In this article, we will talk a little about researching and actually printing a Collection of historic wallpapers.
Planning a major wallpaper collection is fraught with potential problems – especially when you are specializing in historically designed wallpapers. There are countless possibilities to consider, endless choices of designs to choose from, and personal preferences to discount (although that always creeps in!).
Sources of original papers must be found, research on original colourings has to be done, and consideration of the potential market must be considered, of course.
Having said all that, the choices of historic designs are vast. Using the Charles Rupert Designs Archives for inspiration, many choices of wallpaper designs were considered. We tried to achieve a balance for the historic marketplace that we specialize in, and provide more choice in areas that our customers have asked for.
We also wanted to explore reviving some historic wallpaper printing techniques if possible, and printing some previously unavailable designs.
After much consideration, we narrowed our choices to nine designs to add to our five we printed last year, for a total of 14 exclusive wallpapers in 43 colourways. [We also put some amazing designs on side for our next collection – but they will have to wait for now].
One of the special wallpapers that we have reproduced is “Vine” by William Morris. This design was originally produced in 1873 by the method of hand-block printing. Even translating “Vine” to a machine printing process took nine rollers to achieve the colour nuances so important to this pattern.
We knew of a museum collection that had an original roll of Morris’s lavish “gold lacquer” colourway, which was first noted in Morris’ workbook of 1884. Morris’ firm listed it as able to be made to special order as late as 1913. Morris started his original “gold lacquer” paper with a metallic gold ground coat, which was then coated with a coloured lacquer to stabilize the gold, before printing the leaves and grapes of the design by hand, using nine wooden print blocks.
We carefully recreated Morris’ artwork from an original piece of “Vine” wallpaper from 1897. Then we matched those colours to the 1884 original sample in preparation to printing the actual wallpaper.
We, and the printers, had the same difficulties that Morris did in recreating his “gold lacquer” colourway. A gold ground layer had to be printed, and then sealed with a coloured lacquer, which tinted the paler gold to the richer colour required. After that we used a machine process to print the rest of the design in the deep olive greens of the original. The final result is a very close version to Morris’ “Vine” of 1884 – a rich, lavish wallpaper suited to a Dining Room perhaps, or a fine restaurant, or even the tasting room of a winery!
We also printed three other colourways of “Vine”. A version with an all-over soft reflective gold background; a lighter colourway with a cream background and golden grapes; and another documentary colourway – this time from 1897 – of deep browns, greens and golds in a true Morris tangle of foliage.
Three of four colourways of Vine
available from www.CharlesRupertDesigns.com
St. James’s Damask
Another William Morris design that Charles Rupert Designs has included their new Collection was ‘St. James’s Damask’.
This design was created by William Morris in 1881 for St. James’s Palace in London. Originally produced as a woven silk damask fabric, and used to cover the walls (and make curtains for) St James’s Palace, Charles Rupert Designs reprinted the design as a more affordable wallpaper, while keeping the original silk colour in one of the three colourways of this wallpaper.
A surprising find!
Carrying on with the research side of a wallpaper collection, one usually does all the research before planning a new Collection. Occasionally however, one discovers historic information that one does not expect!
We have been cooperating on the restoration of Ross Bay Villa, in Victoria, B.C. Canada. This small house was built in a modest Gothic Revival style in 1865 and is being beautifully restored – primarily by volunteers.
Volunteers working on the interior have documented over 120 wallpapers from this small house. It was decided to reproduce the original papers from both the Drawing Room and Dining Room for its new use as a Historic House Museum and small Visitor Centre for the historic Ross Bay Cemetery across the street. Both the Drawing Room and Dining Room will be restored to the period of 1865-1879 and is open to public tours.
See www.RossBayVilla.org for further information.
Samples were carefully removed from the walls, artwork was reproduced and colours matched for reproduction. The paper was printed, and it was only after that the design’s origins were discovered.
While on the way to researching something else – the way most of the best research is done – a striking similarity was noted in a book that had old wallpaper illustrations.
The wallpaper from Ross Bay Villa, on the far west coast of Canada, happened to have been copied – and slightly adapted by an unknown hand – a short 15 years after it was made in London for the Houses of Parliament. Made originally by Samuel Scott for the well-known firm of English decorators J. G. Crace c.1850, and designed by the renowned Gothic-revival, British architect Augustus Welby Pugin, the paper was originally printed in green flock on a gold ground paper.
On the Ross Bay Villa paper, the Royal crowns had been changed for more prosaic leaves, and the pattern scaled down to suit domestic interiors, but it was the same design. And one has to ask if the Victorians knew of this connection with the Houses of Parliament in London, as Mr. Roscoe, who lived in Ross Bay Villa from 1865 to 1879, became a Member of Parliament for Canada. Were there political aspirations in the wallpaper?? Will we ever know?
This article has introduced the planning of a Wallpaper Collection, and provided some insight into the considerations of preparing a wallpaper collection for printing. Wallpaper is the largest area of pattern in any traditional home, and it often looks best when the wallpaper matches the age of the house.
The staff at Charles Rupert Designs is proud of the HISTORIC WALLPAPERS COLLECTION. We hope that you will plan to use one (or more) of the papers in your home or project.
Please see the online catalogue at: www.CharlesRupertDesigns.com
Further Reading: A good scholarly introduction to wallpaper in the United States:
Wallpaper in New England –
By Richard Nylander; Elizabeth Redmond and Penny Sander
Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities
Boston – 1986