Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Folly Cove Designers, Peggy and Dorothy Norton.

The Studio

House with Barn studio in back
As a child , one of my favorite stories that my Mother read to me , was " The Little House". It is the story of a small house, in the countryside , which eventually ends up being surrounded by city high rises and falls into ruin. In the nick of time, it is saved from the wrecking ball, and moved out of the city and back into the countryside. I loved the little house with it's cute little curtained windows and red chimney. I never forgot it. When I got married in 1972, My husband and I moved to Cape Ann. What a surprise to find out that the author of my favorite storybook lived on Cape Ann. Her Name was Virginia Lee Burton. Not only did she write several children's books , which are classics but she was also an amazing artist. On top of that, she was married to one of this country's greatest sculptors, George Demetrios. They surrounded themselves with artists and writers, which on Cape Ann was not hard to do. Cape Ann has a long history of attracting famous painters and writers. One of Virginia's most interesting achievements was the creation of a group of Men and women textile artists, which they called The Folly Cove Designers. The name came from the area of Cape Ann , Called Folly Cove, where Virginia and her family lived. There is so much to say about this incredible group of people that I am suggesting that you click on the link to a wonderful Documentary called "Virginia Lee Burton, a sense of Place", directed by Rawn Fulton and Produced by Christine Lundberg in 2008. It was shown on PBS.  Here is the link,http://www.virginialeeburtonthefilm.com/.  The group started forming around 1940 and ended with the death of Virginia in 1969, from lung cancer. 
 My house was the home of two of the best Folly Cove Designers, Margaret ( Peggy) and Dorothy Norton and next door to another designer, Louise Kenyon.  For years I heard of Peggy Norton but never had the chance to meet her. She was born in 1905 and died in 2000. Her sister, Dorothy was born in 1900 and died in 1989. It was their parents, Charles L. and Frances Norton , who bought my house in the early 1920's. Peggy and Dorothy lived here for much of their lives. Both Dorothy and Peggy were very accomplished and intelligent women. Peggy worked as an interior decorator and designer and ran an Herb farm here on this property for years and Dorothy worked as an assistant for Clarence Birdseye at his laboratory in Gloucester.  Check out this link to the Cape Ann Museum site about the designers. You can click on the names and see what designs each one produced along with a short biography.  http://fcd.capeannmuseum.org/# .  When we bought this house, the barn , which is my husband's art studio, was filled with lots of things which had been left by the two sisters. Among the things left ,were several design prints and also some fabric which was already printed with their designs. A real treasure trove to say the least. What we realized was, this was also their studio. Christine Lundberg is a neighbor and a very nice person, so when she called to tell me that she was working on a sequel to the first documentary about Virginia Lee Burton and the Folly Cove designers and asked me if it would it be possible to interview Ann Mechem Ziergiebel, about her time growing up with her Aunts , Peggy and Dorothy Norton at my house, I was so excited! Wow, that was a long sentence! This film will focus on several of the designers and what they did . Ann Ziergiebel is a fountain of information and I had a great time listening to her stories about what it was like growing up in the 50's and 60's in this place. She experienced wonderful times at the Demetrios home where Virginia would throw summer parties and also art lessons in our barn with her aunts. I am hoping this film will be out and shown on PBS in a year or sooner. I hope you enjoy reading about this amazing group! By the way, when Virginia Lee died in 1969, the group decided to disband, since to go on without their leader seemed impossible. It was their way of honoring her. Below are some of the fabrics and also one of the paper mock up designs with the signature approval. I happened to look on Ebay and found quite a few Folly Cove Designer pieces for sale. They are not cheap! Enjoy!

The paper design with approval
Design on fabric!
Some of the many fabrics we found.

This one called Story and a half looks like my house. Tag is original .

Larger version of Story and a half. Love this one!


  1. Love those fabrics! Is the arts and craft feeling one an onion?

  2. the cookbook "clementine in the kitchen" by Samuel chamberlain has a sketch of a house that
    looks exactly like yours.

  3. I am enjoying all this history about the house and artists. Re reading and savoring it again.

  4. Peggy and Dotty were my Great Aunts. Sadly, I don't have any of their works, but its great to appreciate it online :)

  5. How wonderful that they were part of your family . I heard that they were interesting people. I wish I had the chance to meet them but never got the chance. I see Folly Cove Designer items online and I know that here in Annisquam at the little shop in the Village , they sell some original pieces. Someday if you are ever on Cape Ann, stop by for a chat!