Last year, Becky McKinnell got a birthday present from her sister that she thought was a little weird – a hide of leather.

“But she knew me,” McKinnell said, “and knew I would do something with it.”

A handbag and more of the necklaces, which are made with remnant dock line.

McKinnell already has her hands full as president of iBec Creative, an e-commerce web development company in Portland. But she’s also got a creative side, and that’s the part of her that took that hide of leather and turned it into a simple leather bag. Her office is next door to Hamilton Marine, so she stopped in to look for dock line and industrial brass to make a handle for the bag. When it was complete, she started using it – and everywhere she went, people would stop her and ask her about it. “I just had this feeling that the universe was telling me I needed to make more bags,” McKinnell said.

Since she already had the skills for making an e-commerce website, she launched her handbag business and a brand: Wildwood Oyster Co., named after the personal oyster farm she and her husband have established off their Cumberland Foreside home “just for fun.” (They harvested some of their 2,000 oysters for the first time this year, sharing them with family and friends.)

Next came her “nautical statement necklaces,” made with remnant dock line tied into a knot and scrap leather.

“I had seen fancy rope knots and never taken the time to figure them out myself,” McKinnell said. “It was just a personal goal to learn how to tie fancy knots.”


Again, people stopped her on the street to ask about the necklaces – including one woman on Martha’s Vineyard who bought the lime green necklace McKinnell was wearing right on the spot.

“The colors are really bright, and when you wear them, they’re a conversation piece,” she said.

McKinnell makes all of the necklaces herself. A local sewing company helps her with stitching the leather for the handbags, then she does the final assembly.

Working a couple of hours a night on her Wildwood Oyster Co. necklaces and bags, after her daughter has gone to bed, has helped McKinnell get the brand off the ground. McKinnell said she knows that, eventually, she’ll have to hire more help. But in the meantime, she finds it rewarding to work with her hands instead of being on a computer all the time. “It’s like working another cylinder in my brain,” she said.

The Wildwood Oyster Co. necklaces cost $90 each; handbags are $280. Both are available through or at Maine Surfers Union in Portland.


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