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Mastering an Old Craft

Al Morris shared some tips for creating floor cloths at the Anderson Artists Guild meeting on Nov 12.

To make doormats—and occasionally placemats—he begins with duck canvas, which is sold online (eBay is a good source) in different weights and grades. He recommends #4 canvas, which can be found for $4 to $5 per yard.

He staples the canvas to a frame and then coats it with gesso. He lets it dry for half a day before adding another coat the next day and another coat the day after that. He also lathers on a coat or two on the back side.

Then he cuts out the desired dimensions, which are usually 2 feet by 3 feet for a floor mat. He creates a hem by folding along the sides and securing with contact cement.

Then comes the fun part—laying out the pattern and painting. Geometric patterns were a favorite of American settlers, when doormats were used to cover dirt or wood floors. He uses heavy body liquid acrylics and never mixes colors. “If I do that, I know I will never achieve that shade again,” he said. He writes the number of the color on the back of the mat for reference.

Once the design is complete and has dried, Morris seals it with several coats of polycrylic, a water-based acrylic that stays flexible. Polycrylic is available at Lowe’s. He signs the piece before adding the final coat.

The process is slow, taking about a week to complete a floor cloth with a simple design. But it provides a unique artistic outlet that hearkens back to America’s early days.

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