BROOKLIN — For an artisan in a quintessentially maritime trade, marine canvas work, the Blue Hill Peninsula town that bills itself as the “Boatbuilding Capital of the World” would seem to be the ideal location to set up shop, especially if the town is home.
That made good sense to Allison Watters, who recently opened Brooklin Canvas Design to sew all sorts of marine canvas items — Bimini tops, boom tents, boat upholstery and cushions — to serve the area’s boatyards and boat owners.
“Canvaswork is one of those traditional crafts that have been part of the boat owner’s world for centuries,” according to the catalog of the Woodenboat School.
Watters would agree.
“People don’t think of it,” she said during a break from measuring a boat for some new canvas gear on a bitter cold morning last week. “It’s a very specialized thing that I do.”
A 2000 graduate of the College of the Atlantic, Watters said she had “always been somebody who sews things, makes things, mends things.” She found that “it was not that different to make things bigger and more heavy-duty,” sewing marine canvas.
Watters moved to Brooklin a dozen years ago and, when her children went to school, she began looking for some work that would have flexible hours and cater to her interests, She began work at a canvas shop in the former Brooklin school building that also housed a sail loft and a marine supply business. That part-time job entailed nearly seven years of sewing all kinds of marine canvas projects.
“I liked the variety of that,” Watters said.
Eventually, the canvas shop in the schoolhouse closed and Watters bought her own heavy-duty industrial sewing machine. “Word spread” and that led her to begin taking on a few projects, some cushions, a winter back for a lobster boat. She also built a soundproof cover for the generator aboard the 91-foot high-performance cruising yacht Sonny III launched at Brooklin Boat Yard in May.
Last fall, Watters enrolled in a 12-week business course for women at the University of Maine in Augusta and “learned a lot.” She also began “gathering tools and supplies” to set up her own canvas shop. Recently, she completed a training workshop at the Hood Canvas in Merrimac, Mass.
Early this month, she announced the opening of her business, Brooklin Canvas Design, unveiling a new website describing her design and fabrication services. For the time being, Watters is running the business from her home in Brooklin, a “great community” where there is a “wealth of knowledge” of marine topics for her to draw on.
“I learned to grow the business incrementally,” she said. “I will need more space eventually.”
Watters can be reached at brooklincanvasdesign.com.