Woodcut: Sunset Sail (& the Folly Cove Designers)

You and I share an interest in making things with our hands. The net is rich with thought-provoking articles about WHY we love hand-made, so that tells you lots of other folks are thinking and talking about it too.

As both a consumer and a maker, I love the search for, and adoration of, other maker’s creations; it’s a forest of inspiration.

I’m grateful for the flourish of community and friendships with like-minded artisans, crafters and DIY aficionados online. Everything we need is accessible through our phones via ever-changing and rapidly advancing technology.

Community Through Creativity

Swells of interest in arts and crafts repeat through time in cycles, going back to Medieval days. 

Creative communities are often regional, with areas known for their accumulation of artists specializing in a particular genre, like glasswork (Seattle, Washington), or textile designers (Catskill Mountains) or painters (Santa Fe, New Mexico).

Classes and workshops in textile design, both digital and hand-printed are abundant now, and I love that.

Burton-Demitrios
Virginia Lee Burton Demitrios, known as Jinnee

Virginia Lee Burton Demitrios

Before the internet, artisans were limited to gathering in groups locally to work on a regular, repeatable basis. (Poor them – what if you lived in an area with no other artists?)

The Folly Cove Designers gathered in Gloucester Massachusetts between 1938 and 1969, with artist Virginia Lee Burton Demitrios at the helm.

Read this amazing article about these inspiring, dedicated makers, (No, really, you’ll be inspired – read that article.) [Thanks to my friend BG for sending it to me.]

The Folly Cove Designers

About 40 [mostly woman] artisans met and worked in a small building in Gloucester, called “The Barn”, and became relief printmakers. They designed and printed on fabric that was sewn into curtains, clothes, and housewares.

When they first started, and didn’t have a press, they made all their prints by stomping on the blocks! (See below.)

Eventually, they sold designs to Lord & Taylor, and other textile manufacturers, but they kept true to their original output, making things based on good design, simply for the sake of making something beautiful with their hands.

Stomping on a Block when you don't have a press for printmaking
Stomping on the block to print a linocut
peggyNorton-linocut
Encouraged by Virginia’s direction & leadership, Folly Cove member Peggy Norton designed and carved these beautiful lino blocks with house motifs. Story and a Half is the title of the block on the left. You can see fabric printed with this block here.

Folly Cove in Cape Ann

I lived in Cape Ann for several summers in the late 1980’s, so I have a deep, nostalgic fondness for the place.

I didn’t know about the Folly Cove Designers back then, but if I ever visit the coast of Massachusetts again, I’ll be spending time at the Cape Ann Museum, for sure.

FollyCoveGuild-DesignDiploma-linocut
Virginia’s incredible design for the Folly Cove Designers “diploma” – usually printed on fabric. Look at the printmaking process – from the search for inspiration to the final block – stomp printed! The entire process is animated in the little figure, with the tools and carving process animated in the banner beneath the figure, eventually becoming the repeated pattern that frames the whole design!

When You Truly Tap Into Your Creativity

Virginia wore many creative hats. She was a children’s book author and illustrator, and you can still find her books online: Choo Choo published in 1935, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, from 1939; Calico, the Wonder Horse, etc.

Around 1938, she organized a small group for a sketching class, and introduced them to linoleum block printing.

That little group continued to grow, and eventually became the Folly Cove Designers. (Jinnee also won the Caldecott Medal for her book The Little House in 1943, on the threshold of WWII.)

Draw What’s Around You

Participants in Virginia’s classes were urged to look at their surroundings for inspiration, and draw “what they knew” (I *love* this practice.). 

They sketched their subjects over and over until they made them their own. What an uncomplicated, lovely concept. You needn’t look beyond your own rooms and yard for inspiration. 

She encouraged designs from simple objects all around them; beach grass, gardens, trees in their yards, their own houses, Cape Ann birds, or neighbors gossiping by the mailbox.

Folly Cove Designers block printing
A 1945 Life magazine piece on the Folly Cove Designers
linocut-house-portrait
A Folly Cove lino block on display at the Cape Ann Museum in Gloucester, Massachusetts (image courtesy of Sommer Reading) Each tiny pattern-part is another house.
Folly-Cove-Textiles
Folly Cove block print designs on fabric and placemats

Make Art from Your Own Life

If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time, you might recognize my love of making art from the things around you. I hope to encourage that practice again with these images and links.

Break out some art supplies or tools, and spin your chair around from your monitor/screen to find something with a good shape, and start drawing, painting, carving or printing something.

Even if it’s just a doodle. Make something with your hands today.

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you in the next post!

Belinda

(You can subscribe to this blog here.)
sunsetsail-woodcut
Sunset Sail, Woodcut – available here
folly-cove-process
Jinnee printing a design on fabric by stomping on it, and wearing another on the border of her skirt.
Folly cove shop
In Gloucester, Mass back in the day – the Folly Cove Designers barn
Folly Cove Designers
Swing Tree, another beautiful linocut on fabric design by Jinnee

Art Quote

My first book, Jonnifer Lint, was about a piece of dust. I and my friends thought it was very clever but thirteen publishers disagreed with us and when I finally got the manuscript back and read it to Aris, age three and a half, he went to sleep before I could even finish it. That taught me a lesson and from then on I worked with and for my audience, my own children. I would tell them the story over and over, watching their reaction and adjusting to their interest or lack of interest . . . the same with the drawings. Children are very frank critics.

~Virginia Lee Burton Demetrios

11 thoughts on “Woodcut: Sunset Sail (& the Folly Cove Designers)”

  1. Hi Belinda ..I think that’s my favorite blog post ever..those ladies were so talented and inventive.. and what joyful prints they produced! I shall investigate them further. Thanks for introducing them to us !

    1. Hi Drusilla, Weren’t they amazing?! I’m so glad you agree! The first time I read about Folly Cove Designers, I researched them for days! I think someone should make a documentary about this inventive and resourceful group, especially since their activity spanned World War II. I’m endlessly inspired by makers who find a way to make! Happy researching to you! I hope it inspires some linocuts!

  2. Pingback: Drypoint Printmaking using a Cookie Container without a Press - Belinda Del Pesco

  3. Laurel Barile

    Really like this print of yours! I am a total sucker for woodcuts since childhood after seeing a book of Albrecht Durer’s prints. Locally, hope you may be acquainted with the early work of Kirsten Francis — she is out of this world, so to speak, with her focus on archetypes and fairy tales as she lived them. And Igor Koutsenko is yummy, too, whose work has grown deeper and more joyful over the years.

    1. Hi Laurel, Thanks for the compliments. I know & love Kristen’s work, and I have one of Igor’s prints in my collection! So, we’re in their fan clubs! They are both incredible with narrative storytelling, and I look forward to seeing their new work whenever we’re in the same art festivals around southern california. 🙂

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