Cape Ann Museum CAM Connects
Virginia Lee Burton Demetrios and the Folly Cove Designers are two topics that, on Cape Ann, rarely get discussed without the other.

October 13, 2022

(Top) Sign from the Folly Cove Designers’ barn in Gloucester’s Folly Cove neighborhood, painted wood. Collection of the Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, MA. Gift of Murray White, 2004 [Acc. #2004.49].
(Bottom) Folly Cove Designers members in front of the barn in Folly Cove, Gloucester, MA. Collection of the Cape Ann Museum Library & Archives, Gloucester, MA.

Dear Friends,

When you hear the name Folly Cove, what do you think of? A Gloucester neighborhood on the north side of Cape Ann? A location used until 100 years ago by boats loading granite from local quarries? A present-day scuba diving spot? Those are all correct. But what we at the Cape Ann Museum focus on is the group of local craftswomen (and a few men) who in the mid-20th century called themselves the Folly Cove Designers.

As a group, the Folly Cove Designers created hundreds of hand-drawn, hand-carved, and hand-printed designs. The majority of the designers had other professional backgrounds but no formal art training prior to joining the group. After in-depth instruction led by Virginia Lee Burton Demetrios, potential designs had to be accepted by group vote before being put into production. It was a unique organization that would be difficult to replicate today.

The Museum is delighted to present Designed & Hand-Blocked by the Folly Cove Designers as an expanded exhibition of their work, and invites all members to the members’ opening reception this Saturday, October 15 from 3 to 5 pm. The Museum Store also has new Folly Cove design-inspired items for sale, and a dynamic series of accompanying programs is planned and can be found here.

The formidable accomplishments of the Folly Cove Designers are an inspiration, and this is an exhibition you won’t want to miss!

With all best wishes,

Oliver Barker, Director

Folly Cove Designers

Virginia Lee Burton Demetrios and the Folly Cove Designers are two topics that, on Cape Ann, rarely get discussed without the other. Born near Boston in 1909, Burton grew up in California before moving back to Boston in 1928. She was a talented talented author and illustrator who created some of the most enduring books ever written for children (Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and The Little House). In Boston, Burton would meet future husband George Demetrios and soon after, the couple moved to Folly Cove in Gloucester, Massachusetts. There, in 1938, Virginia began teaching a design class to a few neighbors that would quickly grow to become the group known as the Folly Cove Designers, a guild-like group of “artist-craftsmen” (mostly women and a few men) who designed and carved linoleum block prints they printed on fabric. 

The Cape Ann Museum is the proud repository of the largest collections of material on both Virginia Lee Burton Demetrios and the Folly Cove Designers. As such, the Museum and its website are rich with resources on this indelible group. In today’s issue of CAM Connects, we’ll be sharing just some of these resources. In addition to the special exhibition, Designed and Hand-Blocked by the Folly Cove Designers (on view through March 19, 2023), CAM maintains a permanent gallery devoted to the group. Also always accessible in the CAM Library & Archives are the two archival collections, the Folly Cove Designers Collection and Virginia Lee Burton Demetrios Papers (more on this collection below!). A list of the Designers can be accessed here, with further links to many of the designs created by each individual. Last year’s issue of CAM Connects on “Printmaking” featured an article on the designers' printing process, and for an in-depth and visual overview of the group, click here to view a documentary by Sinikka Nogelo. 

During the nearly 30 years that the Folly Cove Designers were in operation, the group created an amazing body of work that garnered national attention and helped spotlight the beauty and usefulness of handmade goods during a time of increasing mechanization. Working together as a professional guild of designer-craftsmen from 1941 until 1969, the group designed, created and put to use over 300 individual designs carved by hand into linoleum blocks. While it has been 50 years since the Folly Cove Designers disbanded, their work and dedication to their craft continue to inspire and delight audiences today.

Balloon view, Cape Ann to Boston (detail). Map by F. Kimball Rogers. Published by J.H. Daniels, Boston, Mass. c. 1879. Collection of the Cape Ann Museum Library & Archives, Gloucester, MA. Map digitally edited to include additional location names by the Cape Ann Museum.

Organized under the leadership of children’s book author and illustrator Virginia Lee Burton Demetrios (1909-1968), the Folly Cove Designers operated in a manner that encouraged individual talent while drawing on the collective strength of the whole to nurture creativity, maintain the highest standards of quality, and to share the financial burdens associated with printing and marketing their wares. While designs were occasionally printed on paper, the group’s principal output was printed fabric that was made into table linens, clothing, curtains, aprons and other household items. Originally intended for their own use, the Folly Cove Designers’ goods quickly became sought after and were sold from their shop in Gloucester’s Folly Cove neighborhood, department stores and by mail order.

View inside the Folly Cove Designers’ barn, 1969. Collection of the Cape Ann Museum Library & Archives, Gloucester, MA.

The Cape Ann Museum is proud to maintain an extensive collection of materials related to the Folly Cove Designers and to offer educational programming on a continuing basis that brings the group’s story to life. With this special exhibition drawn from the Museum’s own holdings and from other collections in the area, we invite you to explore and be inspired by the accomplishments of an amazing group of individuals.

