For 20 years, early autumn on the Midcoast included a celebration of the area’s, and the state’s, works of fine craft. Even though the “Work of the Hand” juried craft show fell victim to the big shake-up at Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockport, craft is alive and well during this, American Craft Week, thanks to CRAFT gallery in Rockland and the “Finer Things” invitational craft show at Searsport’s Penobscot Marine Museum.

Barbara Michelena of Camden, a longtime “Work of the Hand” organizer, was instrumental in moving the show from Camden-Rockport High School to CMCA a year after she got involved. She felt it was important to present the show’s work in a gallery setting rather than a booth show. Now she is doing exactly that at CRAFT, a gallery she opened in late May in downtown Rockland. She got the idea for CRAFT a couple of days before the 2009 “Work of the Hand” concluded.

“I could see what was coming down the pike. With all the fine work and the artists I’d gotten to know during ‘Work of the Hand,’ I didn’t want to see it end,” she said.

Michelena knew from the start whose work she wanted in her gallery and when she spoke to those artists about the idea, they were completely onboard. Then she began to look for the right space.

“Rockland is the only place I looked, even though I could’ve walked to work in Camden; Rockland is the place to be,” she said.

Michelena searched up and down Main Street but could not find anything going for less than a 12-month lease; she was looking for six months. She stopped into Caldbeck Gallery on Elm Street to commiserate with owners Cynthia Hyde and Jim Kinnealey.

“And Jim said, you know, we’ve been thinking about renting the carriage house, but it’s only seasonal,” said Michelena.

The barn-like attachment sits in the center of the courtyard shared by the Caldbeck and Bruce Busko’s Landing Gallery. It was a smaller space than Michelena had envisioned, but she applied her background as an interior designer to the task and soon decided the carriage house and CRAFT’s 22 artists were a perfect fit.

CRAFT’s roster has seven potters; six jewelers; six fiber artists – three producing wall hangings and three, wearable art; two paper artists; and Riv Pyne, a sculptor who has his composite latex/steel armature bird models at the gallery.

“I find it very rewarding and educational, because I know the artists and how their work is made and can share that,” Michelena said.

During American Craft Week, which runs through Sunday, Oct. 10, CRAFT is putting extra emphasis on the work of paper artist Alison Kuller and wearable fiber artist Jody Meredith, both of whom participated in the 2009 “Work of the Hand.” Kuller’s blank books are handsewn with linen thread and covering materials ranging from found papers, recycled plastic bags and paste papers made by the artist. She also creates gift cards and folders that incorporate origami, pop-out windows and clever lotus folds in her Three Stone Folio studio in Camden. Meredith offers fine merino wool or cashmere scarves appliquéd with felt and meticulously tailored boiled wool jackets, edged in silk or velvet in unexpected color contrasts and patterns.

CRAFT’s other paper artist, Laurie Adams, also has work in the current “Finer Things” invitational craft show and sale at the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport. Another reflection of the “Work of the Hand” legacy, the invitational “Finer Things” has been organized by Betty Schopmeyer, PMM’s education director, and Cathy Melio, the maritime museum’s program and outreach coordinator and former education director at CMCA. The show is in Penobscot Marine’s Main Street admissions center through Sunday, Oct. 24; sales benefit both the museum and the craft artists.

CRAFT will remain open until Nov. 1, with the possibility of re-opening for a couple of holiday shopping weekends (the space does have a Rinnai heater). Michelena said she is committed to next season as well, which will include periodic reprisals of the courtyard reception Landing, CRAFT and Caldbeck galleries experimented with this year.

“They say things are best in threes,” she said, lauding the support she has received from the Caldbeck’s Hyde and Kinnealey; and Landing’s Busko.

CRAFT gallery is open Wednesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m.; and by appointment. For more information, call 594-0167 or visit craftonelm.com.

“Finer Things” is open during regular Penobscot Marine Museum hours of Mondays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. For more information, call 548-2529 or visit penobscotmarinemuseum.org.

VillageSoup Art/Entertainment Editor Dagney Ernest can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail to dernest@villagesoup.com.