Design at Riverside
7 Melville Street S, Cambridge, ON
Wallpaper emerges from the background to the forefront of new design.
The Art of Wallpaper celebrates the art behind the popular, yet often maligned decorative device, and its recent revival. From early 20th century hand painted samples by Europe’s top studios, The Art of Wallpaper fast forwards to today’s bespoke, limited edition, and designer production lines that serve as a unique creative outlet for artists and designers from around the world. The exhibition is intended as a portal from which to view a shifting wallpaper industry, primarily due to the escalation of small-scale designer driven wallpaper studios in recent years. Aided by technology, these designer studios are able to produce new designs on a dime, and reach consumers directly via the internet and a network of independent design/décor retailers. At the same time, the traditional wallpaper industry has been steadily contracting, as demonstrated by a significant number of plant closures and consolidations worldwide. Interestingly, there are some parallels to be drawn between the current group of studios and the artist ateliers of 100 years ago.
The contemporary designs selected for the exhibition challenge the perception of wallpaper as a benign background by emphasizing the current exploration of new materials and subject matter, as well as the use of the medium as an accessible means of artistic expression. The selection of original archival samples dating back 75 to 100 years depicts the popular floral designs, colours and painting techniques of the era. These paintings are accompanied by an insightful glimpse into the workings of a select group of wallpaper and textile art studios that controlled the industry’s designs as recounted by ‘Archival Documentary’ collector Hugh Thompson.
Longtime advocates of cross-disciplinary design will be pleased to see that many graphic and industrial designers have embraced the wallpaper renaissance. The strength and breadth of their work led to the development of The Art of Wallpaper, enabling Design at Riverside to publically present the new face of an old friend.
Founded by Stéphane Arriubergé and Massimiliano Iorio, Domestic introduces collections of objects designed by designers and artists based on common concepts and themes. All these objects have the particularity of offering the end user an opportunity to intervene and to participate in the creative process. In 2003, Domestic launched its first Wall Drawings collection and with it, invented what is now called «wall stickers», a new standard in the world of design and interior decoration. A genuine alternative to wallpaper, Wall Drawings literally hands over the design to the end user who is invited to become the originator of his/her own decor. More recently, Domestic launched new non-standard formats of Wall Drawings, and is working toward rehabilitating large-scale scenic wallpaper (a category of wallpaper they feel was unfairly abandoned in the 1980’s) with The New Domestic Landscapes Collection.
Designers featured in Art of Wallpaper
Ich & Kar: Ich & Kar, a tandem of graphic designers known for their sometimes outlandish but sophisticated design whose work ranges from luxury to consumer goods, and includes fashion, gastronomy, music, design and architecture. They have turned their messages and imaginative images into a recognizable visual identity and strive to imbue their design with lightness and humour.
Studio Job, Belgium: Studio Job, (Job Smeets and Nynke Tynagel) is known for a rebellious, scale-less way of creating a private universe. The objects they create are often based on personal fascinations, and vary from one-off pieces, limited and large editions, gallery installations, interiors and commissions for public space. Studio Job walks a tightrope between design and art and as a result has achieved recognition and autonomy in international design circles.
Dylan Martorell, Australia: Dylan Martorell is an artist and musician based in Melbourne, Australia. Working in a variety of mediums from print and photography to costume, performance and sound art, his work inhabits a self contained universe of what is referred to as ‘fourth world arte pauvre’
Ana Mir & Emili Padros, Spain: Ana Mir and Emili Padros work as industrial designers in Barcelona. They collaborate under the umbrella of the Emiliana Design Studio, while at the same time continue to develop individual research and design projects.
Boym Partners Design, United States: The Boyms are driven by curiosity to play and experiment with the material elements of everyday life and landscapes. They have created products & environments for an international roster of clients, including Alessi, Swatch, Flos & Vitra, and the Cooper-Hewitt national Design Museum. Objects designed by the Boyms are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Boym Partners was founded in New York by Constantin Boym in 1986. Laurene Leon Boym joined the firm as a partner in 1995.
The Boyms are driven by curiosity to play and experiment with the material elements of everyday life and landscapes. They have created products & environments for an international roster of clients, including Alessi, Swatch, Flos & Vitra, and the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. Objects designed by the Boyms are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Boym Partners was founded in New York by Constantin Boym in 1986. Laurene Leon Boym joined the firm as a partner in 1995.
Constantin Boym was born in Moscow, Russia in 1955, where he graduated from Moscow Architectural Institute. In 1984-85 he earned a Masters Degree in Design from Domus Academy in Milan. Laurene Leon Boym was born in NYC in 1964. She earned a BFA from the School of Visual Arts in 1984, and a MID from Pratt Institute in 1993.
