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Updated: February 13, 2020

Makers Guild to flex flax history for Maine bicentennial

Courtesy / Maine Bicentennial Commission From left, Makers Guild of Maine Treasurer Emma Morin and founders Astrig and Steve Tanguay, with L.L. Bean’s chief legal and compliance officer Mike Mahoney, Maine Office of Tourism Director Steve Lyons, and Sen. Bill Diamond, chairman of the Maine Bicentennial Commission. The guild receive Maine Office of Tourism and Maine Bicentennial Commission grants for its Flaxapalooza festival, celebrating the role of flax in Maine history.

The Makers Guild of Maine will use $20,000 in grants to showcase fiber artists and makers during a new event, Flaxapalooza 2020, as part of Maine’s bicentennial celebration.

The guild received the money from the Maine Office of Tourism and Maine Bicentennial Commission.

The festival will celebrate the skills, people and communities that transformed flax and similar plant fibers into items that help define Maine.

“Maine’s seafarers, farmers and fishermen depended on flax and other fiber plants to make their sails, ropes, nets, sacks and twine,” Astrig Tanguay, the guild’s director, said in a news release.

Flax was also used for waterproofing shoes, clothing and home furnishings, she said, and “it’s astonishing to think that in the early days all these goods were made largely by hand from plants that grew nearby, and that it was the beginning of an industry that subsequently made textiles for the world.”

Flax remains a source of practical and decorative home items, including bed sheets, quilts, table linens and rugs, as well as other goods such as cheesecloth, baskets and artists’ canvas, according to the guild’s website.

“In cooperation with the Bicentennial Commission, it is an honor to help showcase the fiber artists, makers and their distinctive work during Flaxapalooza 2020,” Maine Office of Tourism Director Steve Lyons said in the release.

L.L. Bean Inc. is sponsoring the Maine Bicentennial Commission’s community grants program as a way to honor and celebrate local commemorations of the bicentennial across communities and towns in Maine.

As part of the Maine Office of Tourism’s Maine Tourism Marketing Partnership Program, the Bicentennial Marketing and Event Grant was created in 2019 to support tourism marketing projects and events that will drive stays in Maine during the state’s bicentennial year.

The Bicentennial Community Grants program  provides funding to nonprofit organizations for bicentennial-themed projects that benefit the public, such as festivals, historic preservation efforts, lectures and curriculum. The Maine Makers Guild was one of 30 grant recipients  in the first round of awards, which totaled $145,000.

Based in Searsport, the Makers Guild of Maine is a nonprofit that creates opportunities for people to come together to make handcrafted items, traditional music and locally sourced food.

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