Art Underfoot

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EQ revisits a Vermont artist.

EQ’s 2013 visit to the Weathersfield, Vermont, home and studio of artist, Lisa Curry Mair, struck a chord with our readers. (See the story here.)

We thought it might be time to revisit her and see some of her latest work.

Mair has been living in and working from her late eighteenth-century farmhouse in Vermont for the past 21 years. Her love of the outdoors, horses, history, and nature is reflected in each piece she creates—from heavy duty painted canvas floorcloths to beautifully painted canvas murals. Her work evokes a sense of times gone by and is in museums, homes and historic sites throughout North America and the U.K.

Lisa tells us that, “Floorcloths date all the way back to 15th century France, where canvas tapestries were used to cover cold-stone floors. George had a floorcloth in his Mount Vernon home and early east-coast settlers used worn sails from ships to create painted floor coverings which served to block drafts from beneath the floor.”

The basic procedure for making a floorcloth hasn’t changed. Heavy canvas is prepared and the weave is filled so that the cloth can receive the painted design. Depending on the pattern, the painting is applied using either block printing techniques, stenciling or hand painting. The paint is applied in layers and the final image is sealed and protected with extremely tough and durable finishes. The final result is a “carpet” which is easily cleaned with a damp mop, tough enough to withstand dogs, kids and furniture and customizable in a wide variety of patterns from historic to contemporary.

Every step of each floorcloth made at Canvasworks is carried out within the studio just as it would have been done hundreds of years ago. Each piece is created from a piece of raw canvas which is then put through a series of steps of shrinking, priming, sanding, painting and finishing until the floorcloth is ready to roll and ship to its new home.

Lisa works with each client individually using photographs, site visits, and historic research to create pieces which are suitable for each situation. She studies centuries-old patterns and designs and looks back to her not-too-distant cousin, Rufus Porter, for inspiration in designing and painting murals of New England rural scenes.

In her spare time she trains and competes her Hanoverian mare, Winslet, in dressage, and judges at local dressage schooling shows and combined-training events. Horses make frequent appearances in her work.