Tell us a bit about your art background.
Besides coming from a fairly creative and extremely utilitarian family, I personally don’t have much of a formal art background. My major in college was psychology and shortly after graduating I started a career as a kitchen designer. My experience as a designer definitely tapped into my love for unique space with a focus on precision and order.
Any words of wisdom that have stayed with you?
Do what you love, and do whatever it takes to make it work. Making something like this your livelihood is more than challenging. There have been so many hurdles to jump but I’ve found that without the challenge, there is no reward. One of the hardest things for me to get over was figuring out how to share this with the world. People won’t know what you do or how you do it unless you put yourself out there and share. For a fairly introverted person, this was a major challenge. I’ve realized if you start to feel a little push and pressure, that means you’re doing something right.
How did you become interested in the art of floorcloths, which are painted rugs made from heavy canvas?
I have always loved how a rug can pull an entire space together and found myself quite intrigued by all kinds of rug styles and designs from all over the world. Floorcloths in particular caught my attention because I found them to be so practical, yet so hard to find in the modern market. Floorcloths seemed like a perfect match for today’s lifestyle where simplicity is often a motivating factor when decorating a house, as well as bringing a rug into your home, which can be hypoallergenic and so easy to maintain. The art of floorcloths has such a historical background, but has since been lost and there are very few options for this type of rug available today, but to me, there is nothing more unique than a handmade, durable and practical piece of artwork for your floor … So, I started making them!
Where does your design inspiration come from?
Everything and anything—shapes, colors, patterns that catch my eye at any given time or place—but I do draw much inspiration from different cultural rug styles and processes. With floorcloth construction and materials being so different from hooked or woven rugs, I often try to replicate with brush stroke techniques and different painting tools, what is accomplished with material. For example, how a hand-woven Turkish rug may appear, or how a warn Moroccan rug tells the story of who made it and what materials were used. While some floorcloth makers are rightfully inspired by the traditional primitive floorcloth designs, I find my motivation for design to be driven by more of a holistic and global outlook on rug design and process.
Which part of the process do find most interesting?
I really love the entire process. From shrinking and prepping the canvas from a 10-foot-wide roll to applying the last of five finish coats to ensure longevity and durability. My intention is to create an extremely durable rug that will stand the test of time, and the design part of it is an added bonus.
I mostly do custom orders, working with my clients and being able to help them bring their thoughts and ideas to reality is definitely an interesting AND rewarding process. Making that connection with them, guiding them through all of the details of design, color, dimension … I find this to be extremely enjoyable as well as challenging, which is always good.
Good construction, like all solid foundations, is paramount to you so that the floorcloths you produce will last forever. If they’re not trade secrets, can you explain the steps you take to ensure construction?
Sure! It’s really quite simple. My primary focus is to create a rug with true structural integrity. It took me a few years to determine which materials and processes would ensure the finished product that I felt achieved my standards. To me, this is the most important part of my work. Using the correct weight canvas, stitching each mitered corner and giving each rug a structural back hem creating a foundation that wants to lay flat on the floor, with the added bonus of creating a pocket for a non-skid pad to tuck right into that back hem. That helps keep it in place as well as gives a nice cushion under foot. The construction of the “blank” is one of the most important steps to the process. Almost as important is using the correct paints and finishes that offer durability and flexibility for the finished product. Once the canvas is shrunk and the blank is made, over 10 coats of base paint, design and clear finish are applied, with curing time in between each coat.
The entire process from beginning to end is essential to creating a durable floorcloth. When I finally felt confident in my process, I knew I had achieved the challenge of creating a floorcloth that will last.
Do you plan your designs before you start to paint? Any room for spontaneity in this process?
It all depends on the purpose of the rug I’m working on. I have my own collection of designs, which has grown over the years, usually by introducing new designs annually. This is when I might take something I found to be inspirational and just start creating to see where it brings me. Sometimes I plan, draw and measure twice, but often when I am working on new pieces for the collection, even if I think I have a solid idea of how I want it to look, it turns into something completely different. So, it’s always interesting to see what happens when I decide to create new designs.
When working on custom orders it can go one of two ways: Either the client has a concrete idea of what they want and throughout the whole process I communicate and send images to make sure their ideas are being brought to life correctly OR they, for example, choose three colors they want me to use and just give me the go-ahead to create a unique piece for them, usually based off of pictures they have shared of their home and aesthetic. Both approaches are truly enjoyable and challenging at times.
Many of your floorcloths are custom designs for clients and many can be bought from your online shop. What do you enjoy most about custom design work?
Connecting with the client. Getting to know them and their aesthetic. Listening to their needs and how they think a floorcloth is a perfect match for their lifestyle. And experiencing that piece come to life and seeing it in the space it was designed for, either in person or through photos if being shipped. Custom work has its challenges, but it always pushes me to design in a new way or use certain colors that I would not naturally gravitate to, so I am usually pleasantly surprised.
