By Squirrel Staff
The paint-flecked wooden worktable in Molly Thompson’s airy attic studio resembles a Joan Mitchell canvas. Above the room’s best window, her signature flour sack dishtowels hang drying in view of deciduous trees and a neighbor’s garden. As a child, Thompson’s most prized possession was an oak drawing table, a gift from her father who worked in advertising. One of Thompson’s three children has inherited that table, and her husband built this larger one to be the primary production area for her growing business, Pretty Flours.
Thompson fills the rooms she inhabits as artist, teacher and mother with objects she collects from the natural world that inspire artistic examination. “I love sticks, seeds, pods, old nests—my sketchbooks are full of these. I’d bring dried sunflowers into my classroom and help my students find the seeds inside.”
A creative childhood nurtured her first small business as a calligrapher in high school and college, where she earned a degree in early childhood education and minored in art. Post college, Thompson supplemented her teaching income with calligraphy work for weddings and corporate clients like IBM and Xerox. She eventually became a full time teacher and director of early childhood education at Portland’s Breakwater School, where she advocated for re-envisioning the school’s playground as a more natural environment, and helped hire the landscape designers.
Around the time her first child was born, Thompson took up an early form of her current printing process, creating stamp designs on children’s clothing for craft fairs. In contrast to calligraphy, she found hand printing to be a more forgiving medium. “Part of what is so freeing to me about what I’m doing now is that I can work with what I’ve got—if a stem doesn’t look quite right, I can put a leaf on top of it. I’m designing as I go.”
The eureka moment came six years ago at the Nahcotta Gallery in Portsmouth, NH, where Thompson attended a demonstration of a printing technique using a new soft rubber carving medium. She was hooked immediately, and began carving her first flower form stamps and printing on dishtowels to sell in her family’s business. This year she shared a booth with two other Rosemont Artists Guild members at the New England Made wholesale show, and now her work can be found in shops throughout New England and at The Gardener in San Francisco’s Ferry Building. “A year ago I couldn’t have imagined myself as a production artist, and now I’m filling orders for three dozen lupine towels, or tulips in red and purple…”
Thompson loves working with seasonal imagery, and her fabric paint palette reflects the natural world at its most vibrant–cobalt blue berries, poppies in luscious tomato reds. Each print is unique because it’s made through a playful building of a picture by its parts, using multiple handmade stamps carved at varying levels of relief. Thompson relishes this intuitive process, and especially “the magic” when she gets something out of the print that she wasn’t expecting. “I love when things like this happen,” she says, pointing to an area of a printed towel design that has the effect of sunlight crossing leaf and stem. “There’s a dark and a light from the way the sun’s hitting it, and that’s just how it is out there in the world.”
View Molly Thompson’s work at Rosemont Markets and her website.