Brunswick artist wows with wood at Searsport Shores

Week-long project comes together, one scale at a time
By Tanya Mitchell | Aug 28, 2012
Photo by: Tanya Mitchell Blake Hendrickson selects the pieces of wood he'll use to create the scales on a giant wooden fish that will grace the exterior wall of the art studio at Searsport Shores Campground.

Searsport — Blake Hendrickson of Brunswick has used wood as his medium since he was 14 years old, but he only recently began sharing his art with the world.

Hendrickson, an architect and engineer by trade, started his own business in that field about five years ago after working at Bath Iron Works for more than 20 years.

“When I started my own business, I decided my art needed to pay for itself,” said Hendrickson, taking a brief break from his work in the art studio at Searsport Shores Campground Wednesday morning, Aug. 22.

Hendrickson is one of the many artists who have brought a variety of talents to the campers at Searsport Shores over the course of the summer. Along with providing campers with wooden pieces of all shapes and sizes to create their own art works, which may also include pine cones and other items commonly found outdoors in Maine, Hendrickson spent the week creating what will become the latest addition to the works at the campground.

Hendrickson’s contribution is a large, colorful fish made completely of wood that will grace the side wall of the art studio. The fish, which Hendrickson is constructing in six separate pieces that consist of individually crafted scales, will add a sculpture with varying textures to the exterior of the studio, which will greet passersby as they drive into the campground.

With the help of an army of stuffed fabric moose Hendrickson calls his “mini-moose” — a title that was derived from the word “muse” — Hendrickson has brought his artistic talent to more than 2,000 Maine schoolchildren, and last fall he shared his love for woodworking with fifth-graders in Italy.

The mini-moose travel with Hendrickson to the various places his art has taken him: a small group of his tiny assistants were hanging around in the kitchen area of the studio Wednesday. The mini-moose, said Hendrickson, were first brought to life in a book about Hendrickson’s art.

“Here, they wandered in and invited their friends over,” said Hendrickson, displaying the colorful photographs in the book depicting the journey of the mini-moose as they work together to make their own pieces in his studio.

So far both parents and children love the idea of the mini-moose, Hendrickson said.

“It gives people the green light to go ahead and be creative,” he said. “It’s great to see the adults cracking up. Then they’ll come over to me and say, ‘I’m going to listen to my mini-muse’. It’s a lot of fun.”

After Hendrickson brought his work into the public eye by presenting some of his works through the Maine Center for Contemporary Art, he started teaching his skills to schoolchildren and eventually, he joined the Maine Fiberarts Commission. That’s where he met Searsport Shores co-owners Astrig and Steve Tanguay.

“They said they always wanted a big fish,” recalled Hendrickson of their meeting.

Hendrickson thought it was something he could do while also enlisting the help of campers, and soon he and the Tanguays agreed he would be one of the resident artists for the 2012 season.

Hendrickson said he was enjoying his time on Penobscot Bay, and meeting the campers who come from all over the globe to spend a few days camping along the shore. He said he’s been especially happy to see whole families coming to the studio and seeking out his advice on the various pieces the parents and children were creating themselves.

“It’s important for kids to see their parents doing things like that,” said Hendrickson.

One little boy and his father crafted a bow out of a stick they found in the nearby woods, and Hendrickson showcased the beginnings of the quiver the two were making so the boy would have a way to carry his arrows.

Another child made a three-dimensional scene depicting a small wooden man sliding along a zip line, while a mother and daughter team created a sheep grazing in a field.

Four-year-old Yael Avraham was on the deck with her mother, Shir, where the two used plants and flowers to color the wooden beads from which they were making a bracelet. Shir Avraham said the family was visiting Searsport Shores for the first time, and though they had traveled from Boston, the family originally hails from Israel.

Astrig Tanguay said the artists in residence program has continued to exceed her expectations, and it seems to have kept campers coming back for more, too.

“When people are booking now, they’ll ask us who’s going to be the artist that week,” she said.

Hendrickson said the fish he designed would likely be completed and ready for display by Saturday, Aug. 25, and described the project as both an interesting challenge and a labor of love.

“It’s part inspiration, and part perspiration,” said the artist.

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