Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Artists of Lanesville - Isabel Natti, Block Printer

Vernal Pond by Isabel Natti, 2005.

Isabel Natti is the granddaughter of Paul Manship and niece of Walker Hancock. She is the daughter of Ilmari "Jimo" Natti and Pauline (Manship) Natti (Paul Manship's first daughter). She grew up in Lanesville and New York and now lives in Rockport.

I met Isabel at the Sarah Elizabeth Shop in Rockport Massachusetts. Sarah Elizabeth Holloran was a member of the Folly Cove Designers and after Virginia Lee Burton died in 1968, the Designers disbanded the next year. Sarah Elizabeth started the shop in 1974 and Isabel joined her as an apprentice later that year. Sarah Elizabeth retired a couple of years ago and Isabel carries on the tradition of the Folly Cove Designers block printing fabrics for placemats, napkins and runners. She prints some of Sarah Elizabeth's designs, plus many of her own. Isabel has the best history of the Folly Cove Designers on her website.

Isabel told me about the Lanesville community when she was growing up. Artists from New York and Philadephia came to Lanesville in the early 20th century for its natural beauty and to visit each other. As they visited the area, they bought summer homes, some on the abandoned quarries--Paul Mansfield between Butman's Pit and Canney's Pit and Walker Hancock on Cheve's Pit. Some married in the community (Walker Hancock married Saima Natti, Isabel's aunt). This was the time of George Demetrios, Virginia Lee Burton, Leon Kroll, Walker Hancock, Paul Manship, Anna Hyatt-Huntington, and Katharine Weems (I hope to have entries on all of these artists who lived in or near Lanesville).

Lanesville had many Finnish immigrants who came to work in the quarries. The artistic community and the Finnish community intermingled. The Finns appreciated the work of the artists and the artists used the Finns as assistants and models. Because the Finns had no embarrassment concerning nudity (there were many community saunas in Lanesville, and it is still a practiced here, though most of the public saunas are closed), the Finns made excellent models for the sculptors and painters. They were also used to hard work (the quarry work was physically very demanding) and were more than happy to help in moving statues in the studios, or carefully driving pieces of finished work to their final destinations.

There was an appreciation of the beauty of nature in the Finnish community. I believe some of the philosophy of the Folly Cove Designers was influenced by this community--integration of art with commonly used items, like the block printed placemats and napkins. Simply things could be beautiful too.

Isabel told me about the house of her grandfather, Paul Manship. In what later became the Manship Quarry Gallery, the house and barn (which became the studio) were placed to take advantage of the views of the quarry. When she was a young girl, she asked many questions of her grandfather, like why there were no flowers (they would detract from the sculpture) or why no large trees (because they would change the scale, making the house look smaller).

Isabel Natti is a most interesting person, and a link to some of the most famous artists who lived in and shaped the charactger of Lanesville. I would strongly encourage visiting her at the Sarah Elizabeth Shop at 5 Whistlestop Mall in Rockport, Massachusetts.


  • What an interesting blog!!! I didn't know about the Sarah Elizabeth shop. Thank you for a great entry!

    By Blogger Kathleen Valentine, at 11:15 AM  

  • Read your blog with great interest. My father grew up on Hillcrest Ct and modeled for Hancock many times. He's now 93 and loves telling his tales of early Lanesville and showing photos taken while posing. Thanks!

    By Anonymous Diane Smedberg-Horne, at 5:05 PM  

  • Diane,
    Thanks for the comment--glad you enjoy the blog. I hope to get to Walker Hancock soon, I'm not sure how to condense the entry into a few paragraphs.
    It is interesting how the artists and the community became so integrated. There had to be a wide cultural gap between them, but they found common ground in art.

    By Blogger Stan, at 5:21 PM  

  • A pleasure to find and read the blog. years ago I regularly visited Lanesville for the sauna on Lanes Cove, owned by a wonderful woman, Viano (I know that Viano passed away many years ago). I am just wondering if there are any public or community saunas left in the area.

    By Blogger Noah, at 1:27 PM  

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