Unfolding development: Red Hook man invents collapsible canvas

Michael Schwed (above) of Red Hook, who will be giving a fascinating art/science/engineering demonstration in New Paltz this weekend, invented the new Genie Canvas based on family needs. A Physics major in college who then spent 20 years out on Nantucket, he moved back to the area with his wife and teenage son a few years back and noticed how his sister, an artist, and many old friends were struggling with physical obstacles with which he might be able to help.

“My sister, who was one of the earliest artists selling on eBay, told me that many artists were selling triptychs [three small paintings with same composition throughout] because shipping one piece of the same combined size was prohibitively difficult and expensive. She told me if I could figure a way to ship large artwork inexpensively, I’d be a millionaire and make artists really happy,” Schwed has explained of the origins of the Genie Canvas.

“After closing our retail store on Nantucket, I had more free time and started working on a prototype, which led me to believe it was definitely possible. The first version worked, but was much too complicated for widespread use. I tried again and again, coming up with simpler designs, which made the process extremely easy and provided a strong, tight canvas every time. The current version includes dozens of improvements in quality and usability, of which I am very proud.”

Schwed’s collapsible canvases, which can be retracted down into a six-inch mail tube, are all about making art a bit cheaper and more convenient to ship. While not yet adaptable to the massive sizes demanded by an Anselm Kiefer or certain other au courant painters, or those who work with massive amounts of daubed paint (or crockery, à la 1980’s Julian Schnabel), it has the potential just now to become a must-have for anyone selling on eBay or Etsy, or working with galleries on all coasts.

“It’s easy-to-assemble, easy-to-pack and is superior to most pre-stretched canvases available due to the quality of materials used. The packaging is relatively foolproof, which ensures safe packing by the artist and safety during the shipping process due to the reusable, heavy-duty shipping tube provided. It’s also quick to pack up – about five minutes – as opposed to making a custom box or crate out of cardboard or wood. The biggest benefit, however, is the saving on shipping of large artwork. Large pieces easily run into $500 for shipping alone, whereas shipping a rolled Genie Canvas goes coast-to-coast for under $40.”

The Genie Canvases, awaiting their patent, are currently in Schwed’s three-person woodworking shop in Germantown and sold in eight retail stores around the area, as well as from the company’s website, https://geniecanvas.com.

Schwed’s Genie Canvas will be demonstrated at a Live Art Painting and Music event at Water Street Market in New Paltz on Saturday, June 7, with painters Nicole Roskos and other local artists painting on Genie Collapsible Canvases to the accompaniment of acoustic music by Chris Macchia and Mike Hollis.

“Carrying and/or shipping a canvas rolled in a tube is much easier and safer,“ said the inventor. How cool.


Genie Canvas demonstrations, Saturday, June 7, 11 a.m.-4 p.m., Water Street Market, 10 Main Street, New Paltz; https://geniecanvas.com.



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