The Radcliffe Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Wallpaper making

 

The making of wallpaper by hand, including carving the blocks, either into wood or lino, and manually printing the imagery along a length of paper, building up the design in individual colour layers.

 

Status Endangered
Craft category  Paper
Historic area of significance  
Area currently practised  UK
Origin in the UK  
Current no. of professionals (main income) 11-20
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
6-10
Current no. of trainees  
Current total no. serious amateur makers
 
Current total no. of leisure makers
21-50
Minimum no. of craftspeople required  

 

History

 

Techniques

Printing from wooden blocks: While companies such as Cole & Sons have an archive of their blocks to design from and refer to, they are not used today as working tools. There are no companies in the UK which currently print from wooden blocks – and perhaps only one in the USA who makes and prints from wooden blocks.

Printing from lino blocks: There is an artisan tradition of printing from hand-cut lino blocks. The design is laid out and cut into lino blocks, either in relief or intaglio. The paper is pre-coloured, paint is added to the block, and the design is printed, either with a handheld roller or a hand-planked printing press. There are three makers in the UK practising this technique.

Screen printing: There are some makers who produce wall paper by screen printing, but there is little history of this as a method of manufacturing wallpaper.

 

Local forms

 

Sub-crafts

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • The demand for wallpaper is subject to changing tastes and fashion in interior decoration – block-printing currently seems to be in the zeitgeist.
  • Training: while short courses are always fully booked and the people very enthusiastic, rarely does anyone intend to set up a business or be serious in the craft.
  • Few print clubs offer the kind of equipment needed to print wallpaper (with long textile screen printing tables). One such place (Printall, Bermondsey) closed its doors recently.
  • It’s essential that those making block-printed wallpaper do so to the highest possible level. This includes the quality of the repeat design, the originality of the imagery, the mixing of inks, registration and presentation. People will only pay the premium attached to block-printed papers if the end result really sings.
  • Shortage of tools: the right machinery (offset litho press) is extremely difficult to either find or afford.

 

Support organisations

  • The Wallpaper History Society

 

Craftspeople currently known

Businesses employing two or more makers:

  • Cole & Son (Wallpapers) Ltd, London. Hand block print wallpaper from original wooden blocks, but do not carve blocks.
  • Timorous Beasties

 

Other information

Hugh Dunford Wood will be 70 at his next birthday and has no-one to take over printing from his blocks.

Daniel Heath runs classes in wallpaper making which are very popular, but only a few go on to make their own, as it is costly and time consuming to create a facility in which to make the wallpaper. He believes that interest in the craft (workshops and appeal to journalists/press) outstrips the sale of his wallpaper, as the process is engaging and fashionable as people want to know how things are made. He mostly relies on producing bespoke wallpaper for boutique hotels.

 

References