We said goodbye to my parents on Friday June 25, and headed north from Gorham up to visit my sister Amy and our dear friend Kit in Brooklin, Maine for a day. It’s a 2-3 hour drive which usually feels like a big trip, but this time we were all geared up for a loooooong drive, so the trip to Brooklin seemed to go by in a flash.
We’ve been talking a lot with the kids about the intensely foggy weather we’re expecting to find in Newfoundland, so it felt very appropriate to wake up Saturday morning amidst a thick fog in Brooklin. The kids loved it there, running like crazy around and around Amy’s big grassy lawn. We got to see some wild bunnies and lots of wildflowers. We had lots of new coloring books and worksheets bought for the long trip, so Harriet and Sadie were very excited about drawing and coloring in their new books. We all had fun picking up road trip snacks at the Blue Hill food coop, and stopped by the toy shop, Out On A Whimsy, and got a few extra special road trip toys and fresh sketchbooks. It was hard to choose, cause everything in looked really fun. We had a wonderful summer dinner on the porch with Kit and Jesse and Deb and Amy. What a sweet way to say goodbye to Maine.
Sunday morning, up & early first thing on Sunday to head north for the border. We drove about 2.5 more hours to Calais and crossed at the St. Stephan’s 3rd Bridge border station. We were so anxious about crossing at the border, whether or not we had remembered all of the correct papers and documents, whether we had all the correct permissions and everything to get through. The borders are still closed due to Covid pandemic restrictions, and we were only able to enter with Mike’s official job offer and work permit in hand. It took about 2 hours to process the work permit at the border. I just walked the dog in big circles around and around the perimeters of the parking lots the whole time, while the kids sat inside watching iPads (thank god for iPads!) and Mike waited anxiously, answering occasional questions about his paperwork. After we finished the paperwork, we drove through a Covid testing tent, which was another elaborate process, and then finally we were free to go! We just followed the Trans-Canada highway northeast along the coast, through lots of countryside and occasionally beautiful glimpses of coastline and ocean. We weren’t really supposed to get out of the car, so we had to only eat drive-through food and pay at the pump for gas and only make quick bathroom stops. Hopefully one day we can redo this trip with lots of stops along the way to visit Prince Edward Island and Lunenberg and small towns and beaches and eat real food and stay in campgrounds … but with Covid restrictions we weren’t allowed to stop until we reach our final quarantine location (in Newfoundland). So we had to make the 27 hour drive all in one go.
Kiddos were pretty excited about being on the road, and also pretty much pacified with shows and games on their iPads. Sometimes I feel bad about screen time, but it’s a 27 hour drive soooo… I think it was the only viable option! We had to stop at the Nova Scotia border, out in the middle of nowhere, to show our pre-registered travel plans and IDs again, due to Covid restrictions. The day before we left, this border crossing had been cut off for about 18 hours by anti-vax protestors who stopped traffic until the RMP came and moved them aside! They were still camped out there, holding up signs in the blowing rain by the roadside, but they weren’t blocking traffic anymore. Around 5pm we pulled over for a dog break, and found ourselves in this deserted spot by a brackish lakeside in Nova Scotia… it was SO BEAUTIFUL that I had to let the kids out of the car to see the lake. There was absolutely nobody else around so I felt ok about bending the rules to spend a few minutes together on the pebbly beach, counting daisies and finding pretty oyster shells and driftwood and pebbles.
We stopped one more time to look at the view from a high hilltop on Cape Breton Island, the whole island was so beautiful and I wish we could’ve spent more time there!
We made it to the ferry terminal in Sydney, Nova Scotia by dinner time and had to wait a while before boarding. Laika got very upset about all the other dogs hanging out by the ferry terminal, so once again we passed our wait by walking in circles around the parking lot. The ferries are HUGE! There were dozens of cars and big trucks lining up to drive on, and finally in the blue hour after sundown we got to drive on and park. Poor dog had to spend the night in the car, curled up in her bed in the way back, with all the windows cracked. The rest of us had a little cabin with four bunks! It was very cute and fun. The kids were so exhausted they konked out right away. I loved sleeping with the gentle rocking of the boat and the low hum of the engine.