Aino Clarke (1914-1995), Atomic Age, ink on cotton, 1943. Collection of the Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, MA.

Strong Community Threads – A New Podcast Episode

(Left) Susanna (Suzi) Natti, daughter of Folly Cove Designer Lee Natti (1919-2020).
(Right) Josephine Andrews interviews CAM Chief Curator Martha Oaks in the Folly Cove Designers Gallery at the Museum.

The Haptic & Hue Tales of Textiles podcast is featuring a special episode about the Folly Cove Designers to coincide with the new exhibition at the Museum. The episode, called "Strong Community Threads: The Folly Cove Designers" became available on all podcast platforms this past Thursday October 6th, and you can also find it on Haptic & Hue’s website here. The podcast presenter, Jo Andrews, came to Cape Ann in the summer from Britain, and spoke to Suzanna Natti, Oliver Barker, Martha Oaks, and Trenton Carls. The podcast also features a 1991 interview with one of the original Folly Cove Designers, Barbara Hoffman Souza.

A Hand Press Tale

(Top left) Mary Maletskos (1918-1993), Nasturtiums, undated, ink on cotton. Collection of the Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, MA.
(Top right) Dress printed with Nasturtiums, from the collection of Ethel Maletskos Martin and John L. Martin, installed alongside a hand press formerly belonging to Mary Maletskos in the Museum’s exhibit Designed and Hand-Blocked: The Folly Cove Designers.
(Bottom) CAM Staff work with Ethan Berry of Montserrat College to install the hand press.

Mary (Magna) Maletskos was born in Illinois and studied art in New York, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Italy before coming to Cape Ann for the first time in 1945. She joined the Folly Cove Designers two years later and remained with the group until they disbanded. During this time, she acquired her own iron hand press and used it to print linoleum blocks for her Folly Cove Design work, as well as for experimental monotypes and collagraphs. Regarding her interest in experimentation, Maletskos once told fellow Folly Cove Designer Lee Natti that “anything she could put under a press” was fair game.

To read more about the press and its journey to CAM, click here.

Processing the Virginia Lee Burton Demetrios Papers

By Heidi Horner 

Pages from a mock-up of Virginia Lee Burton Demetrios’ unpublished manuscript, Design and How! From the Virginia Lee Burton Demetrios Papers of the Cape Ann Museum Library & Archives, Gloucester, MA. Gift of Aristides Burton Demetrios and Ilene H. Nagel Demetrios, 2019 [Acc. #2019.005].

My interest in the Folly Cove Designers began in 2015, when I wandered into the Sarah Elizabeth Shop in Rockport on a rainy winter Sunday. It was cozy there, and Julia Garrison welcomed me into the tiny shop, as much a workshop as a retail space. A huge acorn press was centered in the room, and racks of linoleum block prints mounted on wood frames hung high on the walls. Julia’s own work was for sale next to prints of blocks by Isabel Natti and others. She told me stories about the Designers, their approach, their teacher Virginia Lee Burton Demetrios, and how Julia came to learn to print on the acorn press. She sent me to the Cape Ann Museum’s Folly Cove gallery to see examples, and I loved what I saw.

Anne Hadley (left) and Heidi Horner (right) at an unboxing event at the Museum to share the newly acquired material from the Demetrios family.

As a quilter myself, I was so drawn to this local artistic tradition of intricate designs printed on textiles. When I started library school, I delved deeper into the Folly Cove and Virginia Lee Burton archival collections for a literature review project, and jumped at the chance to intern at CAM when I started to study archives in 2019. The timing lined up perfectly for me to process significant new material that had just come in from Aris Demetrios and his family, which I merged with the collection that had been on loan at CAM since 1991, to create the Virginia Lee Burton Demetrios Papers.  

Continue reading here.

Upcoming CAM Programs

Examples of designs and in-process work from participants of Mary Rhinelander's past Block Printing classes.

The tradition of the Folly Cove Designers is still active on Cape Ann, with many artists and authors drawing inspiration from this incredible group of makers. In the upcoming months, the Museum is highlighting several of these artists through CAMTalks, workshops, library discussions, and more. Learn more about the history of the designers or try your own block print in the following events.

Designed & Hand-blocked by the Folly Cove Designers Members Reception
Saturday, October 15, 2022 from 3:00 - 5:00 pm 

Library Discussion: Design and How!: Virginia Lee Burton Demetrios' Theory of Design
with Heidi Horner
Saturday, November 12, 2022 at 11:00 am

Block Print Holiday Cards
with Mary Rhinelander
Saturday, November 19, 2022 from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm

The Folly Cove Designers:  Art, Life, Place, and Legacy
with Paula Bradstreet Richter, Curator, Peabody Essex Museum
Saturday, November 19, 2022 at 2:00 pm 

First Fridays: Art After Hours
with Mary Rhinelander
Friday, December 2, 2022 from 6:00 - 8:00 pm

Folly Cove Sketches / Remembering Virginia Lee Burton
with June Vail
Saturday, December 3, 2022 at 2:00 pm

The Formation of Folly Cove 
with Leon Doucette
Saturday, January 14, 2023 at 2:00 pm