When AAG member Al Morris lived in Annapolis, Maryland, an old sailing community, he enjoyed touring historic houses. One of the elements that caught his attention was the floor cloths in some of the rooms.
Originally used in France in the early 1700s, they served as “crumb catchers” under tables or to decorate walls. In the American colonies they were made from old ship sails and later from cotton duck. They were used to cover dirt and wood floors and later served as insulation under expensive carpets. The invention of linoleum nearly led to their disappearance.
However, interest picked up about 70 years ago. They are once again being used for decoration but are now made with more modern methods including stencils and water-based paints.
“It crosses the border between craft and art,” said Morris, who has created about a dozen of them since 2006. He uses heavy cotton-grade cotton duck canvas which he treats with gesso. With liquid acrylic paint, he adds his own design elements, then seals the whole thing with many coats of polyacrylic. To allow for drying between stages, the process takes several days.
Morris will demonstrate the process of making floor cloths at the next meeting of the Anderson Artists Guild at Monday, Nov. 12, at 6:30 p.m. at the Anderson Arts Center. For more information about Morris, visit http://the-morris-gallery.blogspot.com/.