Artist’s headline-covered seat honors The Ellsworth American

Headlines about lobster landings, blueberry harvests and summer sailing races are among those that show up on this papier-mâché covered chair made by Marilou Thomas.

ELLSWORTH — Colleges and universities often create named chairs for department heads and other high-profile professors.

The University of Maine, for example, has the Stephen E. King Chair in Literature. And although it is a seat of a different stripe, The Ellsworth American now has its own chair as well.

Marilou Thomas, a seasonal Ellsworth resident, delivered a papier-mâché covered chair to The American’s office on Aug. 16.

Thomas made the chair back in 2003, but she and her husband are preparing to move back to California permanently due to his health. A fan of the newspaper, she said she wanted to leave the chair here as a gift. Publisher Alan Baker gratefully accepted the piece on behalf of the paper.

A journalism major at the University of Michigan, Thomas said she taught high school and middle school art and journalism for many years. In 2001, she and her husband bought a residence in Ellsworth and have spent time here every year since.

The idea for the chair came out of her background in art, her appreciation for the newspaper and a love of chairs. Thomas took a wooden chair and covered it with headlines, photos and images from the pages of The American, then covered it in multiple layers of urethane varnish. That gives strength to the papier-mâché exterior.

“It’s totally indestructible,” she said.

The chair gifted by Thomas features The Ellsworth American masthead on the top rail of the chair’s back, along with lots of local headlines about the blueberry harvest, lobster landings and sailboat races.

While many of those headlines make perennial appearances in the paper, others date the chair to news during the period when it was made. “New Waldo-Hancock Bridge on Schedule” reads one headline, referring to the cable-stay Penobscot Narrows Bridge that went on to open to motorists in 2006.

Marilou Thomas has decorated about 10 chairs over the past 14 years with headlines from The Ellsworth American and other newspapers.

“Fork In The Road Café to Close,” another headline informs readers. It ran above a story about the popular eatery that sat at the split of Oak and State streets in Ellsworth.

Since making that first chair 14 years ago, Thomas said she has made about 10 others for friends. She has also made chairs using headlines from the New York Times and Bangor Daily News, but said The American is her favorite. She has done some other projects using newspaper headlines, including mosaics, but said it has mostly been the chairs.

After saving up enough headlines, Thomas said it took her “no more than three hours” to create the finished product by applying the headlines to the chair and then varnishing it. That speed comes from her decades of experience working with students.

“I can do papier-mâché in a hurry,” she said with a smile.

Baker said he was “blown away” by Thomas’s gift and her creativity. Following on the heels of another artistic tribute to the paper earlier in August (the world premiere performance of “The Ellsworth American” march on Aug. 2), Baker said it has been “an incredible month.”

“What an incredible affirmation of the respect and the affection with which the newspaper is held,” he said.

Steve Fuller

Steve Fuller

Reporter at The Ellsworth American,
Steve Fuller worked at The Ellsworth American from 2012 to early 2018. He covered the city of Ellsworth, including the Ellsworth School Department and the city police beat, as well as the towns of Amherst, Aurora, Eastbrook, Great Pond, Mariaville, Osborn, Otis and Waltham. A native of Waldo County, he served as editor of Belfast's Republican Journal prior to joining the American. He lives in Orland.
Steve Fuller

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