LENOX — What would you do with the 76-year-old leather tiles from the living room floor of famed abstract artists George L.K. Morris and Suzy Frelinghuysen?
When the question was posed to artist Michael King by Kinney and Linda Frelinghuysen, he saw multiple possibilities in the dark, worn leather: coasters stamped with the historic home's logo, key chains and coffee cozies for latte cups.
"I like to work with leather because it's different and unforgiving," King said during an interview in April at the historic home. "I'd never seen a leather floor before today. I'm all about recycling. I use found objects in my sculpture."
Two months and many leather tiles later, King returned with a variety of coasters, key chains and coffee cozies crafted from the former floor coverings.
One style of coasters is stamped with the museum logo, while another style boasts a carved and painted reproduction of one of George L.K. Morris' paintings.
"Our ultimate goal was to be able to create something that would allow visitors to take a piece of the house's history home with them," Linda Frelinghuysen said. "This is exactly what we were looking for."
To create the pieces, King had a custom PVC stamp with the museum's logo made. He then set to work with the 12-inch by 12-inch squares, cleaning most of the glue from the back of each square and then cutting the leather into smaller squares for coasters. The last things to be cut were the key chains.
"I didn't want to clean all of the glue off of the tiles. I wanted to leave a little of this history," he said. "For the pieces with the stamp on them, I wet them and used a hand press to emboss them. Then, if I was making a coaster, I'd adhere the cork back. For the key chains, I'd punch the holes and add the grommets."
For the art coasters, King carved the designs into the wet leather and later used a special acrylic paint, made specifically for leather, to paint the design. The coasters were later sealed with a special waterproof coating.
King's creations will be available for purchase in the Frelinghuysen Morris House and Studio gift shop.