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  • History of Mystic Knotwork

    The Beaudoin family, also known as Mystic Knotwork has been the source for nautical knots throughout New England for over 50 years

    The artistry continues to evolve through Matt, Jill and Martha Stewart American Made 2014 Mystic Knotwork Honorable Mention Heritage artsChrista.  We are humbled to be recognized with a mention during the American Made Summit in 2014 with an honorable mention for heritage arts.  Martha Stewart, who hosted and curated the event, chose us as one of 4 heritage artisans from over 6,000 other worthy choices.  The combination of traditional technique along with a respectful combination of colors speaks to the modern nautical design sense. We are part of the local community here in Mystic.  We enjoy working with both local chambers of commerce and assisting in cultural events.  We are open daily in our shop overlooking the Mystic River at 25 Cottrell St.  While in Mystic, you can enjoy some of the best food and exhibitions in the region. We are glad to be surrounded by great music and there is something going on almost every day of the week all summer long.

    Mystic River Park sign for Mystic Knotwork 25 Cottrell Street Mystic, CTOur mission is to keep the nautical knotwork tradition alive. Every serious home decorator knew that knots were part of the nautical look.  Even the humble sailor bracelet can be a means to touch the past that stretches back centuries.

    For our family it all started in 1939 when my grandfather worked on the McCormick line acting as a bosun’s mate on cargo ships running between Argentina and New York City. In New York City, he  would stay at the Seaman’s Institute. After showing interest in knots, the retired captains and officers that were staying there showed him a few knots to work on while out to sea. Invariably upon his return, they would show him all the mistakes in his workmanship and through this schooling he learned the art. His skills were honed by weeks at sea and the stern eye of his skilled teachers. As the years went on, he developed talents nearly equal to theirs. Toward the end of Alton’s time in the merchant marine, he was teaching Able Bodied Seamanship in the New York Harbor.

    When World War II broke out, Alton went from a Bosun’s mate in the merchant marines to a private in the US Army; soley because he wore glasses. He never talked much about his time in the Pacific Theater, but we all knew he had a rough time, not only because of the 3 purple hearts he earned.

    After serving in World War II, he returned home with sad memories of war and loss of many friends. He didn’t talk much about it, but he used is talent with cord as his escape from these memories.

    Mystic Knotwork Alton Beaudoin at the Mystic Arts Display in 1957By 1957, Alton had established himself as an expert in knotwork with pieces donated to the Smithsonian, he turned his artistic passion to a business selling the traditional sailor knot bracelet as well as fancier belts, sample boards, guitar straps, and bellropes. In fact, one of his bellropes was used for more than a decade aboard the USCG Barque Eagle.
    Here is an article about him from October 8,1976 in The New London Day

    All of this history was passed to his sons and grandchildren. I remember clearly the weekend trips with my grandparents learning macramé, splicing, sennit work, and other fancy knotwork. My cousins and I used to race to see who could make twenty sailor knot bracelets the fastest. I didn’t always win, but through the competition, we learned how to tie one knot excessively well. My childhood is definitely one that I treasure, Finished Nautical Frame Alton Beaudoin Mystic Knotwork. I wish everyone could have experienced such a tight knit loving family.

    Our whole family carries on the traditions started by my grandfather. My uncle ties macramé and sailor knots, but is better known for his castings of authentic knotwork. Because he casts in gold and silver, his artwork lasts more than a lifetime. My brother has applied what he learned directly to metal and has earned a reputation for his artistry. My sister translated her love for the sea and history into her career designing the Defender Co. online catalog. Matt and his grandfather Alton.  Behind them, a frame Alton made that has been in Matt's entire life.My father still works with me to help improve my splicing and keeps me humble with his attention to detail.
    While we used to focus on our generational and deep roots in classic authentic nautical arts, the media has recognized our vision as new and hip.  We are just ordinary sailors living in a coastal town, keeping our heritage alive and improving on it.

    As styles and tastes change, Mystic Knotwork continues to adapt.  In the 1950's, we were the stop in New England for sailors looking for custom work, by the late 60's we were sought by the earth loving movements, and in the 80's the preppy movement took our sailor bracelet as the iconic accessory from that decade through to today.  Now, we are both enjoying the surge of nostalgia as people reconnect with their roots, and also people new to the nautical arts that enjoy our taste for design and innovation within this classic art form.

    With Jill joining the team only 20 years ago, a fresh perspective on style was born.  Her sense of color and texture combining with the insistence on authentic material has created what you see here.

    The iconic woven mat and sailor bracelets are only the beginning of what the Beaudoin family has been bringing to the shoreline community for decades.  While their authentic roots in nautical knot tying can be drawn all the way back to the 1800's through Samuel, it was Alton that brought the art back into the modern design trend (modern in the 1950's)

    Enjoy browsing for your favorite bracelet, seaside decorative knot, or even plan the beach wedding escape.  We look forward to sharing our American Made nautical traditions with you.

    Matthew Beaudoin
    August 2014