I have a confession to make. I’ve walked or driven past Ember Grove probably ten dozen times, and have always been laboring under the misconception that it’s some kind of new age gift shop. I could not have been more wrong. Ember Grove is, instead, one of the most interesting and well-curated galleries of handmade items in the city.
The burning heart of Ember Grove (if you’ll excuse the pun) is the fanciful and ethereal lamps, made by owner Lisa Ferreira, which dot the store and help provide it’s unique ambiance. Her laps were cited by Down East magazine as the State’s best art lamps, and it’s easy to see why: handcrafted from wood and paper and natural accents, they seem to have naturally grown into their individual forms rather than having been built by someone’s hands. Their creator calls them “free-form sculptural illuminations” and that’s really a better way of describing them than “just a lamp”.
But Ember Grove is much more than a gallery of lights. They bill themselves as focusing on “functional arts” and they do a great job ensuring that each and every handmade item in the store fulfills the William Morris axiom about things being functional and beautiful. From the wonderful Eden bath and body products to the plethora of bags for every occasion to Rush Brown‘s engaging animal sculptures, every item in the shop is both esthetically pleasing and easy to imagine in your own home.
In addition to the items I’ve already mentioned, another item stood out for me as perfectly hitting the sweet spot where “Maine Made” and “Souvenir” and “Gift” intersect. Dory’s Bow Wow Lines are a group of leashes, as well as other products, made by recycling a type of floating rope formerly used by lobstermen (which is now restricted in order to help protect the endangered Right Whale). They are the brainchild of a seven year old girl from a lobstering family, and are a great gift with a great story behind it. (Click the link for more of the backstory.)
… and I haven’t even touched on the textiles. They have some great (and very witty) t-shirts for adults and kids, plus beautiful scarves, hand-warmers and mittens and booties for babies and kids, as well as jewelery, magnets, cards, art … and I could keep listing, but I won’t. Everything I touched was made in Maine (with artisan names clearly credited) and whether you have $4 or $400 to spend you will find something unique to fit your pocketbook.
Ember Grove is located at 247 Congress St in Portland’s exciting East End. They are open Tuesday – Friday 11 am to 6 pm, and Saturday 11 am – 5 pm. Closed Sunday and Monday. You can visit their website, or Like them on Facebook. Here’s their entry on the Maine Made website.
Still having trouble finding them? Here’s a map!