Maine-based photographer Greta Rybus recently collaborated with Princeton Architectural Press editor Jan Cigliano Hartman and writer Katy Kelleher to build a book, titled Handcrafted Maine. The book portrays the creative spirit of Maine, focusing on how craftsman and working environments relate and impact each other.
The project had been discussed between the talented trio for many years, but by the time they got around to actually working on it, they were limited to only a year of production, from start-to-finish. Greta explains how a year is usually a substantial amount of time to complete a book like this, but since seasons tend to skew on the short side in Maine, they had even less time to finish it.
Katy and I buzzed around the state together gathering content for the book, and it was an adventure! We got lost on logging roads in the far, far Northern part of Maine, we stopped on the side of the road to pick wild blueberries, and we even made the mistake of joining a lobster fisherman on the water in the middle of January. The waves were so massive we feared being tossed overboard!
Handcrafted Maine features profiles of people in Maine who work amongst art, land, and sea. Greta and the rest of the team studied the broader concept of “craft” by deep diving beyond the subject in his or her natural habitat; whether you’re an artist in the studio or someone who works in fields, on mountains, or in the ocean.
While Maine is incredibly beautiful, it demands a unique work and life balance which proved to be deeply fascinating and fulfilling as we met so many diverse people who hone in on their craft in unique ways.
A repertoire of people who were interviewed and observed from Greta’s point of view included Ayumi Horie; a potter who lives in the outskirts of Portland and is recognized for her playful ceramics, John Bisbee; best known for the metal sculpture made of nails that he and his team of apprentices created, Micah Woodcock; who spends his time in the waves harvesting seaweed, and lastly, Masa Miyake; a chef from Northern Japan, who raises pigs in his backyard as a source of farm-to-table ingredients for his traditional Japanese restaurant.
The book is an ode to Maine, without a doubt. But it was also important for us to create a book that is honest. Katy’s writing exemplifies the real truth to living in Maine and writes about the beauty of the state, the satisfaction that comes with creativity as a resident there, as well as the financial struggles of being an artist, the increased rate of addiction, and the sexism faced in the art world.
As a creative herself, Greta feels this book is a great guide for not only her and other photographers but for all different types of craftsman to learn about an array of media and how things are seen behind the “tools and canvas.”
For me, I can become a better photographer by looking at other peoples’ work lives: by studying how a painter looks at light, or how a fisherman or farmer patterns their workday based on the sun.
With the recent release of Handcrafted Maine, Greta is looking forward to seeing how local Mainers react to it. For her, the book was a product of many deep conversations she had with her team and the locals they met along the way. The process of making a book has been so positive for Greta that she is in the midst of pitching a second book with the vision of a similar concept.
See more of Greta at gretarybus.com!