Kathryn Walter was born in 1963. She has maintained a studio practice since 1990, working at the intersection of visual art, design and material culture. She received a BA in Art History from Queen's University in 1985, and has since worked and studied in Vancouver (BFA, Emily Carr College of Art and Design, 1989), and Montreal (MFA, Concordia University, 1993).
In 1995, she returned to her home town of Toronto where she currently lives. In 2000 she founded FELT, a company, a studio and a label, to explore modern industrial felt through exhibitions, a product line and feature wall installations, collaborating with architects across Canada and the United States, including Levitt-Goodman Partners for Native Child and Family Services, Lemay Michaus Architecture for Google Montreal, superkül for Aesop Toronto, Johnson Chou Architects for Red Bull Toronto, Yazdani Studio for The Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles and Diller Scofidio + Renfro for their office in New York. Walter's work has been exhibited at the Contemporary Art Gallery in Vancouver, the Banff Centre for the Arts, Oakville Galleries, Idea Exchange, the Textile Museum of Canada, Royal Ontario Museum, The DX Design Museum and the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum in NYC.
In 2015 she founded dittybag, as a division of FELT, with her partner Greg Woodbury to develop a series of projects about mending, and make use of remnants and stock her design projects. Walter and Woodbury's combined backgrounds in textiles, design, art and film provide a unique set of tools to shed a modern light on a fading practice. dittybag takes the form of events, partnerships and an on-line magazine with an aim to resonate in a world where so much stuff with so little meaning is produced in excess everyday.
Walter walks a line between the functional and experimental with some projects exploring form and others using irony and humour to raise questions about the world we live in. She has found a balance in a viable and critical art practice.
Flavor Paper was founded by designer Jon Sherman who discovered a defunct wall paper company while working on an interior design project. He rescued the old press and some of the original 1970’s designs and began production under the Flavor Paper banner. The company quickly introduced new collections and represents the work of numerous artists and designers. Flavor Paper, recently relocated its headquarters to Brooklyn, New York from New Orleans.
Designers featured in Art of Wallpaper
Dan Funderburgh, United States: Dan Funderburgh is a wallpaper designer and artist based in Brooklyn, NY. His patterns, prints and installations are varied in content but all demonstrate an unabashed love for decorative arts. With influences ranging from Moorish mosaic to American op art, the work is a repudiation of the fabricated schism between art and decoration. Some of Dan's work can be found in the collections of the Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum and the Miami Museum of Modern Art.
Michael Angelo, United States: Michael Angelo is the force behind Wonderland Beauty Parlor, the intersection of art, beauty, and design in New York City. Michael and Jon got together on the Warhol inspired prints and engineered a scratch and sniff scent slurry that could be screened on top of the paper. Genius!
Pottok Prints represents the work of artists and offers both artist ‘s prints and wallpaper patterns to fans and designers. Pottok wallpapers are hand silk screened in Los Angeles using recycled paper and water based inks. No varsols are used in any part of the printing process. The papers are not treated with chemical waterproofing of any kind, resulting in a healthier more environmentally safe product that is both beautiful and durable.
Designer featured in Art of Wallpaper
Geoff McFetridge, Canada: Geoff McFetridge was born and raised in Calgary, Alberta, though he has been based in Los Angeles California for many years. Instinctively ignoring creative boundaries McFetridge is a multidisciplinary artist, who writes poetry, is an illustrator, animator, painter, and a graphic, textile and wallpaper designer. In the field of Graphic Design, McFetridge has won several awards and from1996 to 1998 he was art director of the famous underground Beastie Boys magazine Grand Royal. Subsequently he founded Champion Graphics for his commercial art work and continues to exhibit his art in galleries around the world.
ROLLOUT is a boutique design company specializing in the custom design and production of lushly colourful and boldly imagined digitally printed wallpapers. Rollout designers see their client’s papers as uniquely imagined one of a kind artworks for their walls. Established in 2005 by Anita Modha and Jonathan Nodrick, Rollout has developed custom wallpapers for galleries, expositions, and commercial and corporate clients in Canada, United States and Australia. ROLLOUT founder, Anita Modha came late to design after having spent much of her youth with lab rats during her undergraduate studies in psychology (before completing a Masters of Environmental Design). Co-founder, Jonathan Nodrick is a graduate of the Emily Carr Institute of Art & Design. Rollout started with a free large format printer from Craigslist and an art show where 30 creative friends submitted crazy ideas of what they thought wallpaper could be. It turns out people agree that wallpaper could and should be more.
