Art for the Floor
The secret to
making art for the floor is in the preparation of floorcloths.
'Floorcloth' is a historic name -- a
term of art --
for a genre of floor covering that was developed in Europe in the
1700s. Originally, artists applied their designs to oilcloth. These
must have looked somewhat muddy and drab. Then artists began to
apply the lacquers, paints, and shellacs of their time to untreated
commercial yardage made of cotton, hemp, and flax, so that the whole
palette available for wall pieces could now be transferred to the
floor. Floorcloths were prestige items in the homes of
American colonists. At least three presidents were among the
prominent Americans who owned floorcloths -- George Washington, John
Adams, and Thomas Jefferson. President Jefferson had a favorite
floorcloth in the south dining room of the White House. You
can read more about the history of this genre of art
The floorcloth artist encounters challenges
unsuspected by most painters of wall pieces. Canvas for wall
pieces comes expertly stretched on frames. The rigid frame
fixes the fabric's border, controls shrinkage, and eliminates
sags and wrinkles. As the floorcloth beginner soon discovers, working on
unmounted fabric is a whole other ballgame. It takes a lot of effort
and skill just to make straight flat edges for a
free-floating mat. Round or polygonal mats present additional
challenges. Preparing a canvas to dovetail precisely with the irregular dimensions of a room, so that it can be glued permanently
in place without stretching or wrinkling, demands extraordinary
experience and technique. There are few if any floorcloth
makers today who can approach Patricia Dreher's track record at
creating advanced shapes and wall-to-wall installations.
Patricia Dreher made her first floorcloth in
1981. It is still bright and beautiful and in everyday use
today. Dreher can make any scratch or gouge go away by
judicious repainting and recoating. Made with premium-grade art
canvas and artist's acrylics, and coated with modern top-of-the-line
water-based clear finishes, Patricia Dreher's floorcloths are as
tough as the best commercial synthetic floor coverings and
should outlast the floorplanks they rest on.
Maintenance is a matter of damp mopping with warm water, fortified
if necessary by ordinary non-abrasive cleaners. Waxing is neither
required nor appropriate. The pieces have a matte surface
finish that plays well with other textures.
Patricia Dreher's floor pieces are commissioned artworks.
She works in collaboration with the client and/or the client's
architect and/or interior designer to produce one-off signed floor
paintings that resonate with an over-all vision for the space.
Because of the importance of the floor area as a visual foundation,
clients who are specifying a new project or doing a complete remodel
may find it advantageous to consult Patricia Dreher early in the
design process. Turnaround from design acceptance to
installation of a wall-to-wall floorcloth is about six weeks.
Patricia Dreher came to floor art as a classically trained
painter. As her landscape
wall pieces will testify, she is fluent with the brush, and
delights in faithfully rendering the infinite nuances of hue and
shade found in nature's palette, particularly at dawn and dusk.
She is also a proficient illusionist. She spent years studying
and lecturing on surface design, particularly textiles. Then she
painted scenery at the San Francisco Opera. As a result, she is a master
sorcerer at making two dimensions appear to be three.
Click for Patricia Dreher's curriculum
vitae. Seeing some of her floor pieces, you may swear you are
looking at chipped paving stones, or craquelure tile, or worn marble mosaic, or a variety of textiles
ranging from Diné wool to Japanese silk. You may even think
you see a wine stain or a fallen leaf. Every chip, crack,
thread, stain, and leaf is a figment of Patricia Dreher's artful and
Great cultural range is another of Patricia
Dreher's outstanding qualities as an artist. Look at the
collection of works grouped here under the "Kimono"
heading. Classical motifs of Japanese fabric design, themes
from old Chinese paintings, and thoroughly modern architectural
shapes and abstract gradients come together here in a product that is distinctly Asian in
inspiration, yet always original and never derivative or
conventional. From the same artist, incredibly, comes the
group of "Mesa" designs, faux
rugs inspired by indigenous weavers -- but you will not find
anything like these Dreher originals in the museums or reservation
shops. Prefer something more European and formal? Dreher's "Pompeii"
motif answers the call with elegant tesselations that might have
delighted the ancient Romans vacationing in Campania. Finally, under the "Fusion"
heading, Patricia Dreher assembles an astonishing diversity of
styles, from pieces that resemble Persian tapestry to others that
fit into contemporary galleries. This web display
of Patricia Dreher's floor pieces is much more than a decorator's
showcase; it is a gallery of art with exceptional breadth and
-- M.N. 4/28/04
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