Molly Thompson likes the idea that she makes something that people wipe their hands on.

Thompson, a Portland resident, is an artist who paints flowers on flour sacks and sells them as dish towels. She also makes napkins and table runners.

“I like the fact that I’m creating something beautiful out of a very functional product,” she said.

Thompson’s business is called Pretty Flours. She carves her designs into a piece of rubber, then mounts that onto a piece of wood, to create a stamp.

Then she paints the stamp by hand. Each leaf, each petal is its own impression, so each dish towel is an original.

Thompson’s background is in early childhood education. She once worked at the Breakwater School on Brighton Avenue, then did marketing and advertising for Rosemont Markets, owned by her husband, John Naylor. She started making the dish towels as gifts for friends, then Naylor suggested she put a few in his store to see if they would sell.

“I gave him six,” Thompson said, “and he came home the next day and said ‘You’d better give me more of those. The ones you gave me are gone.’ ”

She now sells a couple thousand of them a year, in 40 stores throughout New England. She quit her job at Rosemont in October and now has more than 40 wholesale accounts, an independent sales rep and a couple of part-time employees.

“It’s kind of getting out of hand, in a good way,” Thompson said. “I’m 60 years old, and I’m living my dream. I have a studio in my house, and I can work in my pajamas, and I’m doing something I love.”

She is the featured artist this month at Island Artisans stores in Northeast Harbor and Bar Harbor, and at the Merchant Company in Portland.

The dish towels sell for $14 wholesale and $28-$30 retail. Rosemont sells them for $23. They can be found at museum shops, including the Maine Historical Society, and in garden centers. For a complete list, visit Thompson’s website,

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