ELLSWORTH — Kelly green tartan wool bow-ties. Downy-soft organic cotton onesies adorned with woodland creatures; Japanese-style washed linen smock aprons. Children’s raincoats that reveal a pattern when they get wet. These are just a few of the items visitors will find at the SevenArts Gallery inside the Maine Grind building.
And the best part? They’re all made by local artists.
Anna Pazereckas and Dory Smith-Graham are two of those artists. Pazereckas, owner of Cute Knits, belongs to the SevenArts co-op, a member-owned gallery space where local artisans showcase and sell their work. Smith-Graham, whose creations sell under the name Worthy Goods, has been a member for years, but is expanding her line of clothing to include more menswear and apparel, in addition to accessories.
Pazereckas focuses on children’s clothing made with mostly organic, knit fabrics, taking her inspiration from her own young children.
“I have a feeling as my kids grow my work will grow,” says Pazereckas. “It’s still all so new and fresh to me.”
A self-described “fabric shopaholic,” Pazereckas sources her bolts from her native Germany via a buyer in Seattle, who visits the country several times a year, returning with suitcases full of options.
“The fabric speaks to me,” says Pazereckas, who first came to the United States as an au pair in 2005.
Pazereckas says sourcing fabrics from outside the country allows her to offer something different than children’s clothes in the United States.
“That keeps the look and style different.” Colors tend to be classic and subdued, often adorned with simple line drawings of playful woodland creatures.
Pazereckas says she knows handmade children’s clothing can be pricey, and tries to keep things versatile and affordable.
“I don’t like to price my things at prices I wouldn’t pay.”
Many of her pieces are reversible or can be grown into, such as a dress for an 18-month-old that turns into a tunic for a child up to size 4T.
Her “lobster hats” have been a hit (organic cotton baby hats with pinched, Mickey Mouse-style ears made from lobster-print fabric), as have what Pazereckas calls “dribble-catchers,” reversible bandanna-shaped snap-on bibs.
And the magic raincoats? “They’re amazing!” says Pazereckas, who was thrilled when she found the fabric, which appears plain but like magic reveals patterns and designs when it comes into contact with water.
Smith-Graham, who was born in Presque Isle, may be recognizable to some from her years working at Willis’s Rock Shop in Bar Harbor, where she got her start. Her motto is “dedicated to making gear steeped in Maine style.” The former goldsmith says she tries to design clothing she would want to wear herself.
“I like things to be easy to wear but lovely,” says Smith-Graham. “Practicality is important. I love color, but texture also plays a part.”
The Bar Harbor designer favors clean lines and traditional fabrics, working primarily with linen, cotton and wool.
“The shapes themselves are simple and straightforward. They’re not complex.”
One of her most popular perennial items has been her Little Trapper Hats, 1950s-style sporting hats for children. The hats are made with upcycled wools and organic cotton sherpa, with a leather chin strap to keep them snug on tiny heads.
But Smith-Graham has been branching out in recent months, focusing more on apparel and adding items for men. She has added bowties to her repertoire, in designs ranging from butterfly to batwing, using playful fabrics such as Kelly green tartan, blue-striped seersucker and plum tartan.
Her women’s line focuses on what she refers to as “Hygge you can wear downtown.” (“Hygge” refers to a Danish concept celebrating coziness, family and friends.) Some of the items include a flowing, wide-collared reversible-wrap vest made from Italian wool, held together with a belt made from elk leather, and her washed linen smock pinafore aprons.
Smith-Graham supports her apparel business by selling her patterns and wholesale textiles, as well as fun items she finds in her travels, such as vintage wooden spools and industrial-sized bobbin pens from defunct textile mills.
Both women say the biggest challenge to being mothers running a business is time-management.
“I have realized that I have to start living in the moment,” says Pazereckas, “not constantly thinking of what should happen.”
Like any business, there’s also the financial side to worry about.
“How much product do I have to sell just to break even?” says Smith-Graham.
While both women still do their sewing at home, SevenArts provides a place to connect with other artists, sell work, and sometimes, a place of respite.
“This kind of co-op situation makes so much sense,” says Smith-Graham. “The cost is broken up and the labor is divided.”
“I get a lot of stuff accomplished,” says Pazereckas. “This is my quiet time.”