Words by Caili Elwell
Bright, Pretty Flours in the Kitchen
Photography by Nicole Wolf
Portland Artist Prints Maine Flora Onto Linen Line
Artist Molly Thompson uses Turkish cotton as her medium for bringing the vibrant colors of Maine’s flora and local food into kitchens across the country.
Inspired by Maine lupines and black-eyed Susans, wild blueberries and multi-colored carrots, swimming fish and sprouting asparagus, she creates block-printed white flour sack towels ($30), aprons ($38), reusable napkins ($48 for four), and table runners ($70) in her Portland studio. Stationery and wrapping paper embossed with her designs are printed locally at Franklin Printing, a wind-powered and family-owned facility in Farmington.
Thompson controls every step of the creative process. She designs the rubber stamps, hand-mixes the paints, and decides how the stamps turn into patterns on the cloth and paper. She is equal parts modesty, inspiring talent, and success story.
Her business has boomed during the pandemic. “In this time of insanity, I feel I have created my own process that is as meditative as it is nurturing. I can be in my studio for hours at a time and not feel like any time has passed. It’s never what I imagined I would be doing,” says Thompson.
A Garden View
After a 35-year career in early childhood education and publishing parenting magazines, she craved a hands-on creative outlet. Married to John Naylor, co-founder of Rosemont Market & Bakery, a local chain of small, local food–focused corner grocery stores, Thompson took up marketing duties for the foods provender. “I was staring at gardens and produce all day and began to see the beauty of the shapes and the colors. I wanted to capture that,” she says.
Thompson carves the garden shapes into rubber, mounts the rubber stamps onto wooden blocks, and hand-paints each to print beautifully simplistic, greengrocery-inspired kitchen linens. She made them first as gifts for family and friends. Then one day, six years ago, her husband asked her to place a few napkins for sale in the market. They sold out in one day. Her modesty and process remain intact.
The Lemont Block Collective, in Brunswick, is one of the many carefully curated shops in which Pretty Flours products can be found. “People are drawn to the accessible and bright designs. … Maine is so clearly at the heart and soul of [her] products,” says Cleo Vauban, curator at the Lemont Block.
“The universality of her products and how giftable they are really has made her a huge success in the shop. ... Her products speak to the small joys in life,” says Vauban.
Today, in addition to web sales at www.prettyflours.com, Thompson’s products are available in over 60 stores nationwide. She’s created almost 30 distinct designs; her best-sellers are the fabric products stamped with lupine and blueberry patterns. It’s quintessential Maine, regardless of where your kitchen is physically located.