We woke up in the waters off Newfoundland! I think the crossing took about 7 hours? I couldn’t find my watch and we had changed time zones twice so I was totally disoriented in time. We had to get dressed and packed up quickly, then we were docking in Port Au Basque and we had to get back to the car. The poor dog was very relieved to see us! As soon as we drove off the ferry, everything was lush and green and foggy and seemed very much like how we’d always imagined Newfoundland!
And then we still had to drive for 9 MORE HOURS, across the entire island of Newfoundland. It was a long day. Beautiful drive, lots of pine trees but distinctly different from driving around Maine. Shorter, scrubbier trees, more dramatic rocky landscape. We drove through fog and rain and some gorgeous sunshine too. We got our first Tim Horton’s coffee in Corner Brook. Hopefully we’ll be back to visit Corner Brook again before too long! Everyone was feeling kind of groggy and definitely a little grumpy by the afternoon, but also excited to be getting closer and closer to our new home! We stopped by the road at a scenic pull-off on the edge of Terra Nova national park, and bought lunch from a older fella who had a hot dog cart set up next to his camper van. It was a very windy but beautiful spot!
We made it in to St. John’s around 6pm and caught a quick glimpse of the city on our way out to our AirBnB house in Portugal Cove, about 15 mins outside the city. It all looked wonderful and it was kinda sad to catch glimpses of the city and the landscape and the seaside that we couldn’t actually stop and visit. Our rental house was finally a welcome sight, we were all SO EAGER to get out of that car. 1242 miles in 2 days! Hopefully we don’t have to do that ever again. But we’re excited to be here, finally!
We’re moving to NEWFOUNDLAND! Still working out a million details but I guess it’s real now - we are hoping to be in St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada by the end of this summer!
When @miketopper was looking at jobs he said "you wanna move to Newfoundland?!" and I was like, "Ummmm. Probably not? But tell me more!" so he did, and then we got obsessed with learning everything about Newfoundland and especially St. John's, because it seems like a fascinating city with a long history as an international trading port and cultural center. Surrounded by magical landscapes, on an incredibly beautiful & wild island. We couldn't stop reading and looking at everything (and listening to some great fiddle music) and we just fell in love with Newfoundland. We’ve never been there and can’t visit, because Covid. So, it’s a leap of faith! Hopefully a good one.
Mike will be working as a large animal veterinarian for the provincial government, helping local farmers with keeping healthy livestock, in a job position that seems like a perfect match for his values, education and interests. The job seemed too perfect to turn down, and we are so excited to live in this colorful city surrounded by spectacular land and seascapes, epic hiking trails. Hopefully we’re all rugged enough to manage some foggy, blustery, stormy weather. Most of all, we think it'll be a great adventure for our family and a fun place to raise up two small, brave, nature-loving kiddos.
Morris & Essex will be going on hiatus beginning in May/June, for at least a few months while we juggle packing, moving, parenting and finding a new house and hopefully I'll be able to set up a new printmaking studio once we get ourselves sorted out in Newfoundland. I am so excited for this transition, despite all the stressful uncertainty and tiresome logistical hassles of moving house, I'm sure this big transition will bring lots of fresh inspiration to my work when I return to it.
We've been working hard on a new collection of LINEN TEA TOWELS which I've been developing all year! I love printing tea towels and wanted to upgrade to a really excellent quality textile, 100% made in Maine. I needed to have more control of the supply and stitching process and the quality of construction, and of course to work with local makers. I started by ordering samples and we stitched up a variety of different samples, tested them by printing them with different designs, and then put them to work in the kitchen! With two small kids and a whole lot of messy projects and constant hand-washing, I had plenty of opportunities to use them and see how they wash and wear.
