From the first time I saw examples of the blue and white earthenware made in Dublin’s World’s End pottery in the eighteenth century, I was inspired by the potential for using the motifs and images to make a wallpaper.
The publication of Peter Francis’ beautifully illustrated book on ‘Irish Delftware in Churchill House’ in 2017 rekindled my interest, and coincided with our decision to launch a new collection of wallpaper patterns in Spring 2019. The publishers very kindly made the images from the book available as a design source for this project. But how to turn a series of photographs of plates, jugs, bowls and platters into a wallpaper design?
Rather than simply present an arrangement of plates and other pieces as if they are real objects hanging on a wall, I wanted to lifts the motifs from the objects and draw them together into a repeat pattern that would present them in a new context.
The first thing was to select the motifs that had the most potential. Apart from the landscape vignettes (which seem recognisably Irish), there were images reinterpreted by the World’s End painters from imported Chinese wares – pagodas, oriental trees and birds and flowers. Then there the borders and geometric patterns used around the edges of plates. Even the makers’ marks seen on the bottom of the plates have a lovely calligraphic quality that could be used.
With image editing software it was relatively easy to eliminate the backgrounds from each photograph leaving only the blue painted brushstrokes of the motifs. This made it possible to arrange and rearrange motifs on the computer screen, to see how they might unite to form a pattern. There are endless possibilities, but from the start it was clear that this would be a fairly large-scale, narrative pattern.
Then come all sorts of technical questions about how to manipulate the images into a form suitable for printing. The close-up photographs from the book give every nuance of the painter’s hand, but for hand screen printing or digital printing an image has to go through a process of colour separation in order to control the colouring of the final product, especially if alternative colourways are to be produced. If this can be done by digitally editing the photos then it will help preserve all the painterly character of the original motifs in the finished wallpaper. If this doesn’t work we will have to hand draw each motif, tracing from the photos with a separate tracing for each shade.