Couple share love of whittling
Outside, a cool ocean breeze washes over the manicured lawn of the circa 1855 Maine farmhouse overlooking Bass Harbor. Herring gulls squall overhead. Hand-crafted buoys dangle from posts.
Inside the white and burgundy home, the soft tones of “Will You Love Me When I’m Old?” can be heard. Intricately carved and painted birds flock around a small workspace. Model ship kits await visitors seeking to build their own Maine lobster boat or wooden Friendship sloop — maybe even a Cape Cod catboat.
Joe Paradise peers intently over the frames of his red glasses, focused on the work at hand. He is carving one of the many birds he and his wife, Anne, sell in their small shop, Ravenswood.
Commuting about 40 minutes from their downtown Ellsworth home, the Paradises have been running their Bass Harbor enterprise since 1989. They sell bird carvings, paintings, nautical gifts, painted buoys and items from Maine and beyond.
For the Paradises, what they consider a hobby has grown into a business.
“[The work is] our hobby really…it really is,” Anne said. “We don’t put them out anywhere, we don’t sell them on the Internet, we just sell them here; that way it stays enjoyable.”
As a young girl, Anne, who grew up in Southwest Harbor, carved or “whittled” horses or people — “whatever interested her.”
When she met her husband in 1967, she eventually took up the hobby again.
“I bought her a block of wood and a knife and gradually we got back into carving,” Joe said.
Now, Joe, who hails originally from Lincoln, R.I., does most of the carving while Anne focuses on painting and bringing the birds to life. The pair also paint pictures ranging from watercolors to oil or pencil. Anne prefers to do portraits.
“Anne is a natural artist, you can see by the paintings and stuff,” Joe said. “She can take a bird and look at it and carve it. I have to do it over and over until I get it, so I play at it and she’s a natural.”
Anne quickly counters, “Joe, what are you saying?” Anne responds. “I think he likes me.”
“I do,” Joe affirms.
After working together for so long, Paradises work seamlessly, passing work back and forth. For those who are interested, they are always willing to give tips on carvings.
“It’s something that is interesting to people and we like to meet people and talk with them and stuff like that,” Joe said. “We’re on the back side of the island where it’s quiet and easy to talk to people.”
“We get enough people to keep us happy,” Anne continued.
They do not offer lessons or do shows.
“We don’t have stress doing it…if it wasn’t fun we would stop doing it,” Anne said. “We just like our peaceful life, I guess.”
9 McMullen Ave., Bass Harbor