The results of our in-home research were wonderful. I love how the linen gets a gorgeous rumpled texture and gets softer with every washing. These towels can dry some dishes but they really excel as a sustainable, all-purpose kitchen cloth. We love them for drying hands because they dry so quickly! We use them at mealtime to keep fresh-baked rolls warm at the table or to wipe up little spills or just to substitute for napkins. The oatmeal-colored linen was our favorite because it doesn't collect stains the way white linens do. The stitching quality is excellent and holds up beautifully through heavy use and many washes.
You can take a look at the full collection here, and stay tuned as we plan to add more designs within the next few weeks.
What will happen with the cotton tea towels? I am not printing them anymore, though I do have some lovely designs remaining on the shelves, so this is a great opportunity to grab some while they are still available. They are slowly selling out and being replaced with the linen towels. I will keep most of the designs and will be printing them on linen instead of cotton. A few of the cotton designs will be retired as we switch over and add some fun new prints for the new linen towels!
I spent most of this crazy year dreaming about this new scarf collection and working away in odd moments and snippets of time while the kids were busy for a few minutes... it's taken a lot of determination to actually complete any projects, haha! When I finally got some nice long days in the studio over the summer time, it was incredibly gratifying to take these sketches and ideas and make them into something real and beautiful.
Here's a peek at one of my sketches... My idea for this project was to continue my tradition of turning odd bits of my hand-printed fabrics into sustainable, eco-friendly infinity scarves. I also wanted to mix in some gorgeous organic cotton from Alabama Chanin, which is sustainably grown and milled in the USA! The new collection of scarves would mix these two fabrics and would give me an opportunity to be playful with creatively mixing colors and patterns. My color palette and pattern designs are inspired by the colors and textures of nature, both abstract and realistic... though the color-block style feels modern and equally well-suited to city streets or zoom meetings as breezy mountaintops or mossy woods. Most of all, I wanted these scarves to be incredibly soft, comfortable and easy to wear, and fun to style. The bamboo jersey fabric makes them luxuriously soft against the skin, and the loop style infinity scarf makes them effortless to throw on as you're heading out the door.
So, with my self-created design brief in mind, I started rummaging through my fabric supply, pulling swatches and digging for scraps and pieces that need to be used, and thinking about color combinations and pattern combinations. It was a REALLY fun process!
Once I picked out my colors, I did a lot of cutting. Each piece had to be cut down to about 20"x20" so that I could print on them. Cutting fabric can take a LOT OF TIME and then some more time.
Once I had a rough idea of some fabric choices and color combos, I started printing some of the first patterns. It was a wonderful opportunity to sift through my collection of screens, some of them have been with me for 10 or 20 years as I've moved from one studio to another! These are all my own patterns and designs that I have turned into silkscreen stencils.
This Watercolor Floral design is one of my favorite patterns, and one that seems to work well in combination with many of my other designs. One of my favorite parts of this scarf concept was to play with combining different colors and patterns, so this versatile watercolor pattern seemed like a great place to start.
As I printed more and more patterns and colors, my plans kept evolving as I discovered new and delightful combinations, and found that some of my planned combinations didn't end up looking the way I had imagined them. I had to add a handful of new scarf designs to the collection, to squeeze in some of the beautiful accidents that happened through experimentation and play.
Post-it-note explosion! My brain isn't the most orderly place.
Here is my charming, 5-year-old studio assistant helping me with some smaller pieces.
After we got lots and lots of pieces printed, then I had to do a bit more trimming and cutting and a lot of organizing and mixing and matching and re-organizing.
Finally! Once I got it all organized, I handed it off to the inspiring and talented Natasha of Mama Hen, who stitched them into finished scarves. She has a special seam technique that we kind of figured out together to make the seams lie flat and look beautiful!
