Floorcloth revival: Walpole painter and herbalist Susan Connery had put some literature about painted floorcloths in a cabinet about 25 years ago, telling herself, “I want to do that.”
Four years ago, she took herself up on her idea.
Painted floorcloths, according to Connery’s business brochure, “have a long history, first produced en masse in Europe prior to the mid-1700s. They were used in summer when wool carpets were removed from homes to be cleaned and stored, and used under carpets in winter months to add insulation.”
The floorcloths – painted with attractive designs – were used by early American presidents, and began to be phased out with the introduction of linoleum around the 1850s.
“But now,” says Connery’s brochure, “they are coming back!”
When I visited Connery recently, she enthusiastically showed me her work. Connery has immersed herself in the making of beautiful floorcloths — highly durable, polyurethane-covered designer mats made of heavyweight duck canvas, featuring her own designs as well as favorite designs from the various wallpapers she has used in her interior design business, The Wall Works, online at facebook.com/mainewallworks.
Connery makes her own stencils for a lot of her designs – such as a gorgeous Asian-inspired royal-blue-and-white mat featuring two koi-like fish – but lately has been doing more freehand work.
“I like colorful,” she said of her designs. “They can be contemporary and modest, but I tend to not be very contemporary. I like a lot of flowers and design.”
Connery also employs her considerable sewing skills in finishing her floorcloths. “I make mitered corners,” she said, flipping over one floorcloth to show me her very tidy work.
The result of her careful work and attention to detail is a high-quality, artfully done, long-lasting product that seems perfect for such areas of the home as the kitchen and the bathroom, higher-traffic places where one might like some water resistance in addition to beauty.
“When they’re done, they feel like linoleum,” Connery said of her floorcloths. “And that’s what they were – the original linoleum.”
Connery said she knows of two other artists, Addie Peet, of Winterport, and Vermont’s Susan Arnold, who have revived the art of the floorcloth. Peet, she noted, “does a completely different hem than I do!”
Connery is in the process of moving into floorcloth production full time. “Making painted floorcloths will replace my paint work on walls by the time I turn 60, like in two years,” said Connery.
Floorcloths are “a place for me to put my artwork,” Connery said. “I can be creative as much as I want. And I can’t paint houses forever – I need to replace that.”
Connery’s floorcloths are featured at The Good Supply, 2106 Bristol Road, Pemaquid (Bristol), and she is available to do custom work.
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