Maine artisan transforms trash into treasure.

michelle kinerson of cape porpoise trading co by justin bailie

Michelle Kinerson has discovered a unique and beautiful way to repurpose rope that once connected lobstermen’s buoys to traps on the bottom of the ocean floor. Customers from Germany to California and beyond have purchased her goods as fun and functional reminders of Maine.

When she saw rope door mats for sale in a local gift shop, Maine resident and designer Michelle Kinerson thought, “I could make those.”

With help from instructions she found online, Kinerson built a jig and wove her first mats from used rope salvaged from a lobsterman friend. “But I put my own spin on them,” she says.

Now Kinerson’s mats with her unique color combinations are sought after by people from all around the world.

Re-use
Living in Cape Porpoise, Maine, Kinerson is familiar with local lobster fishing and the lobstermen’s need for sturdy, dependable rope to haul their precious catch on board. “The fishermen replace their rope about once a year,” she explains. “They either throw it away or burn it.” Determined to give this rope a second life, Kinerson now works with the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, purchasing tons of retired rope all along the coast. She recently picked up 26,000 pounds of rope from just 14 fishermen.

With plenty of raw materials and customers clamoring to bring a little bit of Maine to their homes, Kinerson needed more time to weave the mats. As luck would have it, she was let go of her administrative job. “It was a blessing in disguise,” she says. Her mat and home décor business, Cape Porpoise Trading Co., now employs her and a few helpers year ‘round.

The perks for Kinerson are being able to support her community, making a living in her own backyard and savoring her unique coastal location. “I love where I live,” she says. “This is about a lifestyle for me. I get to work outside looking over a tidal creek.” When the weather is fair, Kinerson takes her boat out for a spin in the afternoons.

Function and Form
Kinerson takes custom orders or uses her design sense to mix colors and patterns on her mats, which she offers in two sizes through her online shop on Etsy. She has a rainbow of rope colors to choose from, because fishermen use a variety of colors to help them Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetidentify quickly the length of each rope. One lobsterman might use blue ropes for fishing at a 30-foot depth, while his orange ropes might be longer for deeper fishing. Each lobsterman decides what colors to use on his boat.

Maintaining the recycled-rope door mats is easy. A soiled mat can be turned over or hosed off if necessary. And although the used rope may not be strong enough to hold up to the rigors of fishing with heavy lobster traps in Maine’s rough waters, it will still last for years and years as a welcome mat.

Kinerson has shipped orders across the country and around the world; often to people who have visited her beloved state. “They like to have a piece of Maine as a reminder,” she says. Other customers appreciate that she’s re-using a material destined for the landfill. Kinerson delights in bringing a pop of color into daily life. “It turns something mundane into a piece of art,” she says. “It lights people up when they see it.”