NYC event designer David Stark has long admired American artist Jasper Johns and his iconic interpretations of the American flag. This year, the team at David Stark Design took inspiration from Johns’ monochromatic White Flag—a 1955 painting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York—and created a simple DIY holiday tablecloth, just for us.
Below are the team’s instructions for creating a flag-inspired tablecloth or picnic blanket using a painter’s drop cloth and white paint—and follow the same general steps to make a table runner, placemats, napkins, or even wall art.
Photography by Corrie Hogg of David Stark Design for Gardenista.
Above: David’s Fourth of July table stars a strawberry meringue cake by the Fashion Chef in Brooklyn.
- Gesso or white primer
- Spare jar for mixing paint
- Paint brush
- 2-inch Masking or painters’ tape
- Iron-on adhesive backing
- Heavy-duty star punch, such as a Star Thick Materials Shape Punch (Large) ($25.99)
- Lightweight canvas fabric or a canvas painter’s drop cloth (see note)
Note: For the canvas fabric, purchase the amount needed for your tablecloth, plus an extra 18 inches to make the stars. David’s team bought canvas fabric at Artist & Craftsman Supply in Manhattan, which has stores across the country. Canvas also is available from Dick Blick, local fabric stores, or hardware stores that sell painters’ drop cloths.
Step 1: Cut the canvas to fit your table, leaving an overhang (to your liking) on all sides.
Step 2: Prep the fabric. Use some of the gesso to mix one-part gesso and one-part water in a jar. Apply a light wash to the entire canvas using loose, painterly strokes. The color you achieve here will be the background for the flag’s white stripes and stars, so your application should not be opaque. Allow to dry completely.
Step 3: After the canvas is dry, use the masking tape to mark off stripes. Press the tape firmly, and paint the stripes using the gesso at full strength (not watered down).
Step 4: To make the stars, paint a large piece of scrap canvas (or several smaller pieces) with full-strength gesso. Allow to dry completely. Once dry, apply the iron-on adhesive to the back of the painted canvas, following the instructions on the adhesive packaging.
Step 5: After the iron-on adhesive has cooled, use the star punch to cut stars from the painted canvas.
Step 6: Lay out the flag’s star pattern. Working one star at a time, remove the paper backing from the iron-on adhesive and iron each star into place, following the instructions on the adhesive packaging.
Above: The finished tablecloth sets opaque white stars and stripes against a background of pale, whitewashed canvas.
Above: Do as David does and enjoy your new tablecloth with a strawberry cake and sparkling wine.
For more from David Stark, see Short on Floral Inspiration? Start with the Vessel, Says David Stark and Shopper’s Diary: A Garden Pop-Up by Designer David Stark.