How to make a screen-printed wallpaper!
Ever wondered how a wallpaper is made? Not a machine, industry type of wallpaper, but a wallpaper that is crafted with love by an experienced artisan who puts his heart and soul into each piece he creates? I've always been curious about this process, so when the lovely folks from In The Window invited me to experience live the story behind the latest design of award winning independent wallpaper & textile designer Daniel Heath, I knew it's an opportunity I could not miss. You might wonder who is In The Window and what are they really about?
Well, In The Window is a fantastic immersive social experience (to put it bluntly), and they have this really cool mission to celebrate only the best & greatest object and space designs.
They enable designers, makers, even architects to engage on a deep level with each other and with everybody else (meaning the community, meaning you and me). Because as I am about to share with you below - once you understand the reason, the thinking behind a product, you see it in a whole new different light (you might even end up loving the product because you know its story). And you know how I am all about concepts and stories!!
So always be on the look out for this label, because once you see it - you'll know you are in for some unique and meaningful experience of craftsmanship and design (I know that was the case for me).
So this past Sunday, I got to go at an event called the TOP DRAWER happening at Olympia Exhibition Centre, in London. In The Window were organizing one of their amazing experiences - a workshop were visitors could see and learn live how some things are made, or better yet, crafted by talented designers. This year, the front runner was award winning independent wallpaper designer Daniel Heath, alongside Jardine Couture (who designed and build lovely stand) and Pooky, who provided the lighting fixtures for the space.
I've seen Daniels wallpapers before at other design fairs, so I was really excited to learn how he makes his products and how the whole process looks like. Plus, you know how you always see wallpapers that are expensive (for example - around £200-£300) and you wonder why it costs so much? Well, you are about to find out!!
So what is the process?
- First things first, you have to have a proper length table or flat surface to work on. It should be smooth and clean so that nothing gets transferred on the back of the paper - Daniel Heath uses 10m of paper for a wallpaper roll, so - you need a long table;
- Second, you roll out the paper onto the table and make sure it is aligned / parallel to the edge of the table (better measure to be on the safe side);
- See those black tape spots? That's the place where a pattern repeat begins or ends. It helps the designer (visually), to make sure that he paints in the right place so that the pattern is correctly positioned and continuous;
- Then you get to work.
After everything is all set, it's time to paint using a silk mesh that contains the design for the future wallpaper. It's important to mention that each wallpaper design can be made from a single block (that has the whole design), or from more blocks. This means that if for example, you want a 2 coloured wallpaper design, there will be 2 different mesh blocks that have to be used - one for each colour.
So here is where the first bell rang in my head. This is one of the reasons why man-made wallpaper costs more than what we normally see in shops. Imagine that you have to create the design, then create the mesh block. That costs time, energy and money.
What makes this mesh screen so special? By having the screen perforated in different places, the paint only goes where it's supposed to through these tiny holes. This way, you control where the paint ends up on the paper. So after everything is in position and the paint is added onto the mesh - it's sqeejey time!! I think that's what it's called, I don't really know for sure. All I know is that it's a tool with rubber end to it, so it's like brushing the paint with a big ruler.
After the whole 10m roll of paper is done, it's time to let dry out. Meanwhile, you can wash the excess or remaining paint off the mesh block. When the paper is dry, then you can start to apply the next layer of the design - the second colour. So just to recap, the design is being made one colour at a time! Paint - wait for it to dry - paint - wait for it to dry.
While we were in the waiting stage of the process, Daniel unrolled the finished version of his latest design (which he was also creating before our very eyes), called the LEXINGTON. It was time for some questions!!!
- What type of paint does he use? Standard acrylic paints.
- What inspired him to do this design? ART DECO Architecture and the Skyscrapers of that era. You can clearly see where those elements come alive in the design. I love it when I get a sneak peek inside the mind of the designer and I get to see the product how he/she sees it, even if it's just for a couple of seconds.
- Any particular paint colour he likes more then others? He is into metallic paints at the moment.
- Does he take customed coloured wallpaper requests from clients? Yes, he does. He told us that sometimes, clients requests actually offer a source of inspiration for his designs.
Before we got to the second layer, Daniel invited us to try it out for ourselves. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity. I admit that it looks pretty easy when you see an expert at work, so I thought to myself - how hard can this be? I was so surprised to see that it's actually pretty hard.
First of all - you have to have muscles (which I didn't, obviously). You have to push down and apply pressure so that the paint can squeeze through the mesh and imprint clearly and fully on the paper. Not to mention angle and precision. It's hard work!!
So there you have it detail lovers - how to make a screen-printed wallpaper! The price for a wallpaper like this is between £250 - £350 per 10m roll, depending on how many colours are used. While that might be off-putting at first, if you actually think about it (now that you know the process and effort that is put into it), it seems like a very appropriate price, right? I mean: having a space where you can work from, paying to have all the necessities as hand, supplies, doing the design, creating the mesh blocks, all the hours of work perfecting the technique...(imagine making a mistake mid-roll, what do you do then)?
Suddenly, knowing all these things, you really start to appreciate that what you actually buy is an unique, handmade product. I would much rather have something that has passion and effort put into it, instead of something mechanically made. Maybe that's just me, but I think you guys would agree with me on this!
I really enjoyed discovering the story behind Daniel Heath's wallpaper making process. His designs are quite unique and they pretty much stand out wherever you would put them. Imagine having a feature wall or just a section of a wall covered up with this. Or just a piece of it framed? We were lucky enough to be gifted a piece of the Lexington wallpaper (and a full pattern repeat too). I'll definitely get a frame for it and have it in my workspace area, you know...for inspiration and to remember to try my best in everything I do.
*I was invited by In The Window to experience live crafting stories at Top Drawer - workshop held by wallpaper & textile designer Daniel Heath.*
All images that are credited as '©Detail Movement', are done by Raluca Vaduva for Detail Movement. All rights reserved. All pictures that are not my own, I credit them to the best of my knowledge & research, to their online sources. I do not claim ownership over them in any way.