Charity sale update

Thanks to those who have donated to a range of charities (including Cystic Fibrosis Ireland, Trocaire, the DSPCA and Guide Dogs for the Blind) we now have shelf space and room to breathe again in the studio. But there are still one or two lots waiting for the right wall – so go on: why not buy the purple and silver ‘Gandon’ damask and bring out your inner oligarch? Details are three posts down from here.

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As part of the studio clearout we came in contact with the wonderful people at ReCreate in Ballymount, Dublin. Their tagline is ’Creativity through Reuse’, and their premises is an Aladdin’s cave of surplus industrial materials awaiting reincarnation as art objects. These are collected in the ‘Warehouse of Wonders’ for use in ‘early childhood education, schools, colleges arts & community centres, and by individuals for art, craft, theatre and creative projects of all kinds.This helps local business produce less waste and helps our schools and communities to stretch their budgets and their imagination.’ Have a look at their website http://recreate.ie/

We wouldn’t have come across ReCreate were it not for Smile Resource Exchange – another social enterprise project that links businesses on the principle that one person’s waste product is another’s raw material. See http://www.smileexchange.ie/

 

 

 

Flower power in the 60s

The 1760s, that is – a recently discovered wallpaper in Dublin’s Merrion Square leads to an investigation of chintz patterns in eighteenth-century furnishing and dress.

 

 

Merrion Square exterior

93 Merrion Square is a three-bay house built around 1760, situated between the National Gallery and Lincoln Place, and part of a terrace which pre-dates the rest of the square.  Its earliest occupants, whoever they were, might have looked out from the windows of the front room of the first floor to watch the surveyors and builders who were transforming the open country of the Fitzwilliam estate into Dublin’s most ambitious urban development. When they turned from the windows they might have retreated into the rear room, which was papered with this wallpaper.

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This has survived, somewhat miraculously, in a building which has undergone many alterations over the course of its history. Not very long after the house was built, the chimney breast in this rear first-floor room was widened by around two feet on each side, using lath and plaster, and it is in the void created by this extension that the paper has been preserved.  Almost every other detail of the room has been substantially changed in the intervening period.

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The pattern  is surprisingly – perhaps even shockingly – bold and colourful.  It  combines intricacy of design with a certain crudeness of execution, and the flowing lines possess great vitality – as we see by zooming in and rotating this detail of a flower head, which seems to have an almost human quality.

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This remarkable wallpaper is formed from hand-made sheets, joined together to form lengths – the joins are visible in the photo. The black outlines of the pattern are printed with a wood block, and the colours are brushed on by hand using stencils. Apart from the boldness of the design, the noticeable feature is the lack of precision in both the printing and the installation of the paper. It is obvious where the pattern meets the edge of the printing block, and that the printer could have aligned the next print more carefully. The stencils are crudely shaped, loosely following the outlines of the pattern, and have sometimes been positioned quite carelessly before the colours were applied.  The matching of the pattern across the two adjacent lengths of paper shown in the image is almost slapdash.  One hopes the customer was happy, and that the overall effect was felt to outweigh these discrepancies, which seem to indicate a craft in the early stages of its development.

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By 1760 the wallpaper trade was well established in Dublin, and consumers could choose to buy from among half a dozen paper-stainers active in the city. Their advertisements list some of the styles available at the time: Thomas Russell of Bride Street, for example, sold  ‘Flock, Chintz, Stucco, Mock Indian, Architect, Gothic and Landskip’ patterns. Of these, chintz patterns seem to have been particularly popular, judging by the number of examples which have been found in Irish houses of all sizes . The paper in Merrion Square is an early and particularly striking example of the type.

But what exactly do we mean by chintz? The word  first appeared in the early 17th century in its singular form ‘chint’, derived from a Hindi word which means spattered or stained. ‘Chint’s’ were colourful, painted cotton cloths produced in India for a variety of purposes.This example is typical, with exotic, imaginary flowers and writhing leaves blossoming from a sinuous stem. The diamond-shaped pattern which embellishes the stem is echoed in the wallpaper example from Merrion Square.

