In the charming rural-New England village of Perkinsville, Vermont, the Henry Gould Farm sits at the base of picturesque Mount Ascutney as it has since the early 19th century. Peek into the large carriage house windows and you will find the studio of Lisa Curry Mair and the home of Canvasworks Designs. Traditionally crafted canvas floorcloths and elegant murals are made as they would have been hundreds of years ago—one intricate and detailed step at a time. The subjects and stories of her murals are historically researched and lovingly infused with personal details. Her folk art focuses in on special subjects and often highlight the animals she holds dear – her horses, dogs, and cat, as well as the beauty of the surrounding landscape. Before setting forth, paintbrushes in hand to create a bit of magic, she deftly designs each piece, carefully blending history with a modern sense of place. With an astute eye towards detail, she then lays out the design on paper, filling in soft colors to test the balance of the image before finally transposing it to the blank canvas before her. Then, the magic begins. Each scene is given life and historical detail through the stroke of a brush here, the application of color there, the use of sponge over the top that culminates in a mural, a floorcloth or a painting of incomparable heirloom quality. Lisa truly lives the traditional New Englander way-of-life and painting is just one part of her day. The farm’s old dairy barn is home to her four horses, which she tends to and rides daily. In the winter, the woodstove must be stoked and the walkways must be shoveled; in the summer the flower gardens around the pond in the backyard require time and attention, too. Lisa has been known not to leave the property for a week at a time. “Why would I?” she says. “Everything I need is right here.” Even though she tends to stay close to home, her work does not. Since 1992 and the beginning of Canvasworks Designs, Lisa has created over fifteen-hundred floorcloths that have found their way into private homes and historic museums, in cottages and ski homes, and in decorator’s interior design displays all across North America, and few in Europe, too. She also works diligently to promote the craft of floorcloth-making. Her book, Floorcloth Magic (Storey Books, 2001) teaches readers how to make their own; she encourages everyone to try their hand at painting on large canvas. “If people can slow down, sit still and put a little piece of themselves into something which can last a lifetime, they will experience the satisfaction of making and leaving their mark. In these times of hurried, scattered days filled with endless lists and mindless chores, a little bit of that satisfaction can go a very long way.” Indeed, it can. As an artist and craftswoman, Lisa feels both honored and privileged to live in such a wonderful, historic home, in such a fantastic and close-knit community. Vermont takes great pride in its craftpeople and rural character and as such, it is no wonder that so many creative people come to live in such an encouraging and inspirational environment. The studio at Canvasworks Designs is open by appointment. If you should visit, you will surely learn directly from the artist herself the steps involved in her artwork, as well as a bit about the house and the place in which the studio now sits, relishing in the stories of Henry Gould, his farm and his home. It is Lisa’s hope that as you take your leave, you will drive away from Canvasworks Designs feeling as if, even for a moment, you slowly strolled in the shoes of history to a time when life and art co-existed, with a bit of whimsy and a bit of magic amongst the rolling green hills of Vermont.
“Lisa, your artwork is absolutely incredible; now that I have been privy to your newsletters and website, I have seen the spectrum of your great talent – no wonder you are so busy! This particular cloth is the centerpiece of our house, which is on the contemporary side, and has a nautical flair. I took away all the surroundings rugs so it could stand on its own. With 20 family members flurrying the kitchen over the holidays, the floorcloth was truly christened and it was a great relief and surprise how easily it cleaned after a day of spills and water. Utilitarian art – what a great concept!”