Collaborating with other local craftspeople and talented artists is one of my favorite parts of handmade business and I am continually inspired by the brilliant community of Maine craftspeople that surrounds me!
This is where the magic happens! Handmade business is generally a lot more WORK than I ever imagined, haha! But it’s worth it for these moments when it’s just the pure tactile joy and satisfaction of *making* something.
Here's a video of the printing process, you can see me working on my-printed owl fabric. This is some American-grown organic cotton from Alabama Chanin, hand-silkscreened in Maine by me! using non-toxic, water-based inks.
This owl fabric turned into one of my new super-soft and comfy infinity scarves - https://www.morrisessex.com/collections/hand-printed-scarves/products/hand-printed-infinity-scarf-errol-scarf-handmade-in-maine!
This summer was a strange one, of course - that's how everyone is feeling at the moment, right? We've been lucky to make our way through this unusual season with relative ease. We spent most of the summer in Maine, staying with my parents in their old farmhouse, playing outside in the grass and the woods and the sand box and the river. We missed going to summer camps and socializing, but we mostly entertained ourselves! We built a swing-set and picked a lot of flowers and blueberries, fed the chickens and gathered eggs and made lots of Duplo castles. I was able to spend some good hours in the studio while my girls stayed at home with their Nana and Grandpa. It always feels like the studio time flies by in a brief moment and there's always soooo much more to do, but I did get to finish some really awesome projects that I'm excited to share:
Hand-Printed Infinity Scarves! I spent a good bit of the summer sketching and planning and swatching and dreaming and printing and stitching on this collection for at least half of this crazy year... it’s pretty exciting to finally have something FINISHED to show for all that dreaming and making!
These color-block infinity scarves are made from fun combinations of gorgeous solids and hand-printed patterns. They're made from are eco-conscious, suuuuper soft bamboo fabric and Alabama Chanin's very special organic cotton, 100% sustainably grown and milled in the USA! Stitched by my amazing and talented friend at Mama Hen and hand-printed in my Maine studio, with non-toxic, water-based inks.
I made a really gorgeous variety of different color / pattern combos, but only a few of each scarf, so they are SUPER special and limited-edition. I'm really excited to finally have them all done, neatly sorted, photographed and listed in my shop. Take a look and enjoy browsing the new collection!
I've also been working away on another project for at least a year: High-quality LINEN tea towels, custom stitched (and hand-printed) in Maine! I love doing tea towels but wasn't always 100% happy with the quality of the cotton towels I was working with. After ordering linen fabric samples from a dozen different sources, we stitched and printed some sample towels and have been living with them for almost a year now, testing them out in the kitchen and around the house with great results.
One of my favorite things about linen towels is how well they wash and how fast they dry. We've been doing SO MUCH hand-washing (family of 4, two small kids, viral pandemic, wash, wash, wash, repeat!) and sometimes our cotton terry towels ended up soggy by lunchtime because they just don't dry fast enough. Linen towels work nicely and they dry in just a few minutes. I've taken to throwing our hand-drying-towels in the laundry at least once a day, and the linen holds up well with lots of washing and drying!
I have a handful of really fun new designs for this year, but I haven't quiiiite finished photographing and listing all the linen towels, but I hope to have them all completed soon! Take a look here to see what I've listed so far, and stay tuned to see more new designs coming soon.
Here's a fun peek at my printing process - a time-lapse video of me working on the new linen mushroom towels in the studio over the summer.
Now that the summer's past and we're settling in to fall routines, I'm getting back to mask production and I hope to have more masks listed in the shop very, very soon. I try to keep a consistent supply available, but they always seem to sell faster than I can make them! Over the past month, I took a break from sewing as we packed up and moved the family back to Pennsylvania for the start of the school year, and then I got pretty sick with Lyme disease(!) for a couple of weeks, so that's put a kink in my sewing schedule. But I'm feeling better, taking my antibiotics (and probiotics!) and getting my sewing table all set up to get back to stitching as soon as possible. I expect to have a new batch of hand-printed cotton masks listed in my shop by 9/30, if not sooner!