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From the time they appeared on European markets in the late seventeenth century chintzes became highly sought after, both as dress fabrics and for home furnishing. So great was the material’s popularity among English consumers that it was soon perceived as a threat by wool and silk merchants and manufacturers, who in 1721 persuaded the government to bring in a prohibition on the sale or wearing of chintz. Despite this ban, chintzes continued to find their way into English and Irish homes as contraband. In Ireland, the restrictions on chintz were less rigidly enforced – but the material was still targeted by supporters of native manufacture such Samuel Madden or Jonathon Swift, who in one of his pamphlets called on parliament to outlaw the wearing of Indian silks or calicos.  In the propaganda campaigns against calico and chintz, the very qualities which made cotton  so popular – its comfort and lightness principally – were seized on by the woollen and silk lobbyists and used to suggest that the morals of those who wore chintz or calico  were in some way, like the fabric itself, loose, light-weight and flimsy, and therefore  suspect.  Daniel Defoe described the woman who wore chintz as ‘an enemy to her country’. Taken together with its nature as contraband, this must have given the acquisition and use of cotton chintz a certain frisson of transgression.

Chintz fabrics were widely used for dress and furnishing in Ireland, although their use is not recorded in any contemporary portrait painting that I am aware of. The reason of course is that cotton chintz fabric was not formal wear – it was regarded as ‘undress’, and those sitting for portraits almost invariably chose to have themselves depicted in formal finery. Across Europe, wearing chintz out of doors was a risky thing to do. At the very least it might attract sniffy comments from your more conventionally-dressed peers, at worst the wearer might find herself attacked, either by supporters of the woollen or silk trades or even by revenue officials, who were authorised to remove imported cottons from the wearer’s back.

Looking at chintz as a furnishing material, it is apparent that the same distinction between formal wear and undress applied  to furnishing textiles as well as to garments.  The use of chintz in Irish domestic interiors is amply documented  – recent research by Patricia MacCarthy and others shows that in Ireland, as elsewhere, there was a code to adhere to in furnishing fabrics, as there was with dress. Chintz was acceptable in private or semi-private rooms, but not in formal rooms such as the drawing room or dining room (although in the following century printed chintzes would find their way into the drawing room). The window and bed curtains of bedrooms were usually made from the same material – the fabric varied from room to room and might be chintz, linen check, or brightly-coloured woollen fabrics such as camlet or morine.  Dublin paper-stainers advertised their ability to match fabrics with wallpaper, and it is likely that in bedrooms described as having cotton chintz hangings the walls were papered with chintz-patterned papers. As with chintz garments, contemporary pictorial depictions of chintz furnishings are entirely lacking in Ireland and extremely rare across Europe –  – this engraving shows a bed upholstered completely in a chintz fabric, but –annoyingly – without matching window curtains and wallpaper.

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By the 1750s European textile printers had started to master some of the techniques of printing fast colours on cotton and linen, and were producing locally made imitations of chintz. In Dublin, several printing factories competed for this trade, and the term ‘Irish chintz’ began to appear on upholsterers’ invoices. The factory of Thomas and Margaret Ashworth in Donnybrook produced both textiles and wallpapers – perhaps the Merrion Square paper is an example of their work? We don’t know.

The discovery of the Merrion Square wallpaper shows that chintzes were not just confined to bedrooms, and that these vibrantly exotic, swirling patterns also had a place on the piano nobile – the first-floor suite of rooms in a terraced townhouse which formed the principal stage for hospitality and the display of wealth and taste. What function, then, did the rear room in 94 Merrion Square serve? It is likely to have been described at the time as a dressing room – a possibility  supported by contemporary references to dressing rooms occupying  this part of a terraced house.  In an inventory of 1762, for example, the rear room of the first floor suite of Lord and Lady Doneraile’s  Kildare Street house was named as ‘My Lady’s dressing room’, and was described as being decorated  with chintz hangings . Lady Doneraile’s dressing room opened into a smaller bedchamber, and also to the drawing room, the main front room on the piano nobile (first floor). This had window curtains and seat furniture of crimson silk damask,  with the walls perhaps papered in  matching flock. When the connecting doors were opened, the contrast between the formal grandeur of the drawing room and the vibrantly exotic colouring of the dressing room must have been dramatic.

