Strengthening Artists and Local Communities

Sadie small headshotThe Maine Crafts Association provides services to artists at all points during their careers. We spoke with MCA Executive Director Sadie Bliss about their mission and programs.


ABI:  MCA is launching a new apprenticeship program. How does it work, and who can participate?

SB: The Craft Apprentice Program (CAP) is a partnership effort with the Maine Arts Commission. CAP is a statewide apprentice program for contemporary craft practitioners offering concentrated peer-to-peer learning experiences for apprentices who demonstrate a commitment to further their abilities as specialized craft practitioners. They will accomplish this through a significant relationship with a master artist and must apply to the program as a pair.

The program will also serve to celebrate the role of the master/apprentice relationship as a way to generate creative entrepreneurship through the cultural sector. It addresses the need for developing sustainability and resiliency in the craft sector by allowing craft artists to acquire new skills, tools and management habits that help them adapt to the changing environment of craft consumers.  The application process opens this fall and the 7-month apprenticeships will begin in Spring 2016 concluding with an exhibition during MCA’s Maine Craft Weekend.


Portland Fine Craft Show


ABI:  What types of services do you offer to established artists who want to grow their businesses?

SB:  The MCA offers benefits for all craft artists, emerging, mid-career and established.  MCA was founded in 1983 and there are even a handful of artists who became members during the emerging point in their career and are now established masters!  Established artists participate in many MCA programs open to all our members such as selling their work in our retail store, the Center for Maine Craft, or the Portland Fine Craft Show, participating in our co-op marketing opportunities and opening their studios during Maine Craft Weekend.


MCA Haystack workshop


In 2009, the Maine Crafts Association began to honor individual Maine craft artists each year by awarding Master Crafts Artist recognition for a body of work that is exceptional. This award confers the prestige and acknowledgement that comes with having the artist’s work achieve a distinguishing mark of excellence.  These artists are then invited to teach during our annual MCA Weekend Workshop at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts as well as mount a solo exhibition at the Center for Maine Crafts gallery space.  The new apprentice program, CAP, will bring together Masters and younger-in-career artists offering Masters a $3000 stipend, a chance to give back through mentorship and the prestige of acceptance into the program.


Maine Crafts Association Exhibit


ABI:  How can artists benefit from your marketing services?

SB:  The Maine Craft Association secures media sponsorships and paid advertising to market our public events, such as Maine Craft Weekend and the Portland Fine Craft Show, this marketing benefits the events and the artists participating in them, as well as, brands Maine as a national crafts destination.

The MCA also offers co-op advertising opportunities to our members by securing discounted pages in national magazines and inviting artists to pay for a space in the ad at a much lower rate then they could arrange on their own.  The MCA also provides each member with a member profile page on our website and access to our mailing list through free listings in our newsletter.


Maine Crafts Association Exhibit Space


ABI:  How does the Maine Crafts Association assist artists in selling their handmade work?

SB:  The MCA operates the Center for Maine Craft, a juried retail gallery selling products from approximately 300 Maine craft artists.  This store grosses over half a million dollars in annual sales and proudly pays artists more than $275,000 for the sales of their work. The MCA also sponsored the first annual Portland Fine Craft Show in 2015 where 80 exhibitors sold their work during a one-day outdoor craft show in downtown Portland, Maine.

Each October MCA produces Maine Craft Weekend, an annual tour of Maine craft studios, breweries, businesses and events and develops a website and marketing to drive customers directly to artist studios and places of business.  MCA also holds a small craft show at the Center for Maine Craft that weekend for artists not able to open their private studios. And finally, the MCA offers training and shared member booths at New England Made, a wholesale show, and CraftBoston, a retail show for artists ready to break into larger or different markets.


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