Wallpapers are an integral part of interior designing. Their fun, fab and sometimes avant garde designs transform your space into a work of art. Societies across the globe have been enthralled by wallpaper since its inception. Communities have put their own spin on things when it came to innovating and adapting wallpapers for their needs.
This article will bring you on a brief journey to understand and appreciate how wallpapers came to be.
Essentially, the marriage of art and paper revolutionized the creative process of art creation. This revolution penetrated all layers of society and gave rise to numerous innovations in the art world. One such innovation was the creation of wallpaper which evolved gradually throughout the centuries.
Ancient Chinese Roots
The Ancient Chinese are credited as the inventor of paper and subsequently wallpaper in its earliest form. Once paper was readily available, people realized they could draw on it. This realization led to the practice of displaying hand-painted pictures on walls.
Nonetheless, wallpaper did not start out as a form of decoration. Its initial utilization was more utilitarian rather than for aesthetic. Long winters in Ancient China were unforgiving to many, with the availability of paper, people experimented with it to insulate their homes.
Paper took the world by storm as the science of papermaking penetrated The Middle East and eventually Europe. Coupled with our innate nature to create art, paper became an indispensable canvas for artwork. Eventually, wallpapers came to be as an extension of beautifying ones’ interior with art, albeit at an affordable cost.
Painting on Paper
The Ancient Chinese community favoured hand-painting elements of nature on textiles such as silk and possibly paper. Their depiction of landscapes was often gifted to passing foreigners. Gradually, people in the west took notice and there was a surge in demand for papers hand-painted with natural elements.
The exportation of Chinese hand-painted papers to the west truly took flight in the mid-16th century via Dutch and Portuguese traders. In the 17th Century, despite the popularity of printed wallpapers, Chinese wallpapers depicting components of nature on white mulberry paper were highly sought after by Western consumers.
In Europe, it is said that the French monarch, King Louis XI commissioned Painter Jean Bourdichon to paint angels on a blue background on 50 rolls of paper in 1481. The King’s intention for such an undertaking was to ensure the convenient disassembly and assembly of decorations when moving between castles. European aristocrats and those who were well-off in the community took notice and followed suit. They too hired artists to paint on paper and installed those paintings on their walls.
The Birth of An Industry
Wallpaper development truly took form in the late 16th century, when French artisans – dominotiers created domino papers which were small paper sheets designed to look like marble. Inspired by exports from Persia, domino papers were used to cover books and decorate the interior of drawers and chests.
The Charter of Guild of Paperhangers, an organization consisting of dominotiers and tapissiers (tapestry makers) was officialised by King Henry IV of France in 1599. This led to a more structured development of painted paper.
Domino papers were adapted into larger sheets with the incorporation of new designs. At this point, artisans used a blend of block printing and hand-painting to create the designs.
In 1675, French engraver, Jean-Michel Papillon used blocks to create repeated patterns on paper. He then joined the paper sheets together to form a bigger sheet of continuous designs. His ingenuity gave rise to the earliest version of the modern wallpaper and established it as an art product.
Flock paper arrived on the scene between the 16th and 17th century and was regarded as an affordable alternative to expensive velvet and tapestry. Flocking is the process of adding fibre (flock) onto a surface. This process enabled the flocking of intricate designs onto paper.
Towards the end of 17th century, flocking, block printing and hand-painting were widely used to create wallpapers.
18th century English wallpaper manufacturers up the ante with more sophisticated manufacturing methods and elaborate designs. Marvellous designs featured wallpaper borders that imitated tassels and flock that appeared like velvet. London society quickly took to this and the demand for printed wallpapers overtook expensive hand-painted ones.
Trade between Europe and America eventually brought wallpapers to American shores in 1739. Philadelphia upholsterer, Plunket Fleeson began printing wallpaper in his home state. Initially, the American market was inclined to purchase European wallpapers for their beautiful designs. The tide turned after the Revolutionary War and Americans delve into producing their very own home-grown wallpapers, often with patriotic elements.
Mass Production to Meet Growing Demands
The surge in demands for wallpapers pushed manufacturers to come up with a way to hasten the wallpaper manufacturing process and produce them in bulk. Various methods and machines emerged throughout the 18th and 19th century.
The first wallpaper printing machine was invented by Frenchmen, Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf in 1785. Concurrently, a machine that could produce endless rolls of paper was created by Frenchmen, Nicholas Louis Robert.
The 19th century brings about the creation of a four-colour surface printing machine (using cylinders) that was capable of printing 400 rolls daily. This invention was credited to Charles Harold Potter who was a part of the calico printing firm, Potters & Ross of Darwen, Lancashire. By 1850, 8 colour printing was made available and twenty colour printing appeared 34 years later.
Between 1834-1860, British wallpaper production increased from one million rolls to nine million rolls. Wallpapers were so affordable that most households could afford them. This trend carried into the Victorian era, with embellished prints in almost every room. The Golden Age of Wallpaper during 1920’s saw the sales of over 400 million rolls of wallpaper.
Optimizing Quality & Design
The bane of mass production came in the form of lower quality products and lacklustre designs. The market trend also shifted away from overtly embellished designs in favour of plain colours. These combined factors saw a drop in demand for wallpapers.
Nonetheless, wallpaper manufacturers put their gears into motion and focused on creating higher quality wallpapers. Throughout the 20th century, innovations gave rise to wallpapers that were much more durable, waterproof, and easier to install.
Interest for wallpapers gradually increased as a new generation of consumers rediscovered their predecessors’ love of patterned walls.
Nowadays, technology is so advance that you can dream up any wallpaper design you want. There is also a plethora of wallpaper designs to choose from on the market.
Quality Wallpapers at Craft Axis
Craft Axis is a leading Wallpaper Singapore specialist that supplies a range of top-quality wallpapers imported from Europe, US, Japan and Korea. Take your pick of European, American, Japanese or Korean wallpapers. Engage our specialists to get the best advice for your space, be it installing trendy wallpapers in your living room or making an accent wall for your hallway, get quality service and products from us!