We're organizing a virtual craft fair featuring talented Maine makers. Friday, December 6th starting at 10 am we'll be sharing our handmade work, as well as some special discounts, peeks inside of our workspaces, and creative processes. We are a group of 22 different artists and artisans representing a wide range of handmade products and processes and different areas of Maine's creative community.
What's a Virtual Handmade Fair?
It's a group of artists and makers getting together to share their work - just like a regular craft fair. Instead of meeting up in person, we're meeting up online and inviting you to join us on Friday, December 6th, starting at 10 AM to say hello, see our handmade work, and find some special discounts on handmade holiday gifts. We think it'll be a fun way to see new work, meet new makers, support and create connections within this creative community.
|@Sperrygeneralstore||Cards, shirts, dresses, onesies|
|@beedandy_shop||Bath & body products|
|@earthangelarts||hand stitched ornaments and pillows, paintings, printed products|
|@Morrisandessex||Hand-printed textiles and letterpress cards|
|@sehallfurnituredesign||Woodworking and Furniture|
|@gdixon03||Jewelry for men and women|
|@creationlabshop||Water-Based, Hand Printed Apparel & Accessories|
|@mermaidmeadow||Illustrative artwork on barnwood, fabric and paper.|
|@annealexandersculptor||nature-inspired sculpture, mostly in ceramics|
|@thinkgreene||Textile Designer and Screen Printer|
|@APCuriosities||Ceramics (animal bowls, travel cups, etc) and jewelry|
|@DMGDesignsMaine||Jewelry & metal wares|
|@lanaplantae||Naturally Dyed Yarns|
|@Jamiepeaks||Art prints & Children’s books|
|@McFlyandCo||Dog Collar Accessories|
Please join us tomorrow morning, RIGHT HERE on Instagram, starting at 10 am we'll be sharing our handmade work together, as well as some special discounts, peeks at our studio and creative process, maybe some live video greetings, we'll see - each artist gets to choose what they want to share, so it'll be a bit of a surprise, and I think it'll be fun! Can't wait to see you there.
We've been enjoying a gorgeous fall in West Philly, missing Maine a bit, starting to plan for our next transition. Mike is in year 3 of his veterinary medicine degree at UPenn, and we just celebrated his White Coat Ceremony, which marks the 3rd year students' completion of the classroom portion of their studies, and transition to the clinical portion of the degree program. Starting in January, he'll be working and studying at UPenn's large-animal hospital in Kennett Square, PA. It's about an hour outside of Philly, in a beautiful area full of working farms - lots of cows, horses, cornfields, and mushroom farms. We had planned to stay in the city until Hattie finishes her year at preschool, but for a variety of reasons we decided to move out to Kennett Square sooner, and it looks like we'll be out of the city by January 1st! I've fallen madly in love with West Philly and I am going to miss it very much, but we're also super excited to start exploring our new home soon.
These days, my creative work continues to be a balancing act, always striving to find time for making, amidst the busy days and nights of small kids and grad student life and moving homes and traveling and being far away from my studio space (which is still in Cornish, Maine!) for most of the school year. This complicated situation has definitely led me to explore more portable aspects of my design work, from hand-embroidering scarves to painting with gouache and working to build up my surface design portfolio. I'm sure if life were simpler I'd probably be bored, but I definitely feel that life is very full and complicated these days. I've been trying to dedicate some time every day to yoga and meditation, to create a bit of a calm amidst it all. I'm grateful for the summer days that I was able to spend in the studio, printing fabric and building up inventory which I hope will find a home during this holiday season. I'm also incredibly grateful to my amazing studio-mate and helper, Sabrina, who helps me with printing, packing and shipping orders while I'm out of town. And grateful for everyone who chooses to support handmade and small businesses during the busy holiday season! Thank you!!
Hi! Happy Summer!!
