REEDSVILLE - Kristen D. Bratton wanted to bring the spirit of colonial America to the Juniata Valley, so she opened Black Horse Floorcloths and Accessories, a shop that sells historical decorative art.
Floorcloths are a type of craft which originally were made out of the sails of ships. They contain various images and prints, and generally are used as decor for entry ways, sinks, table coverings, and other areas where they can be displayed, Bratton said.
Bratton got the idea to go into the floorcloth business when she came across an old floorcloth a few years ago at an antique store, she said, adding that she was in the art business at the time of her discovery. From that point on she dedicated her time to learning about them, she said.
Sentinel photo by MARJORIE STROMBERG
Floorcloths are displayed at Black Horse Floorcloths and Accessories, located in Reedsville. Opened in July by area resident Kristen D. Bratton, the shop sells a wide variety of historical decor that dates back to 15th century France.
"I was just self-taught from there," Bratton said.
Soon after, she began selling her own floorcloths at various craft shows, which were well received, she said.
"Things took off from there," she said.
Originally from the McVeytown area, Bratton had moved out of state for a few years. Due to the success at her craft shows and her interest in the early American art, she decided to return to the area and open her shop in Reedsville, she said. She got the idea for the name, she said, because black horses were a common and popular art theme in the colonial times.
Floorcloths originated in 15th century France. Colonists in America imitated the idea, and made them out of old tents, sails of ships and other materials they could find, Bratton said.
Floorcloths went out of fashion much later with the emergence of linoleum, Bratton said. Then, in the past decade, they have been rising in popularity, she said.
Today, floorcloths are made out of heavyweight artist canvases. They are primed and painted, stenciled, and covered with three layers of water-based polyurethane, Bratton said. They are tough, durable and practical, she said.
Bratton opened her store in July, she said, and the biggest challenge so far as been educating the public on floorcloths. Some people do know what they are, she said, and get excited to see them being sold locally.
The shop sells rugs, placemats, table mats, table runners, welcome mats, candle mats, Christmas tree skirts and coasters, Bratton said. Additionally canvases and checker boards also are sold, she said.
Each one of the floorcloths is handmade by Bratton and two other artists who work in the shop, she said.
Bratton's business goal is to make more modern products that are more affordable for people, "but (without) compromising quality," she said. She also plans to open her store up to people that have inflexible work hours, such as at-risk youth and single mothers, to provide a healthy working environment for them, she said. Additional employees would help with the production of the floorcloths, she said. This goal is a few months away, Bratton said, and would be considered once business becomes steady.
Bratton said she also wants to keep her business local, and "introduce floorcloths to a whole new set of customers."