Besides the chintz hangings, the inventory  of Lady Doneraile’s dressing room lists the turkey carpet,  a japanned looking glass, an ‘India cabinet’ on a frame, a writing desk, glazed bookcases and a dressing table, covered with scarlet cloth. These objects evoke a range of activities from grooming and dressing to reading and writing. As the name suggests, the dressing room would be used to store clothes and as a place to change clothes, but it’s wider functions included those of a study, a work-room or as a less formal area for entertaining than that offered by the drawing room.

The dressing room was one of the principal sites for displaying fashionable goods – and in particular oriental goods and their western imitations. Inventories tell us that the items to be found there might include dressing boxes, screens, tea boards and tea tables, japanned goods of all kinds and ‘India’ pictures or prints.  Items of this kind were, by the mid century, increasingly being supplied by specialist dealers in East India goods, such as Robert  and Mary Bijar at the India Warehouse on Abbey Street, (might their name indicate Asian origin?). At the Bijars’  Indian Warehouse, consumers could buy a wide range of oriental silk and cotton textiles and furniture, as well as jewellery, fans, coffee and ‘India’ paper (i.e. Chinese wallpaper).

The discovery of the chintz paper in Merrion Square shows how the patterns which enriched the  private spaces of the Georgians were – although largely unrecorded by painters – a lot richer in colour and pattern than we might suppose. It opens a door to the material culture of the dressing room, and shows how local artisans responded to the influx of East India goods to add their own wares to the extraordinary variety of goods that were imported into Dublin.

 

 

Who was Smith – the mystery designer of ‘Belvedere’?

‘Belvedere’ – one of the more colourful patterns in our collection – has an intriguing, if mysterious, back-story.

 

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As every student of wallpaper and revolution knows, one of the first acts of mob violence in Paris in 1789 was the sacking of the Royal Wallpaper Manufactory of Jean Reveillon. In the wake of the French revolution, Ireland saw its own episodes of armed rebellion in 1798 and 1803 – although during both of these outbreaks Dublin’s industrious paper-stainers seem to have kept their heads safely down. The United Irish cause attracted artisans and merchants from many of the textile trades, however , but as the movement went underground and headed towards physical force its wealthier, merchant-class adherents mostly fell away. One of the few who didn’t was James Smith (or Smyth) , a calico printer in Leixlip, and associate of the leading United Irishmen of north Kildare, including Lord Edward Fitzgerald. Smith played an active role in the 53-day military campaign in Kildare in 1798, before surrendering with the other United Irish forces at Sallins in July.

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Smith may be a candidate for authorship of what is surely the most extraordinary wallpaper printed in Ireland in the eighteenth century – the richly coloured pattern of trees, birds, fruit and ruins found in Belvedere, County Westmeath. This pattern – most unusually for a wallpaper – contains the name of its maker within the design, and this is -of course – SMITH. The name is a common one, and is found among  Irish paper-stainers of the period, so why should a calico printer be considered as the maker of a wallpaper?

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One reason is that both the style of the pattern and the technique used to print the Belvedere paper have little to do with paper-staining and everything to do with calico printing. Paper-stainers used dense, opaque colours which lie heavily on top of each other like layers of coloured icing, while calico printers were skilled in the use of dyes and mordants to produce secondary shades by combining and overlaying different colours. This is similar to the method used to produce the extraordinary colour range in the Belvedere pattern – sixteen different shades can be identified, produced from a palette of eleven basic colours. The choice of pigments, too, is unusual for wallpaper – one of the yellows, for example, has been analysed and shown to be an organic pigment, (perhaps the ‘yellow berry wash’ produced from the buckthorn plant and mentioned in eighteenth-century sources), whereas paper-stainers might be expected to have used the mineral pigment ochre.

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One of the few known facts of  James Smith’s career before 1798 is his association with the Palmerstown calico printer Edward Clarke, who – it has recently emerged – produced his own version of the Belvedere pattern. Clarke is best known for having distributed (and perhaps commissioned) that most iconic of Irish textiles, the Volunteer furniture, printed in Leixlip by Thomas Harpur and put on sale in 1783.

