Despite the overwhelming impact of industrial manufacturing there has always been interest in high quality, handcrafted articles. First, in Europe “arts and craft " societies were founded and flourished, then, in America institutions such as Black Mountain in North Carolina, Berea College in Kentucky and Cranbrook Institute in Michigan were educating artists in the crafts of textiles and weaving, woodworking and silversmithing. If it were not possible for interested students to attend a two or four year program of industrial arts there were seasonal courses available. During this period Arts and Crafts Societies appeared, somewhat reminiscent of the European medieval guilds. Each such society set standards for design and workmanship and often offered outlets for finished products to be made available to the public.
According to Ayres, Hansen et al, (American Arts and Crafts Textiles, Abrams, 2002) “Arts and Crafts textiles represent one medium that actually attained the goals of the Arts and Crafts movement: to introduce and disseminate a new design aesthetic that was affordable, attainable, and of its time, and that emphasized an appreciation of handwork. Through books, magazines, schools, and commercial companies the tenets of Arts and Crafts design were spread via textiles.”
Not all the Societies were large, nor were some long lasting. One exception is Folly Cove Designers, Cape Ann, Massacheuttsets. The group’s leader, Virginia Burton Demetrios stressed the concept of designer-craftsmanship and the 43 designers who worked from 1941-1969 (some left the group after a few years, while many remained until they closed the workshop in 1969) came to be known as professional block printers. Their designs were carved into linoleum blocks and printed onto fabric for household goods, such as placemats, clothing and bed linens. Some designs were created to be printed on paper for wallpaper and greeting cards. Following the death of Demetrios, the remaining designers agreed to cease selling their designs to the public and donated their design samples and prints to the Cape Ann Historical Association.
The Association held a major exhibition of their work in 1982 and again in 1996.
Eleanor Curtis “Bird Battalion” 1955 “Small battalions in early spring dip and wing and bank and turn and land-Each little craft maneuvering without command”
Demetrios often assigned design assignments in six basic types: horizontal, vertical, circles, squares, all-overs, triangles and progressions. This is an example of complete triangle design
Placemat: rose-toned paint on cotton. Large rondels of two basic designs: one of garden tools: rakes, shovels, hoes and spades and forks, the second three circular patterns of floral “poseys” around a center of decorative baskets.
This is an example of a circular design
Floral design on paper
Elizabeth Iarrabino “Sand Pipers” 1954
Placemat: blue-gray tone on cotton.
This progression design is an example in which each motif is repeated in five sizes with each progression twice the size of the preceeding one.
For more information on the Folly Cove Designers, including biographies, contact the Cape Ann Historical Association/Museum, 27 Pleasant Street, Gloucester, MA 01930