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Recollected Patterns – Digitally Printed Wallpaper

August 27, 2012

Earlier this year, when I was invited to tour the Collected Patterns exhibition to the Redland Art Gallery, Capalaba, we discussed the inclusion of new work that has developed since it was first hung at Myrtle Street Studio in March 2011. This includes a selection of colour prints based on the popular black and white giclée prints and a new wallpaper design, which has evolved from the original machine-embroideries. These small, limited edition textile studies provided a glimmer of an idea for further exploration in wallpaper and textiles which will be exhibited in my solo show, Recollected Patterns: The botany of Walter Hill.

My own Falling Leaves wallpaper and the collection I designed for Moore & Moore were designed to be printed on a flexograph press. I love traditional methods of production with rich histories and stories, however, they often come with a high set-up cost and up-front investment in stock. To make production viable, you need to produce quantity. The more meterage you run, the cheaper it gets. While digital processes also incur some investment and offer a sliding cost scale based on production quantity, it is usually at a fraction of the up-front cost of traditional processes. To allow myself greater flexibility to print on demand, provide custom colour solutions quickly and easily, remove the need to store stock and ensure a sale price that is affordable, I have decided to explore digital technologies further for the new work in Recollected Patterns.

There are a range of companies in Australia providing digital printing solutions for wallpaper (mostly vinyls for commercial usage), but not many who have good substrates suitable for domestic or residential application. I’m currently testing a linen-look substrate with a visual softness and matt appearance that will absorb reflected glare and avoid ‘hot spots’ when lit under domestic conditions. In my view, using metallic inks is a great way to create movement in the design in relation to light sources. However, this is very different from many of the digitally printable paper substrates, which have a satin appearance, producing shiny spots likening them more to giant posters than decorative wallpaper.

I believe the final application of products must be considered during the design process. We must question why we should use certain materials and run production in specific ways. I see this period of testing as crucial to the overall process of research and development and is where we discover both possibilities and limitations.

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