Designers featured in Art of Wallpaper
Andrio Abero, United States: Graphic designer Andrio Abero was based in Seattle for many years, where he established his own studio, 33rpm in 2000. He worked closely with the Vera Project, a non-profit music and art center for youth, while continuing to produce award-winning work for Seattle’s vibrant music scene. His work has been featured in numerous publications, and exhibitions, and has garnered many national graphic design awards. Andrio is currently based in Brooklyn, NY.
Chloe Perron, Canada: Chloe Perron works in fashion as an applied graphic designer, as well as being a partner in Spoken Design a corporate graphics and environmental design firm in Vancouver. Her illustrative work is inspired by fashion, interior and fabric designs and expressionist art.
Bandit + Rollout, Belgium, Canada: Bandit is a Belgium based stencil artist. His work includes collective projects with Faile and Logan Hicks, as well as the hilarious “Hey Banksy why dont you return my emails” piece at the Cans Festival ‘08 in London. Recent shows include: Famous When Dead Gallery (Melbourne), Black Maria Gallery (LA), Black Rat Press, & Hip Art Gallery (London), El Kartel (Vancouver).
The name Timorous Beasties comes from the Robert Burn's poem. "To a Mouse" (pronounced - Moose). Noted for its surreal and provocative textiles and wallpapers, the design studio Timorous Beasties was founded in Glasgow in 1990 by Alistair McAuley and Paul Simmons, who met while studying textile design at Glasgow School of Art. Timorous Beasties are experimental in approach to both hand-printing and machine production. These changes are reflected in an evolving aesthetic: from early wayward interpretations of naturalistic images of insects, plants and fish; to a searingly contemporary graphic style which explores social and political issues. By depicting uncompromisingly contemporary images on traditional textiles and wallpapers, McAuley and Simmons, through their studio Timorous Beasties have defined an iconoclastic style of design once described as “William Morris on acid.”
London based artist and wallpaper designer Tracy Kendall is well known for her distinctive and innovative wallpapers which are imbued with a strong sense of British eccentricity and design, while maintaining a simplicity and purity of form. The Bespoke Collection which started in 2000, was so unique, engaging, and radical that it propelled Kendall onto the international stage. These custom, handmade, 3-dimensional artworks were like no wallpaper produced before, and helped to redefine the genre.
Très Tintas BCN was set up in 2004 by the second generation of the family behind Spain’s most famous wallpaper producers and retailers, Papeles Pintados Aribau. The company is committed to revamping wallpaper design, affording it a fresh, young and contemporary air and has launched a collection designed by five talented, Barcelona designers -Enric Jardí, Sophie Leblanc, Izqui, Julieta Álvarez and Marta Hernández- from different areas of design. In addition, Très Tintas BCN offers nine designs by Sapnish design legend Javier Mariscal and a WALLPAPER À LA CARTE service specifically created for interior design professionals. This service allows interior designers to produce limited editions of their own designs, created for a particular project.
Designer featured in Art of Wallpaper
Javier Mariscal, Spain: Renowned Spanish designer Javier Mariscal is mainly known as a graphic and furniture designer, though he works in a wide range of mediums including painting and sculpture, interior design and landscaping. After successes in graphic comics, furniture designs for the Memphis Collection, visual branding for the City of Barcelona and for the Barcelona Olympics and the top to bottom design of the Gran Hotel Domine Bilbao, Mariscal has turned his attention to wallpaper. 9 Selvas de Mariscal marks his first wallpaper collection.
Wolf-Gordon is a thriving wallcovering company with family roots and an eye for design. Founded in 1967 by Melvin Wolf and Bernard Gordon today it is in the hands of the next generation. Wolf-Gordon distinguishes itself through its innovative in-house design team and their outstanding ‘Designer’ collections created by many of the leading graphic, interior, textile and architectural working today. They have supported students of the Harvard School of Design by means of a design competition and have a strong commitment to lightening their environmental footprint both in the manufacturing process and in the development of an ‘organics’ collection. ‘We’re grateful for how far we’ve come and look forward to pushing things further’.
Designers featured in Art of Wallpaper
Petra Blaisse, The Netherlands: Petra Blaisse is the principal of the Dutch textile, interior and landscape design group Inside Outside. She has gained international acclaim for her design of and creative use of woven materials.
Karim Rashid, Canada: Karim Rashid is an industrial designer whose perspective and clients are global. He considers himself a pluralist and, as such applies his talents to architecture, interiors, fashion, furniture, lighting and art. The Digital Nature Collection is an extention of Karim’s work and interest in digital technology and geometry.
Laurinda Spear, United States: As a founding principal in the Miami based architecture firm Architectonica, Laurinda Spear has designed iconic buildings all over the world. More recently, she has designed products and furniture for the residential market. Geo Graphics is her second collection for Wolf-Gordon.
