Saturday, May 31, 2014

Down East

A couple of weeks ago my friend and I headed "down east" North Carolina to collect photographic reference for paintings. Much of our time was spent in Beaufort and on Harker's Island, specifically at Core Sound Seafood, a family business that supplies fresh local seafood.

Fishing boats at marina on Harker's Island

What's so interesting about this place? It is beautiful, but what's more important are the people. They are so friendly and open, and they treat you like they've known you forever – just good people!  Many of them make their living from the sea, just as their families have for generations, working at fishing, clamming, shrimping, selling seafood, building boats and all things related.

Willis Boat Builders on Island Road make custom
hand built wooden boats the old fashioned way.

I had already been to this area in April to paint, but this time I was specifically interested in taking photos of these people. I wanted to capture their hard-working spirit, close ties to one another and love for Down East North Carolina.

Shrimper prepares to go out on his boat. He explained that the net catches the shrimp, but
a turtle excluder device allows turtles and other sea creatures to escape the net.

At Core Sound Seafood, they were shedding crabs. This is the process that takes place when it's time for the crabs to shed their shells. The crabs back out of their shells on their own, but the people have to keep a close eye on them 24 hours a days to make sure all goes well. The crabs have to be put on ice before the new shell begins to form so they can be sold as soft shell crabs.

Crabs who are done shedding their shells are vulnerable to attack so are
contained in this ring to keep them safe from the other crabs.

Now I know a little about soft shell crabs. I always wondered how they got those things! I also have a lot of great photos to work from. Back at the studio, I made some large drawings from the photos and hope to take some or all of them to the next stage as an oil or pastel painting.

Drawing of one of the family members at work. In addition to the task of bustering crabs,
she is the brains behind their innovative seafood marketing.
Go online at to learn about their products.

Drawing of crabs being cleaned

Drawing of crab shedding. Notice the crab at the bottom right – he is in the process of shedding his shell.

Three generations of family members at Core Sound Seafood: Dad is
heading shrimp while Grandma takes care of the next generation.

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