern Maine Artists Maine Craft Weekend at the Canaan Farmers Hall. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file

Sheena Bunnell, professor of business economics at the University of Maine at Farmington and chairwoman of the state’s Consensus Economic Forecasting Commission, said craftsmanship is part of Maine’s cultural heritage.

“These are small, specialty local Maine businesses that are key drivers of our economic engine here,” Bunnell said. “Their creative pursuits and the handcrafted small manufacturing industry is creating a very strong economic impact.”

Communities gain economic benefits through the revenue that these businesses generate, she said, by bringing money into a community that might not otherwise be spent there.

“Consumers are generally drawn to purchasing locally made Maine products, and Maine has a strong brand. As a result of that, you can get a lot of consumption activity, especially with disposable income,” she said.

The pandemic, and the business closures that have resulted, has created some pent-up demand for shopping, she said, as well as a sense of nostalgia. And the timing, at the start of foliage season, will also draw tourists.

The Maine Craft Weekend is produced by is produced by the Maine Crafts Association in partnership with Maine Made. The full listing of events, along with information about the other featured cities, can be found on its website at mainecraftsweekend.org.


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