Look at those beautiful floors! When I toured the Friesen heritage house in the southern Manitoba village of Neubergthal with friends I took the photo below of one of the floors in the home. It intrigued me.
I saw that same pattern when I visited the gift shop at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. It was displaying Neubergthal artist Margruite Krahn’s show Resurfacing: Mennonite Floor Patterns. Margruite has been involved in the restoration of Neubergthal since 2001. Neubergthal is a Mennonite street village founded in 1876 and a national historic site. Margruite became fascinated with the beautiful patterns found hand-painted on the wooden floors of some of the oldest homes in the village.
These hand-painted floor patterns were created by Mennonite women often during the long winter months. Floor painting is an art Margruite believes they brought over with them from Prussia when they migrated to Canada in the 1870s. Margruite decided to try to recreate some of the designs herself on cotton canvas. The results are beautiful but also completely practical. Although at the WAG gift shop the floor cloths are hung on the wall they are extremely durable and can be placed on the floor and used in a functional way.
Margruite says some of her canvas floor clothes were made already in 2005 and still look great after more than a decade of foot traffic. Not all of Margruite’s canvases were inspired by floor patterns. This one was found on a trap door in the Klippenstein home in Neubergthal.
Margruite travelled to other Mennonite villages as well looking for painted floorboards and found them sometimes under layers of carpet and linoleum. This pattern was discovered in a house in Grunthal Manitoba owned by a Driedger family. I wonder if they could be relatives of mine? Margruite says that while the petals on the flowers in floral patterns were usually painted with a brush the centre circle was stamped using potatoes or some other vegetable.