Does your personal design style tend more towards traditional or contemporary? You have a nice mix on your site.
Contemporary, mostly. I have been doing this for over 10 years and I think at the beginning I was trying to create pieces that seemed to be like your traditional floorcloth designs, but as my work progressed and I allowed myself to put a little more of ME into my designs, I found people accepted the more contemporary take on the very traditional rug form. Some of the traditional designs obviously continue to appeal to customers, so I like to offer them, but really the majority of orders received these days are for the less-traditional designs.
Your new line of kilims is very beautiful. What inspired them?
I absolutely love the look of a long handmade wool woven kilim rug, running down a stark hallway with a very natural asymmetrical linear design, but the thought of walking on it, especially if you live in Maine, enjoy the outdoors, have pets or children … it just makes me cringe! I thought if I could somehow, in my own style, replicate the visual appearance of this beautiful creation, it could be used without worry and mopped clean if it got dirty. This new line definitely has a more neutral and natural feel to it, which is totally what I personally gravitate to, so I gave it a try and people are liking it!
Do you listen to music while you work?
Yes and no. Usually I have something on that matches my mood for the day, but often I will get going on something and don’t even realize that hours have passed and it’s been completely silent the entire time. Also, it’s not unusual for me to put on a podcast about how to deal with a toddler … because there’s always something with a 2½-year-old. 😉
What does being an artist mean to you?
I really consider myself to be a rug maker and not necessarily an artist. I have many wonderful friends who are true artists. They started their life knowing they were put here to create beautiful pieces for all to admire and cherish. It wasn’t until I tried a few other things before I came to the conclusion that I wanted to offer these unique and practical floor coverings, and saw value in what my rugs could offer people on a practical level. The artistry and design part of my work is extremely important to me as a maker, but the construction and process are my passion.
What do you hope to give people through your art?
A functional floor covering that brings a smile to their face and leaves them feeling joyful of their choice to have a floorcloth in their life.
Iconic Flags + Banners
photography RACHEL ANDERSON
The letterpress has been in your family for generations, beginning with your grandfather. Tell us about him and the knowledge, passion and awareness he passed along to your dad and to you.
The 1885-era Chandler & Price Letterpress that has been passed down to me reminds me every day of the creative yet utilitarian talent that many in my family share. My father would use it with his dad when he was a child to make letterhead and notes, just like he would do with myself and my brother when we were young.
While some of what they both used it for was for official business letterhead, there were always projects like making the ID cards that I still have stating who our parents are and important phone numbers in case of an emergency (pre-cellphone days). Although I wasn’t extremely cognizant of their creativity at the time, now when I think back to my childhood, things were always being created whether on the press, or in the wood shop … many creations I still have and admire to this day.
How did the flags come to be?
The flags started as hand-painted nautical flags using scraps from the floorcloth canvases, which was actually quite labor intensive and time consuming. Friends asked me to make some flags for their wedding and then it just took off from there. They got more popular, but the process still was quite lengthy. At that point my dad was helping me print tags for my floorcloths on the press and I loved the idea of integrating the press into my work. He mentioned we could probably use larger hand-cut block prints in the press and print the flag designs instead of painting them. I was sold! We started with the A–Z nautical flag blocks and then expanded to all different island images. Then, over the past six years, we expanded to cutting many different images including moose and pine cones, sheep and chickens, even skiers and hiker blocks. Usually most have a Maine theme to them, but we’ve cut many different custom images as well.
The flag prints are made with wood-block carvings. Do you carve the blocks?
They are wood and lino blocks, and yes, the blocks are all hand cut and based off of our hand-drawn images.
Interesting use for letterpress. Why did you choose a letterpress and how did you make it work?
Traditionally, letterpresses are used with type and paper, so this is an extremely different approach, but I don’t use paper, I use canvas, so we adapted! I love how each print is so unique depending on the amount of ink and pressure when printed. When printing on paper you get uniformity. With canvas it’s more one-of-a-kind, yet they all look appropriate when combined together.
Do people order personal icons or symbols for the flags?
Yes. We’ve done logos for people, island images or states, even silhouettes of sailboats and pets.
What are the flags most used for?
Decoration, mostly. They are a great gift or token to bring home, reminding you of Maine life. Very opposite from our purposeful functional rugs!
What do you enjoy most about creating the flags?
Using the press. Although it is just one of many steps involved in making the flags, it is such a beast and takes true focus and rhythm to control. One false move and something could very easily go wrong, so it offers me an opportunity to focus differently than my other work does.
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Chips and going to Marden’s. Haha!