This Maine Painter Embraced Inconvenience as Part of a Good Life

Barbara Beebe, photographed by Christina Wnek
Barbara photographed by Christina Wnek for Maine Magazine in 2019

Barbara Beebe (1931-2022) always reminded guests not to go to the outhouse at night. In the dark, porcupines trudged through the lupines and milkweed surrounding her civil war-era farmhouse on Friendship Long Island off of the coast of Maine, and meeting one in the night would be an unfortunate event, to put it lightly. The closest medical center was a boat ride away, and that relied on the tides, so better to use the chamber pot and then clean it with water from the well in the morning. 

A child of the Great Plains who made a home on this rugged island with one year-round inhabitant (a lobster scientist), a lobster fisherman, and herself, Beebe chose to live in a way that was intentionally inconvenient. Getting water from a bucket dropped in a well was inconvenient. Cooking on a wood stove was inconvenient. Using the chamber pot or outhouse was inconvenient. Getting the mail was very inconvenient.

Pippa outside the farmhouse

Pippa outside the farmhouse on Friendship Long Island, photograph by Ben

And yet, it was all on her terms. Which is perhaps the greatest convenience, and the one we miss most in our own lives. Every day, we are at the beck and call of the technological 'innovations' we've surrounded ourselves with to make our lives easier, but which have systematically robbed us of our personal agency. Barbara rejected that exchange. To her, personal agency was everything. 
Cooking potatoes on Barbara's stove
Cooking potatoes on Barbara's wood stove, likely to go with some friend lobsters.

We are proud to continue Barbara's career by offering a selection of her original paintings, the proceeds of which contribute to the upkeep of her beloved farmhouse and studio. 

Barbara's studio on Friendship Long Island

Barbara's Studio on Friendship, Photograph by Ben

How we intersected with her, though, goes back nearly 40 years. My mom was a teenager when she met Barbara, then the wife of a teacher at a prep school in Connecticut. They clicked, and kept in touch as Barbara got divorced, struck out on her own, became an artist, and ultimately returned to a way of life more similar to what she'd grown up with on the plains of North Dakota in the 1930s than what most would recognize today.

When I was born, I met Barbara too, and visited Friendship Long Island at a few years old. As an adult, I built my own friendship with Barbara rooted in shared ideology and a desire to help her story get out into the world. In 2019, I wrote a profile on Barbara for Maine Magazine, which coincided with a retrospective of her work.

Pippa on Friendship as a child

Pippa visiting Friendship Long Island with cousins as a child, probably watching Barbara put on one of her amazing puppet shows. 

At the time of her death in 2022, we were working on a collection of stories from her childhood with the working title "Eldorado #5," the name of the one-room schoolhouse she attended. 

Today, Barbara influences us deeply, from the way we live our lives on our property, Eden Hill, in the Hudson Valley, to how we seek out beauty in the imperfect in our work. She acts as a sort of lodestar, someone we can orient ourselves towards when we feel unstable or adrift. 

Something we learned from Barbara is that the easiest choice is rarely the best, but that simple things are nearly always better than complicated ones.

This cuts to the core of our design practice and manufacturing ideology at Quittner. We do many things the 'hard way,' and we believe it's worth it. We keep things simple, because we believe deletion is as powerful as ornamentation. 

Explore a rotating body of originals by Barbara available for here.  

 Barbara Beebe waves from the jewelry studio slash wood shed

Barbara lets fresh air into the wood shed and jewelry studio

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