I haven’t written in a while. I do have lots of exciting new ideas and works in progress, but nothing finished yet, so... I just wanted to say hello, and share a peek at what’s going on behind the scenes.
The past few years have been a major time of flux for my family and my work. It’s been a huge time of shifting ideas, locations, homes, family size, priorities. We had our second kid in 2017. My husband quit his job and went back to school full-time (he is doing a 4-year program to become a large animal veterinarian, with a focus on food animals)! So, we had to move and then move again. I’ve worked hard to maintain a sense of family stability for the kids throughout all these changes (also TBH I’ve worked hard some days just to keep them alive and to keep myself from yelling at everyone), and found myself thinking deeply about how to be a better parent, and then how to be a better human in this world.
I think all of these big changes gave me the opportunity to stop and ask myself big questions. What is my meaning in the world, what do I have to offer? What’s really important to me, and why am I doing the things I do, how do I create a deeper connection between my personal values and my creative work? All this moving and questioning has left me with some complicated feelings about needing to make changes, and also some really exciting ideas about how I want to move forward, new ways I’d like to work. So I’m in a pretty experimental stage of exploring new ideas right now, which is actually kind of awesome and exciting! And maybe a little bit scary.
I’m not making any drastic changes to my business at the moment, but I’m definitely thinking about making some gentle transitions into new ways of working. I’m feeling out new ways to create, that feel more mindful and less hurried. To be honest, I’m hoping to move towards a model where I create less, and sell less, but do so with more care and more depth of spirit, if that makes any sense.
This is all a work in progress, but the most exciting new project is creating a new line of scarves with recycled materials. This means that the creative process is much slower, as each piece is different and each one needs to be made in its own way, depending on the material, colors, patterns, etc. I’ve started collecting old t-shirts, cutting them up and printing some of my favorite pattern designs on the reclaimed fabric, then stitching them together by hand, using traditional Japanese sashiko stitches and cotton threads.
I will have the first pieces finished within a few days or weeks, and hope to have nicer pictures to share when they are done. I’m hoping to have a collection of these new recycled / reclaimed scarves finished in time to bring them to Common Ground Fair in the fall. But for now, I’m still in the experimenting and playing stage, which is pretty fun. I am hoping that this project will always have room for playing and experimenting a bit, since by nature each piece will be unique.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading. I’m used to sharing finished products or more polished, photogenic parts of my process, but I hope there’s some value in sharing the messy and unfinished parts of the process too. I promise to follow up with some updates on the new work when it’s finished!
Until then, you can always find some little glimpses of my world on instagram, facebook, and you can find my work online, www.morrisessex.com
Thank you so much for your time and your support!!
Hattie keeps asking me if we can bake cupcakes again. I've learned that this mostly means she will do some stirring and a whole lot of eating cupcakes and frosting. I'm not opposed to letting my kids eat sugar, but I thought it'd be reasonable (and yummy) to temper it with a few other ingredients, so we made these carrot-apple "cupcakes." (It's just a slightly modified version of this recipe from Williams Sonoma.)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup whole-wheat flour
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
- 2 eggs
- 2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup greek yogurt
- 1/2 cup grated apples
- 6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
- 2 large carrots, peeled and finely shredded (1 1/2 cups)
- 1/2 cup raisins, dried currants or golden raisins (optional)
- 1/2 cup chopped nuts - I used almonds, pumpkin seeds, and pecans, a bit of each.
Mix dry indgredients in one bowl and wet ingredients in another bowl; fold together just until they're mixed completely. We used mini muffin tins, so they baked for about 15 minutes at 425. And we made cream cheese frosting, which is basically just softened cream cheese mixed with confectioners sugar and a few drops of milk until it looks like frosting.
Hattie picked the bright purple and turquoise blue food coloring! We had a bag of sliced almonds so we used those to make the flower petals, and a tiny chocolate candy for the middle of the flowers.