Step On It Floor Mats is my newest venture creating unique hand painted floor cloths. I see an opportunity to grow as an artist within this craft. After taking a class to learn the technical aspects a couple of years ago, I was excited by the way I could use traditional techniques with my own original designs.
History: The art of making floor cloths has been around since the Renaissance, beginning in France or England. People began covering portions of their stone or plank floors with sturdy cloth to protect it from traffic with shoes and boots. Sometime later, people began embellishing the utilitarian cloths with colorful patterns. We also know that by the 18th century, floor cloths routinely covered floors in both Europe and the American colonies because artists depicted them in numerous woodcuts and paintings of the times. These designs often used repeating large geometric patterns.
Process: The process begins with raw canvas which I order in large rolls. Then the canvas gets measured and cut, soaked in a hot bath, dried and pressed. Then it gets measured again and the back border glued down with mitered corners. The cloth is then primed with Kilz, an anti-mildew paint and two layers of the base color are painted on. The patterns are either painted on free hand, or rolled against my own stencils and stamps made from foam and scrap wood. The stamps are used for repeating patterns such as borders or schools of fish. The newest technique has been to prepare fabric with decoupage medium to stiffen it and then to create fabric collages which get glued down to the painted canvas. This fabric is then coated with more decoupage medium. I love finding interesting fabrics in the remnant bin or at tag sales. When the designs are complete the mats are coated with four coats of a marine based urethane. All in all each mat gets seven layers of paint!
Inspiration: The Sea has remained a large source of inspiration for designs. I am drawn to colorful, vibrant tropical fish, ocean waves and boats. I studied design at Buffalo State University in the 1970s and am excited by the play of color contrasts and how playing with the design makes your eye move on the canvas. Repeating designs and motifs from the Pre Columbian Americas, Egyptian hieroglyphs, Sub-Saharan Africa, Colonial North America and formative years living in New Mexico inform my designs. My intention is not for realism but for my own impression of a particular subject. I’m looking to create a mood, be it meditative or bold and funky. Many of the mats have a center rectangular window which serves to highlight the subject and make it ‘pop’.
Playing with fabric and new designs is enervating my exploration of this unique art form. My aim is to create a product both utilitarian and beautiful . My years working as a potter gave me a background in combining function and aesthetics. Why not beautify your home with a hand painted floor mat!