Back in the seventeenth century, long before the advent of student loans and their attendant FAFSA forms, you could pay your Harvard tuition in wampum. In fact, you could pay your taxes to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in beads as well. So what was to prevent someone from going down to the beach with a burlap sack and amassing a fortune? As Don Widdiss, Chilmark resident and wampum artisan, says, “If anyone saw how much work I put into creating a bracelet, they’d think I was crazy.”

Geoff Currier


On an Island full of coincidences and interesting interplay, brothers Wesley and Garrett Brown are a prime example of both. Raised in a Methodist clergy family, the preacher’s kids have each traveled separate circuitous routes to end up doing what may seem like the same thing: playing the organ at either end of Kennebec Avenue in Oak Bluffs each summer.

Mary-Jean Miner


I don’t remember my first time on a boat; it seems as if it’s been forever. I also don’t recall learning to sail; it seems so natural to roll with the waves. I never consciously think about boats being beautiful; I just know it.

Louisa Gould


The Pilgrims didn’t think much of Cape Cod. “A hideous and desolate wilderness,” William Bradford called it. “Full of wild beasts and wild men.” Rather than stay, a small party from the Mayflower sailed ahead, searching for a winter haven. In December 1620, they reached Plymouth, a place “fit for situation,” Bradford wrote. “At least it was the best they could find.”

Tony Horwitz


Pique assiette mosaic artist Jenifer Strachan is an artisan in the oldest sense of the word, a highly skilled craftsman. Although the name pique assiette – which means “plate thief” or “stolen from plates” – was not coined until the 1930s, it is an antediluvian craft dating back to ancient Greece and Rome when bits of terra cotta pottery, glass beads, and gems were used to add color to wall tableaus.

Linda Black


Matt Taylor knew he wanted to be a filmmaker from the start. “I could have told you that when I was eight,” he says. He was a decent student and a pretty fair athlete growing up – he played baseball, basketball, and he swam. But “people in the Boston area are so rabid about sports,” even high-school sports, he says. “It wasn’t fun for me.” All he wanted to do was tell stories and make movies. But in Bridgewater back in the early 1980s, there was no one to show him how.

Tom Dunlop


Like many popes and kings, Denys Wortman of Vineyard Haven is the eighth in a dynastic lineup. The seventh Denys Wortman was a nationally known cartoonist – and mid-century president of the Society of Illustrators of New York – who happened to do a lot of painting on the side. But because dad died in 1958, when son Denny was in his second year of college, the eighth wasn’t aware until the early 1990s that the seventh was a splendid painter.

Holly Nadler


When Ronni Simon gets dressed, she doesn’t wear much jewelry – usually just her watch and maybe some hoop earrings, plus the rings she wears all the time because she can’t get them off her fingers anymore. “I’ve never really been into jewelry,” she confesses.

Which is why no one is more surprised than Ronni herself at the overnight success of the jewelry-making business she started just over half a year ago.

Laura D. Roosevelt