Monday, January 18, 2016

An Opportunity to Explore the Folly Cove Designers Printmaking Process

"Round Robin", Eleanor Curtis, ink on cotton
 Interest in the Folly Cove Designers was piqued this past August by the Sandy Bay Historical Society and Museum's excellent exhibit "Folly Cove Designers & Friends". The perfect opportunity to enhance your skills and deepen your understanding of their process presents itself in an intriguing workshop to be hosted by Cape Ann Museum in February. Mary Rhinelander and Victoria Petway's workshop, "Folly Cove Designer Inspired Printmaking Classes", will be held Feb. 4, 11 and 25, 2016. Contact CAM via email : or telephone (978) 283-0455, ext. 10

This excerpt of an article written by the Gloucester Daily Times staff and published August 6, 2015, tells the story of the Folly Cove Designers.

"The first group of designers were women studying with Virginia Lee Burton Demetrios, a well known Folly Cove artist and children's book author. Demetrios set the rules which defined a Folly Cove Designer, the first of which was that each design must be an original reflection of something in the life of its creator. Thus, the show is a glimpse into life on Cape Ann from 1941 to 1968, the years the designers were active. Demetrios' "Grand Right and Left" and Ainu Clark's "Fiddle De Dee" take viewers back to a time when Cape Ann folk got together on Saturday nights to square dance and do the Finnish Hop in the barns of Folly Cove. The working waterfront comes alive in Eino Natti's "Gloucester" and Cape Anners play in New Hampshire snows in Elizabeth Holloran's "Slalom".
The second rule of the designers may raise feminist eyebrows today but in a 1949 interview with Demetrios, writer Robert West Howard reported, "Husband, family and housework must have precedence over designing and printing at all times/" Howard went on to state that far from oppressing the women, they soon hooked their children and husbands into the fascination of the designing process and got them so involved, the state of the housework went unnoticed. Not all the designers were women, and it is hoped that the rule of not neglecting spouses and children was applied to the men designers as well.
The third rule was that a designer had to be both an artist and a craftsman, seeing a design through all the steps from inspiration to final production. In the early years before the hand press, this meant jumping up and down bare footed on the linoleum blocks used to make the prints.
Why the third rule? Maintaining individuality. In the same 1949 article, Demetrios explained, "Back at the beginning of the Machine Age the designer and craftsman got separated. The designer went white-collar. The craftsman became a superior sort of mechanic. That's why so many of our industrial art forms look alike- all stamped from the same machine. That's why there's so little individualism within the home ... Don't be afraid to be a craftsman."
The Folly Cove Designers flourished under Demetrios' demanding but enjoyable regimen, producing fabric art that ranged from tablecloths to hangings, dresser runners to skirts, and more. The group was limited to 25 members each year who kept themselves fresh by taking a class each winter with Demetrios. Here they were encouraged to remember her basic rule of art: "The white's just as important as the black lines." She pointed out that this had first been discovered by Asian artists, and encouraged designers to "master the art of black lines and white spaces - straight, curved and curlicue. Study the effects of spacing. After you've learned that, turn loose your own ideas of expression. But not until then."

-Staff writers, Gloucester Daily Times

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