January is a quiet, yet busy month here on Blankenbaker Lane. Locust Grove staff and volunteers are cleaning the house and visitors’ center, performing necessary maintenance, taking store inventory, and planning our calendar of the events for the upcoming year. Stay tuned for our complete 2016 calendar, but I am excited to announce that our first workshop of the year has been scheduled and is taking reservations! Virginia Tucker of the Virginia Floor Cloth and Textiles Company will present a two-day Painted Floor Cloth Workshop on February 6 and 7, from 10-4PM each day. Participants will be trained in the lost art of creating an 18th Century-style painted black and white floor cloth. A 24″ x 30″ floor cloth will be the result of the weekend’s workshop. All supplies will be provided and will be included in the $135 fee. Virginia and her husband Randolph have been involved with Locust Grove for 12 years, so I thought it was high time they were profiled for the blog. Read on to learn more about them and their work!
Virginia Tucker and her husband Randolph own the Virginia Floor Cloth & Textiles Company, located in Louisville, KY. They are living historians and have a shop that travels to historic events in the Mid West and to the East Coast. Virginia has been creating handmade floor cloths for over 16 years, and began hand dying and block printing scarves and fabric for the last 8 years. The Tuckers are constantly researching to provide as much authenticity to their product as possible.
How did you get started with historic floor cloths and textiles?
In 1999 I was invited by a friend Angela Burnley of Burnley and Trowbridge fabrics to come to an event in Goodlettsville, TN called Manskers Station. She said bring the children and I will provide you with clothing to wear. That was all it took for me to become a lover of history and historic items. This is where I saw my first floor cloth.
How would floor cloths have been used? Why are they still practical?
Floor cloths go back as far as 1700. They were used in a variety of ways. Hall ways to entire rooms. We believe that initially they were created from the sail cloth that ships changed after they had been torn and were no longer able to be used as sails. They were then cut to make smaller floor cloths. They became very popular with the middle class as a way to move into a higher standard because they could be made to look like marble, or a wool rug which were very expensive. Now they are popular because they are easy care, hypoallergenic and can be created to a person’s personal specifications.
What training or background do you have?
I have not had formal training. All of my training has been through my love of history and research, which is always ongoing.
What is the most difficult part of your work?
Researching to find accurate information regarding patterns that were used during the 18th century.
What is your favorite part of your work?
Teaching our 3 different workshops. No two classes are alike but they are all fun to do and we meet wonderful people.
What are some of the big projects you have undertaken?
I have done some floor cloths for Locust Grove, including a 12×12 that is a view of Locust Grove that they use for school trips and the door mats in the house. I have done some for some smaller historic sites as well.
What should workshop participants expect?
In our level 1 floor cloth class students will be provided with some of the history of floor cloths and we will teach the math on how to measure the spaces within a floor cloth, finishing , sealing and care once done. We will also teach different techniques of marbleizing. They will be given 3 different patterns to choose from: 9 diamonds, checkerboard, or medallion with border.
What do you wish people knew about historic textiles and floor cloths?
We wish that the general public knew that in the 18th century the colors were as vibrant as today and that the patterns in the material and the floor cloths were as complex as patterns made today.
The motto of the Virginia Floor Cloth and Textiles company is a floor cloth in every home whether we make it for them or we teach them how to make one themselves.
Make a reservation for the Painted Floor Cloth workshop today and have a floor cloth for your very own home or the home of a friend! Pre-paid reservations of $135 are required, and the workshop is limited to 25 participants. Please call 502.897.9845 to make a reservation. We’ll happily put down our January brooms to take your call. And mark your calendars now–Locust Grove will reopen for tours and the 2016 season on February 1! We can’t wait to see you.