1,000th member Louise Altman

We are delighted to have recently welcomed our 1,000th member of the Heritage Crafts Association, wallpaper maker Louise Altman – www.outofbounds.org.uk/hand-printed-wallpapers. Here, Louise tells us a little bit about her work and why she chose to join the HCA. if you’re not already a member, click here to find out more about joining up.


Louise Altman“I studied a Print Media (Book Arts) degree at the LCP (London College of Printing). The course had a very creative element but was equally technically focused on bookbinding and printmaking skills. I was always trying to make more time to get in the print rooms! After uni, I was fortunate enough to work at Book Works Studio with Rob Hadrill. It was here that I learned much finer bookbinding and making techniques that have informed all of my creative practices. I spent a few years working as a resident artist in schools where we pioneered a unique creative initiative in education, working with students and staff to promote creative thinking. Alongside this more formal career, I maintained a studio and continued to create prints, limited edition artists’ books and patterns.

“I first heard of HCA whilst reading an article on The Guardian website and was really excited to know that there was an association championing heritage crafts… Then several friends and artists have pointed out to me that wallpaper printing was an endangered skill and that I ought to let you know that I’m out here working in this medium. I’m fairly new to wallpaper printing but my designs have already been enjoyed by many and I intend to continue and develop this wonderful skill. Luckily I have been printmaking for many years so it’s just an additional learning curve to the skills I have been practising for over 20 years.”

Louise AltmanI spent some years visiting India (and still do, pandemic aside) and was lucky enough to be invited to a traditional block printing studio. This ancient art of block printing patterns onto fabrics became a huge interest. I spent some time on several trips with the artisans learning the techniques, despite the huge language barrier. I altered my studio at home and adapted a large table into one similar to the one I’d been using in India. I began printing onto fabric with half a mind to eventually print wallpaper. I joined a weekend course with Hugh Dunford Wood and learned the basics of printing wallpapers. The passion was ignited!

“It’s more important than ever before to support heritage crafts. I am an early adopter when it comes to tech and innovation but I also know that if we lose these skills we will be unable to retrieve a very unique tradition of making by hand.  I always think back to cave handprints and how we hold those early human marks in high regard. The mark of a human is impossible to replicate and we must protect it or future generations will lament our oversight.”

Louise Altman“Continuing to develop my wallpaper printing skills alongside my day job, suddenly the pandemic hit and we went into lockdown. It was being on furlough that gave me the time and space to develop a series of patterned papers which I am now producing for clients. My future plans are to develop several collections and to continue to promote this beautiful craft. It would be easier to develop these patterns for a digital wallpaper market but I want to remain a purist and hand print everything myself. I am in my element whilst printing and really enjoy interactions with clients who appreciate the work and mark of the artist’s hand.

“My process is to sketch from nature, I then turn these drawings into a repeat pattern design. This gets transferred onto a specially prepared block which I carve into to create the pattern. This block then gets handprinted onto prepared wallpapers using my adapted block printing table. Mostly I use my feet to print as you’ll see from the images. It’s a truly physical practice and I love listening to podcasts whilst I print.”

Photos by Anna Lukala – www.lukala.com

Wallpaper making

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)
Current no. of trainees
Current total no. serious amateur makers
Current total no. of leisure makers
Minimum no. of craftspeople required





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




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.