NMIDT: 1910.501. Volunter wallpaper

 

James Smith seems to have lived with and worked with Clarke as an apprentice, before setting up on his own in Leixlip – possibly taking over Harpur’s lease of the Ryevale calico works on the latter’s bankruptcy in 1786. Like Harpur, Smith appears not to have advertised his products, perhaps because – like his predecessor – he worked to commission for more established merchants such as Clarke, who had a shop in the city in Werburgh Street. Following Smith’s arrest and imprisonment in Kilmainham in 1798, Clarke wrote a character reference in his favour. This was couched in somewhat ambivalent terms – understandably enough, given Clarke’s position as a leading manufacturer and magistrate, he could not be seen to endorse Smith’s actions, or even admit to a close connection. Nevertheless, Clarke played down Smith’s involvement in the rebellion, pointing out that Smith had refused to take any rank in the rebel army, and had surrendered himself as soon as it was safe to do so. The authorities remained unconvinced, however, believing Smith to have played a very active role and taken part in several battles. Smith was one of the last of the state prisoners to be released in 1802 under sentence of banishment. Shortly after his release, an item in the Ladies Magazine referred to one of the state prisoners as being ‘an artist of great eminence… formerly in the employment of Edward Clarke of Palmerstown.’ This surely refers to James Smith.

Clarke Belvedere
The connection between the ‘Belvedere’ pattern, Smith and Clarke is strengthened by the existence of fragments of calico printed with a version of the Belvedere design, with the name SMITH removed and the initials EC inserted – almost certainly identifying Clarke as the printer. These fragments, arranged among pieces cut from the Volunteer furniture and other patterns, form part of an early nineteenth-century appliqué bedcover, now in the National Museum of Ireland.  Compared with the Belvedere wallpaper, Clarke’s rendition of the design is greatly simplified in its range of colours, employing only blue and two shades of madder pink. How do the two versions relate to each other, and which might have been printed first?
If we assume that James Smith was the author of the Belvedere wallpaper (and this is still only an assumption), then it is likely that Clarke’s relatively lacklustre version of the Belvedere pattern was ‘borrowed’ after Smith’s arrest, imprisonment and banishment, and that the determinedly loyalist Clarke felt quite justified in inserting his own initials in place of his former apprentice’s name. Smith never resumed his printing career in Ireland, and would not have been in a position to object to piracy of this kind. Under the terms of his release he left Ireland and went first, briefly, to London. From there he travelled to Rouen, where a number of other United Irishmen had settled, including William Putnam McCabe, the son of a Belfast Presbyterian cotton manufacturer, who had narrowly escaped arrest at the scene of the capture of Lord Edward Fitzgerald. McCabe had bought or leased a calico mill in Rouen, bringing Irish workers from Manchester as well as employing former United Irish comrades. Smith’s skills would have been a great asset to this venture, but his stay in France was not to be long, however, as he was one of those who returned secretly to Ireland in the spring of 1803 to prepare the ground for Robert Emmett’s planned attempt to seize Dublin. Smith did not take part in the brief and confused fighting around Thomas Street on the evening of July 23rd, having left the city in the morning for Antrim in the company of Thomas Russell, intending to rally support for the rebellion in Ulster. He would therefore have been unaware of the role played in the drama by his former employer, Edward Clarke, who was intercepted by a party of rebels on Aran Quay, shot and wounded, while returning to Palmerstown after attempting to warn the Castle authorities that the rebellion was underway. Large numbers of Clarke’s workers turned out for Emmett, and three were later hanged in Palmerstown for their part in the attack on their employer.
Of the remainder of Smith’s life little is known. He evaded capture in 1803, and may possibly have continued to live quietly in Ireland without attracting the attention of the authorities. Almost nothing is known of his early career as a calico printer in Leixlip before 1798. Were the ‘eminent artist’, the United Irishman and the printer who put his name to a masterful piece of work one and the same? Perhaps so, in which case  it is remarkable that such a distinctive and inventive pattern should have been produced under the same roof as Harpur’s Volunteer furniture.

Before Harpur’s tenancy, the Leixlip mill was briefly operated by Samuel Dixon, who left some tantalising descriptions of his linen and cotton patterns but, alas, no surviving examples. Echoes of Dixon’s well-known bird and flower prints on embossed paper can be seen in the Belvedere pattern, while the trees which frame its more elaborate motifs resemble closely those in the Volunteer furniture. Is it fanciful to see a continuity of native genius in pattern design at the Leixlip print works – over the course of several bankruptcies and changes of ownership –  in a trade dominated by copies and adaptations of London goods?

