Eliot Sweet created many things by hand

BLUE HILL — In his lifetime (1906-2000), Blue Hill artisan Eliot Sweet’s hands were seldom idle. The late artist/craftsman’s many creations — ranging widely from violins to watercolor paintings — are on view through June in the Blue Hill Public Library’s Britton Gallery as well as the Howard Room glass cases. The latter works will be displayed through July. 

Sweet’s granddaughter Kathleen Murray curated both shows. 

“My interest in Eliot makes me chuckle a bit,” Murray says. “I live with all of these various works of art and utilitarian pieces every day of my life. He was a very important part of Blue Hill while he was alive. Doing everything from making and upholstering furniture to carving birds and animals, in addition to being part of the art community from its birth.”

In the Britton Gallery, Sweet’s fine watercolors capture Blue Hill back in the 1950s. Lobster boats are hauled up on the shore. White clapboard houses stand out starkly against Blue Hill Mountain looming in the background. Cars are scarce on residential streets. On display are the artist’s large stone and carved wooden sculptures. Original wood blocks and prints are on view too. 

In the Howard Room, the glass cases feature a variety of Sweet’s creations including small carvings, doll furniture, turned wooden bowls and candle holders, pottery, a handful of paintings — even handmade violins. They show the breadth of his skill sets and artistic vision and talent. Some of the carving tools that he made can be seen. 

Although not in the show, Sweet built grandfather clocks. According to his Ellsworth American obituary in 2000, “He designed and built every single piece of a number of grandfather clocks, from the gears to the numbers on the dial. Many of the parts were elegantly machined from brass he found at the dump.” The obituary described Sweet as “a classic Mainer” not just producing carvings and art works but also forging many of the “chisels, gouges, and planes he used to make them.”

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