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Lyrical Island Treasures

a Nantucket Scrimshaw Artist

Lee Ann has incorporated personal touches into Sandy’s ornaments, including her customer’s favorite flowers—Hydrangeas, roses, and Queen Anne’s Lace—and a drawing depicting the view of Brant Point from the family’s home. She also draws family pets and adds whimsical mermaids or little sailor boys to represent the client’s grandchildren. Sandy’s eldest grandson, Charlie, liked boats and trains growing up, so those themes were worked in as well. Today, Sandy purchases at least one ornament every year with drawings representing something memorable about the year. “It’s been special, very sentimental,” she adds, “I feel like [Lee Ann] is somewhat a part of our family.”

Over the years, Lee Ann has made subtle changes to the ornaments’ designs. The “10 Pipers Piping” are captured as sandpipers—shorebirds that are commonly found on Nantucket. The three French hens? She sketches berets on their heads, or adds fun French phrases like ‘pommes frites’ (French fries). Adding even more Nantucket flavor, Lee Ann incorporates images of the island’s three lighthouses as well as The Old Mill.

Lee Ann usually works in her studio, which is surrounded by beautiful gardens designed by the artist, for four to five hours each day. She notes that it takes three to four days to complete an individual ornament from scratch. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, though, she cranks up her hours to complete jobs in time for the holiday. “You don’t want to disappoint anybody,” she says.

Lee Ann says her favorite part of the job is the one-on-one interaction she has with customers to create ornaments that are just right for each person. Her clients hail from Nantucket and the mainland, and Lee Ann is now working on projects for the children and grandchildren of some of her collectors. “My customers usually end up being my friends,” she says, “and [the fact] that people make an effort to come all the way out here to find me, means a lot.”

For more information on Lee Ann Papale’s work, call 508-228-9504, or visit

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