Hugh Thompson was born in Ireland in 1950. In 1974, after studying art and design in Belfast, he emigrated to Canada with his young family, initially arriving in Toronto where he headed up the art department at SunworthyWallcoverings, later moving on to Dominion Textiles in Montréal. In 1983, he began consulting for Cambridge Towel, where he joined the company as a partner in 1996, and became president of sales and marketing in 1998. Thompson has kept Cambridge Towel committed to local manufacturing and today, the proudly Canadian company is the single largest supplier of private-brand towel products to retailers and hotels in North America. Thompson is an accomplished landscape painter and currently divides his time between Cambridge Towel and his painting studio. For thirteen years, between 1987 and 1999, Thompson and his wife successfully operated the Landreth Gallery, a private art gallery in Cambridge, Ontario. In 1996, he established the Thompson Centre for Art and Design, a consultancy that purchases vintage textile and wallpaper patterns for inspiration in developing modern home décor for manufacturers and retailers.
Further Notes on the Art of Wallpaper
by Esther E. Shipman, Curator, Design at Riverside.
The adaptation of digital technology to the production of wallpaper has been swift and virtually seamless. It has been incorporated into the production process of almost every wallpaper facility from the smallest independent, to the largest mass production manufacturer. It has injected new life into commercial photographic production houses hit by the evaporation of their traditional client base, and enabled individual artists and designers access to new mediums, production capabilities and audiences previously reserved for big players with deep pockets.
The range of new wallpaper designs currently available is staggering. The Art of Wallpaper should be viewed as an amuse bouche, or tasty introduction into this world, which encourages further exploration into the design work of specific designers, companies, materials or themes. The work selected includes bold designs created for both intimate, personal spaces and large public ones. Some of the designers are well established and their style and their work will be recognizable. Others are relative newcomers.
The exhibition has been loosely divided into three areas: New Materials (NM), Politcal/Social Commentary (PSC) and Artist/Designer Series (A/DS).
New Materials highlights numerous directions in material experimentation taking place in the industry, including three dimensional bespoke designs, digital images that present textures and tactile materials on a grand scale, scratch and sniff papers, and vinyl wall drawings that challenge the ‘paper’ concept of wallpaper as well as the static nature of the installation, end-user relationship.
Designs included in the Political and Social Commentary section are a stark departure from the purely decorative and passive designs of the past. They are visual statements that address a spectrum of contemporary issues from the ongoing conflict in the Middle East and political unrest Central America, to urban social decay, the effect of Wall Street’s greed, the commodification of women and the environment. Several utilize historical, formal patterns and formats as a playful ruse that requires the viewer to look at the design more closely and for a longer duration. Others are more direct, preferring a quick, high impact punch.
Every design in the exhibition naturally falls under the umbrella of the Artist/Designer Series, though those given that designation here were chosen because they are distinctive examples of the diverse styles and approaches being taken by designers of different disciplines (industrial and graphic design, architecture, illustration, visual art), worldwide.
Historical Studios for Wallpaper and Textile Design
by Hugh Thompson.
My first hand experience of the Design Studios spans the last 35 years and includes my work in the wallpaper industry and my pursuit of rare Archival Documents (original hand painted samples) for my collection. The Design Studios still exist, but they present their work and themselves somewhat differently from their heyday of 60 to 100 years ago.
In the first part of the 20th Century, there existed a ‘cartel’ of sorts within the industry. There was a small select group of recognized Design Studios, numbering no more than 14 or 15 worldwide and often located in close proximity to the largest industrial production centres (New York, Manchester, Paris, Dusseldorf, Como). These studios were run by impresarios who created and managed large rosters of artists. All of the wallpaper and textile manufacturers purchased their designs from these studios.
Studios were protective of their designs and their artists, which were kept secure from competitors. The Design Studios functioned separately from the production facilities and the artists never interacted directly with the clients. Buyers were entertained with champagne at private presentations made by the studio director. Small collections of designs were ferried in by assistants, much like ‘haute couture’.
The artists themselves often changed studios, either having been ‘traded’ like athletes or sought out and seduced away by rival studio directors. Officially, it was frowned upon to ‘poach’ the most talented artists, but in reality it happened frequently. Individual artists never received recognition for their designs. The studio always took precedence.
Today, at trade fairs such as Heimtextil, the largest wallpaper and textile expo in the world, Design Studios present their work in displays right on the show floor. Several of the original Design Studios still exist (Lizzie Derriez, Paul Harrgati, Leo Schein, Lily Furst), though the studio control of the industry vanished long ago. Now, a Design Studio may be comprised of one individual artist, or may be a single division of large corporation.