Handmade lives: Harpswell, Topsham women collaborate for art

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HARPSWELL — It’s hard to imagine a businesses relationship more symbiotic than the one between Lynette Breton and Patty Olds.

Breton is a Harpswell woodworker who makes flower presses that Olds, of Topsham, uses to create art with leaves and flowers. 

The two women display their work together at craft shows and fairs around Maine, and both say the other’s creations enhance their own.

“For me, if I just have this press, people love looking at it but they don’t get it,” Breton, 57, explained. “It’s like, what the heck does this thing do and why would you want one?”

But with Olds’ prints nearby, Breton can show customers what they can do with her flower press.

And Olds, 56, can point right back at Breton’s presses and say, you can make prints, too.

Although the women have been working together for less than three years, they’ve known each other “forever.”

Before coming together to form their business, Holding Patterns, Olds worked with fabric. She sewed teepees, banners, sails and futons before shifting towards fabric art.

A few years ago she received one of Breton’s presses as a gift.

“I have to admit, my press sat on the living room table as sculpture for probably six months before I used it,” Olds said, because it was too beautiful to use.

But soon she started viewing the press as a tool and began to press flowers and leaves. Soon she couldn’t go for a walk without stopping down to pick them up.

“Whenever I go for a walk I always have a plastic bag in my pocket to keep things moist until I get back to the press,” she said.

“I’m working with living material, I don’t have to go to a store to buy stuff, everywhere I go I find things. So that’s one thing I find extremely satisfying.”

As for Breton, one of the reasons she shifted away from custom furniture and towards flower presses was she wanted to craft something that would enable more people to make art.

“This is to inspire people to be creative themselves,” she said.

She also found that her presses, which range from $275 to $350, are accessible to a wider audience than her furniture.

She also finds it satisfying to work with reclaimed wood rather than freshly milled lumber.

Many of her presses are made from “Herbie,” a historic elm tree that grew for nearly 250 years in Yarmouth before succumbing to Dutch elm disease in 2010. Others are made of 800-year-old trees that were found preserved in Estonian bogs, or logs lifted from the bottom of Moosehead Lake by Scarborough-based DeadHead Lumber.

“Trees are a living thing and them imbue a spirit, there’s no doubt in my mind that they do,” she said.

Breton and Olds will be exhibiting their work at Breton’s Cundy’s Harbor studio during holiday fairs in Harpswell on Dec. 3-4 and 10-11. They will also be at Five Rivers Arts Alliance’s holiday art sale on Dec. 2-4 at 98 Maine St., Brunswick. Visit holdingpatternsflowerpress.com for more information.

Emily Guerin can be reached at 781-3661 ext.123 or eguerin@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @guerinemily.

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Patty Olds, left, and Lynette Breton remove dried leaves from Breton’s handmade flower press in Breton’s Cundy’s Harbor studio. Olds uses the press to make leaf and flower art.

Lynette Breton’s handmade flower presses and Patty Olds’ leaf and flower prints.

Lynette Breton looks at leaves she pressed in her handmade flower press. The prints in the foreground are the work of her business partner, Patty Olds.

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