John and Primm ffrench founded the Dolphin Studio in 1970 as they settled into their new community in Stockbridge MA where they moved after a six year stint in Ireland, John’s home country. They were both public high school art teachers and founded the business to augment their income and provide an outlet for their art. The very first Dolphin Studio calendar was created as gifts for close family and friends as both John and Primm traveled extensively and had family far and wide. So, in 1969, for calendar year 1970, John and Primm made 40 calendars, each page made using a different technique, from collage, water color and block print to screen printing. Two things were clear from that first year experience. First, that there was a market for the calendars and second, that screen-printing was the most efficient and fun process for making them. And The Dolphin Studio was founded. Since 1973, each of their three daughters were involved designing a month each year and helping with the printing process. Every page of the calendar is a separate, beautifully textured, handmade print, remarkable for its color and variety of design.
In 2010, at the age of 81 John ffrench died. He was our captain and up until the very end of his life, printed the calendar with very little help each year. His passing left us knowing we wanted to carry on the family tradition and in need of help to make it work. Jon and Marie Ahlen, our dear friends, screen print mentors and friends and collaborators of John and Primm took us right under their able wings abd showed us the way forward. Primm continued to make her handcut stencils until her passing a few years later in 2013.
Sisters, Sofia and Crispina carry on the ffrench family tradition with editions growing annually to meet demand. Each page continues to be designed by family members which include 4 vintage prints to carry the artwork designed by John and Primm into the future. Felicitas ffrench, the eldest of John and Primm’s daughters, participates as much as possible. Her artwork, taken from her extensive portfolio from days gone by, continues to be featured . Felicitas has been living in a nursing home with exacerbated symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis for over 15 years. She is visited often and likes to remind us that she is having the best year of her life!
Sadly, Crispina’s 26 year old son Ben died this year from complications from his life-long cardiomyopathy. We will honor his commitment to social activism and music as the future of The Dolphin Studio calendar unfolds.