ON A ROLL
Hand-printed wallpaper is the newest trend in home decor.
“I do a lot of traveling,” says Adrienne Neff, who’s a former interior designer with a trained eye sharpened by a graduate level survey of decorative arts from Sotheby’s. “In Paris I go to the Louvre, in London I go to the Victoria and Albert Museum, and in New York I go to the Metropolitan Museum.”
She carefully studies ceramic arts in each – French Art Deco in the Louvre, putty-colored, cream and oatmeal glazes at the Victoria and Albert, and Latin American and Japanese ceramics at the Met. Her lines of wallpaper are influenced by all she sees.
“I used to make Raku [ Japanese pottery], so glazes are important to me,” she says.
She started experimenting with wallpaper in 2009, recruiting artisans to carve her patterns into blocks of rubber, about 27 by 20 inches. They coat them with paint, and print them onto panels of paper that are three, four or five feet in length. “It’s very labor intensive. The process needs the right artisans who are comfortable working with the blocks,” she says.
“The work ebbs and flows – I have several artists in the workshop, three to four people running around, at a given point.”
Others have discovered the art form, too.
Rachel and Nick Cope in the Red Hook community of Brooklyn got started in a very different way. Rachel’s an artist trained at the Rhode Island School of Design and Nick owns a design/build firm that’s worked with Paul Smith, Farrow & Ball and Opening Ceremony, among others. All that came to a screeching halt in 2012. “We were both put out of work after Hurricane Sandy,” Nick says.
Thus was born Calico, their hand-printed wallpaper firm that specializes in residential and commercial projects. “Rachel’s working with a lot of restaurants here,” he says. Their designs all start with handmade artwork, which is converted into a superhigh resolution file and printed with a high-tech method. Unlike traditional wallpapers, Calico’s designs are not sold by the roll. Instead, the pair creates a custom, non-repeating design for each of their clients, so their patterns function as one-of-a-kind murals.
At Porter Teleo, Kelly Porter is an artist while Bridgett Cochran is an interior designer. They’re co-owners of a firm that produces both hand-painted and handprinted wallpaper. “They want to merge fine art and interior design,” says Tracy Cheng, the brand’s marketing director. The pair collaborates on hand drawings in pen and ink for their designs.
From their drawings, they make negatives, followed by a silkscreen printing process on rolls of Japanese paper made of rice fiber or mulberry pulp. It’s stronger than wood pulp and contains no acid. Their color palette is bright, with bursts of chartreuse, oranges and metallics. For every pattern, they offer three to four colors, and though the drawing may remain the same, the backgrounds will differ. “They’re pretty abstract, but usually they’re flowers and ornamentation,” Cheng says.
“They really make a statement.”
Isn’t that what wallpaper’s meant to do? Neff thinks so. “It’s a great way to enliven a space with color, fabric and texture,” she says. “You can get a radically different look just by changing the paper.” Especially if it’s the hand-printed variety.
–J. Michael Welton