From a vantage point on Water Street in downtown Wiscasset, passersby will soon be able to watch the stitching of brooms, the carving of bowls and spoons, and other handcrafting techniques.
Eric McIntyre, of Wiscasset, will open Village Handcraft, his storefront and work space, at 52 Water St. on Friday, Nov. 26.
McIntyre’s love of making things and solving problems manifested at a young age and compounded throughout his life as he had opportunities to learn from woodworkers and craftspeople.
“So much of it is related to my desire to be curious,” McIntyre said.
The most significant experience on this path, however, took place in the summer of 2018, when McIntyre worked as an intern with the Maine Coast Craft School in Bristol.
During the course of his internship, McIntyre developed a love for green woodworking, a type of crafting that involves using hand tools on fresh, soft wood. McIntyre began making practical objects for his everyday use, such as spoons or bowls, and soon started crafting objects as gifts for friends and family members.
“The process of starting with these raw materials and producing these beautiful, useful, and practical objects … it really provides a connection between not only the natural world and ourselves, but also between one another,” McIntyre said. “It’s really valuable to people to have a connection between the objects they’re using and the person who made it.”
McIntyre’s love of learning and nature dovetailed into his career in residential education, recently capped off with a four-year tenure at the Chewonki Foundation teaching a field ecology course.
While he enjoyed teaching, McIntyre realized over the winter that he wanted to make space for new work possibilities, especially in something that would allow him more time to create and work with his hands.
He considered opening a shop, but after looking at a couple possible locations that didn’t work out, he decided it might not be the right year to start a business and stopped actively pursuing the idea.
“And then I came across this storefront on a walk through town, had a look around, and moved in three weeks later,” McIntyre said. “Everything fell into place.”
Since October, McIntyre has been working to make the space his own. He constructed the work bench on the far side of the room, where he will create every item he will display for sale less than 15 feet away.
“I didn’t want to have a workshop. I wanted to have a shop where people could see me at work,” McIntyre said. “I really look forward to the informal education that can take place here, either by people walking by and seeing me working through the window or coming in while the shop is open to ask questions. When people come in and pick up a broom, or a spoon, or a bowl, they will be to look across the room and see the tools that made every mark on the object.”
McIntyre envisions Village Handcraft as a community space, where anyone can walk in and feel comfortable asking a question or learning a skill.
Once his grand opening is in the rearview, McIntyre will host workshops where attendees can learn the skills he uses in creating his products, either in individual classes focused on a particular project or skill or in a series of multiple classes that take on large projects or skill progression.
McIntyre also hopes to periodically host a visiting maker in the shop to provide visitors the opportunity to see other handcrafting work they might not witness in their day-to-day lives, such as fiber arts or embroidery.
“Because I had been in residential school settings living alongside colleagues and came from college right before that, I have grown used to that communal living experience and the community it provides,” McIntyre said. “That’s one of the reasons I hope to share the process of handwork with other people.”
That desire is reflected in the business’s name, as well.
“I was drawn to word ‘village’ because of the connotation of community it has and the economic model I hope it perpetuates,” McIntyre said. “When I’m sourcing materials, I’m looking as locally as possible, because it’s about creating these products people will use in their homes from materials found in their community.”
At present, McIntyre plans to have Village Handcraft open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.