When the Portland Museum of Art Store approached Might & Main to design a line of products centered around their upcoming Winslow Homer exhibit, it was an opportunity to be involved in communicating Maine's part in art history and to help to put the Museum on the national map. Plus it's not often that we get to create a family of tangible items whose primary purpose is to be well-made and beautiful.
This Fall, the Portland Museum of Art will be home to a uniquely comprehensive exhibit of the works of American painter Winslow Homer. The exhibit, entitled Weatherbeaten: Winslow Homer and Maine, will collect Homer's art from all over the United States in a once in a lifetime retrospective that Fodors has highlighted as one of the top 8 museum shows to see in 2012.
Homer, who made Maine his home for much of his later life, is known for raw depictions of the sea and forest, and of the life of quintessential Americans including sailors, soldiers and mothers. The Museum challenged us to produce high quality products that were unlike those found in other museum stores, but that would appeal to a broad range of visitors to the exhibit.
Homer's life was complex and rich; he was equally as at home in high society as he was hunting and fishing in the wild or painting alone on a bluff overlooking the ocean. Those diverse influences informed everything about the line we created for the Museum, from materials and production methods to color. The touch of red that carries through the line was inspired by Homer's own regular use of a splash of vermillion and a rusty-colored signature.
Collaboration is a hallmark of our process at Might & Main. Throughout this project, we worked with the Museum Store staff to brainstorm, research and imagine a well-rounded line of products. We began with an identity system, creating a family of logo marks to define two distinct families of products: the unexpected and highly customized Homer-inspired lifestyle items and the more traditional museum store items, such as totes and mugs.
For the more custom side of the range, we sought out local artists and craftspeople to develop limited edition products that are contemporary but reminiscent of Homer's life and times. These include a line of zippered map cases and linen pillows constructed by Black Point Mercantile from repurposed painters' drop cloths, a line of broadsides featuring Homerian quotes printed with vintage wooden type on an antique press by Strong Arm Bindery, handmade soaps in scents evocative of the Maine coast by Casco Bay Soap Co., and dandy handkerchiefs sewn by hand by Molly Angie.
In addition to exclusive handcrafted goods and traditional museum store fare, we developed a few purely fun and unexpected items, including a Winslow Homer bobblehead (or 'nodder' in vintage parlance), the making of which involved detailed study and much discussion of Homer's posture, mustache, and even his earlobes!
To round out the project, we designed a cohesive labeling and packaging system that positions the entire range within the same family and provides backstory on Homer and our partners.
The products we developed for the PMA Museum Store are a testament to the skill of Maine's artists and craftspeople and to the power of collaboration. It was fun to work with the store staff and our partners, and we can't wait to get our hands on these products!
Products are on the shelves and online at the Portland Museum of Art Store now. Weatherbeaten opens in September.