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Local snowshoe maker shares family tradition with apprentice nephew

FORT KENT, Maine — A master traditional snowshoe maker from town is passing the trade along to his nephew with the help of a Maine Arts Commission grant he recently received.

Brian J. Theriault has taken his nephew, Benjamin Latvis under his wing as an apprentice who will learn all there is about snowshoe making.

The $3,000 MAC grant will help Theriault buy the materials and tools necessary to help train Latvis, 27, at Theriault’s workshop in Fort Kent.  

Latvis, who works at St. Joseph’s Memory Care in Frenchville, will apprentice with his uncle about three hours each week.

Benjamin Latvis learns how to make snowshoes at his uncle Brian J. Theriault’s Fort Kent workshop on Friday, Dec. 21.
(Jessica Potila)

Latvis said the the fact that snowshoe making is a family tradition is what drew him to the apprenticeship opportunity.

“It’s been in the family all of my life; my cousins and aunts and uncles and everybody has done something with it,” he said.

Theriault first began crafting and designing snowshoes more than 40 years ago with his father, Edmond Theriault, who is Latvis’ maternal grandfather. Louise (Theriault) Latvis is Benjamin Latvis’ mother and Brian Theriault’s sister.

Brian Theriault said he has confidence in his nephew’s ability to eventually carry on the art of snowshoe making.

“Ben is very smart and he picks up stuff very easily. He’s been in the woods helping me look for trees; he just has to refine some of the processes,” Theriault said. “He knows every step of the process; he’s really more advanced than the average snowshoe maker apprentice.”

Latvis said that he has picked up quite a bit of knowledge about snowshoe making from his uncle.

“Every time we get together, Brian talks about snowshoes,” Latvis said. “I’ve learned a lot of stuff from Brian.”  

Theriault said he is thankful to the Maine Arts Commission which has endowed him with multiple grant awards throughout the years, beginning in 2005.

“They’re a big part of keeping our tradition alive,” he said.

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