Maine Coast Craft School Carries on Traditions from Country Workshops

Maine Coast Craft School Carries on Traditions from Country Workshops

Published on Thursday, August 23, 2018.
Maine Coast Craft School Windsor Chairs

Maine Coast Craft School offers a variety of workshops, including making Windsor chairs.

Angela Kortemeier

Drew and Louise Langsner opened Country Workshops 40 years ago. At their home in the hills of North Carolina, the couple hosted countless students, providing, as their mission stated, “an opportunity for woodworkers to experience the quiet beauty, friendly company, and delicious meals reminiscent of simpler times when woodworking with hand tools was a part of everyday life.”

In 1995, Kenneth Kortemeier experienced the beauty of Country Workshops, living and working there for an entire summer as Drew’s intern. When fall arrived, Kenneth left North Carolina to pursue other building apprenticeships in Maine and Wales and then began teaching. Through these moves he and his future wife, Angela, maintained a strong relationship with the Langsners and continued to visit them regularly.

Twenty years after Kenneth’s internship, the Langsners approached the Kortemeiers to see if they would take over Country Workshops. The couple obliged, with one revision to the plan. Realizing that the Langsners would not get the quiet retirement they sought if the school remained at their home, the Kortemeiers decided to continue the legacy by creating a new school in Maine.

In 2017, Angela and Kenneth opened Maine Coast Craft School on the Pemaquid Peninsula. Along with the wealth of knowledge the Langsners transferred to their friends, they also passed on tools, benches, books, and their relationships with students and others makers. The new school owners continue to look to their mentors for guidance and support.

MCCS offers workshops on topics including hand-hewn bowl carving, knifemaking and sharpening, and chairmaking. They cap their classes at four students, which Angela says is key to their mission. When she and I spoke, Kenneth was finishing a green wood spoon-carving class, where students learn to make spoons using only hand tools to carve unseasoned wood. “People think spoons are so simple,” says Angela, noting that many teachers take only two or three days to teach spoon carving. Students of MCCS’s six-day class spend hours just on the details of sharpening their tools, which leads to “clean-faceted and carefully designed spoons,” says Angela. “The difference in the products that they’ve created with the real thoroughness [that Kenneth teaches] is remarkable.”

Now concluding its second season, MCCS has seen students from across the country. Some of these students attended workshops at Country Workshops, but many are new to the woodworking lineage. “Green woodworking is a thing right now,” says Angela, noting that more and more people want to physically connect to their surroundings. “Like a pendulum, there may be a swing towards handwork because of the digital technology so pervasive in society today,” she says. “Hand-tool woodworking calms the mind and is a peaceful, meditative, and creative activity that requires focus and attention.” 

Continuing in the tradition that Kenneth came from, MCCS also offers internships. The cycle of learning, Angela believes, allows for handworking legacies to continue to grow and thrive in an increasingly automated age. Angela doesn’t worry about the craft’s future. Quoting John Brown, she says, “Handmade work has a soul; it has verve, a sparkle which a machine cannot reproduce.”