Designer Martha “Molly” Brister Haley ’64, is a second-generation Skidmorean (the daughter of Margaret Palmer Brister ’35) who followed up her B.S. in art by earning certification in art education at Boston University. When Molly and her husband moved to Marblehead, Mass., it was the perfect starting line for her entrepreneurial adventures. Just as she began teaching at Marblehead High School, the head of the art department took a sabbatical. Haley stepped in. “I was 26 years old and had no experience. I just jumped in,” she remembers. “I think that was the beginning of my attitude of ‘Why not?’ Each time I come to a new challenge, I don’t ask myself why; I ask myself why not?”
That philosophy came into play when Haley was asked to teach silkscreening courses for the Marblehead Arts Association. Although she had little experience in the printing technique, she developed her talents and taught the classes. It was there that Haley met Kathy Walters, and the two started a textile design business called Marblehead Handprints.
She and Walters developed Marblehead Handprints from a tiny home-based business (which sold its first item, a carriage quilt, to a neighbor) into a highly successful company recognized across the country and beyond. In its 22-year history, Marblehead Handprints produced hundreds of products, including tote bags, kitchen items, neckties, and travel accessories. Haley and Walters worked with other manufacturers to put their designs on gift cards, notepads, mugs, tiles, and clothes. The products were sold in more than 20 Marblehead Handprints retail outlets coast to coast. A national wholesale business expanded their reach to include such stores as Saks Fifth Avenue, Jordan Marsh, and Bullocks.