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Ryevale mill, Leixlip

‘Belvedere’ is available either as a hand screen print on archival paper or – more economically – as a digital print.

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Charity sale of surplus stock at bargain prices

 

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e-mail enquiries to: skinnerdav@gmail.com

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‘Gandon’  purple and metallic silver

Repeat: 190 cm

Enough for: 3.8m (h) x 10.5m (w);   or   1.9m (h) x 21.5m (w)

All checked and ok: Euro 200 the lot

 

 

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Moire stripes and swags, gold highlights

Repeat: 52.3 cm

Enough for: 3.1m (h) x 15m (w);   or   2m (h) x 20m (w)

All checked and ok: Euro 200 the lot

 

 

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Large-repeat English eighteenth-century damask pattern

40 rolls approx.., each 10m x 52 cm: enough for a large drawing room or several small rooms!

Euro 100 per 10 rolls or Euro 300 the lot

 

 

 

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Gandon Major (based on Gandon, but extra-wide), white on pearlescent silver

Repeat: 106 cm

Enough for: 3.5m (h) x 4.2m (w);   or  2.1m (h) x 6.1m (w)

All checked and ok: Euro 50 the lot

 

 

 

PUGIN SOLD

Pugin Trellis : metallic gold on mustard yellow ground

Repeat: 18 cm

Enough for: 3.24m (h)  x  14m (w);    or   2.34m (h)  x  19m (w)

All ok: Euro 200 the lot

 

sTRIPE DOT SOLD

 

Peach/blue Stripes and dots:  late eighteenth or early nineteenth century pattern

No repeat

Enough for: 3.3m (h) x 9.7m (w);  or  2.5m (h)  x  12.9m (w);  or  2.0m (h) x 16.2m (w)

All ok: Euro 150 the lot

 

 

BIRR SOLD

 

Birr Damask: off-white on pale beige ground

Repeat: 55.5 cm

Enough for: 3.3m (h) x 2.6m (w);  or  2.2m (h) x 3.7m (w)

Euro 40

 

GREY DAMSK SOLD

 

 

Grey  eighteenth-century French damask

Repeat: 52.4 cm

Enough for: 2.0m (h) x 5.4m (w); or 2.6m (h) x 3.7m (w);  or  3.1m (h) x 3.2m (w)

Euro 40

 

tULIRA SOLD

 

 

Ornate 19th-century Gothic pattern

Repeat: 47.7 cm

Enough for: 1.9m (h) x 4.7m (w);  or 2.8m (h)  x x2.6m (w); or  2.38m (h)  x 3.6m (w)

Checked and ok: 50 euro

 

Ireland’s Archive of Historic Wallpapers

It started with a skip – the Marks collection and the Fota Wallpaper Archive.

On 6th April 2016, as part of Cork Decorative and Fine Arts Society’s annual lecture series, Jennifer McCrea of the Irish Heritage Trust will be giving a talk entitled: ‘Reading the walls: the stories that historic wallpapers can tell us’ using examples from the Fota Archive. Further information can be found here: http://corkdfas.ie/?page_id=1833

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While passing along Dublin’s South Anne Street  one afternoon in 1976, Desmond Guinness noticed some men at work emptying the premises of John Marks Decorators. Peering into the skip (or dumpster for American readers) which had been placed in front of the shop, he saw dozens of rolls of wallpaper – not the machine-printed vinyls then in vogue, but block-printed patterns highlighted with gilding and flock, evidently of some antiquity. Following a brief discussion between the observant passer-by and the foreman of the crew, the rolls made their way out of the skip and into Leixlip Castle, and were thus fortuitously preserved.

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The ‘Marks Collection’ now forms a major part of the Irish Heritage Trust’s archive of historic wallpapers, housed in Fota House and dedicated to the memory of Ada Longfield, who – in a lifetime of research and publication which began in the 1930s and continued into the 1970s- did more than anyone to trace the history of printing on wallpaper, cotton and linen in Ireland in the long eighteenth century. The existence of the archive is due largely to the efforts of John O’Connell, whose own collection of historic papers salvaged from Irish houses  also forms a significant part of the archive, and includes such rare and valuable examples  as the early eighteenth-century flock paper from Turvey House and the complete room of imported Chinese paper of 1800 from Killeen Castle. The latter was briefly  installed in a bedroom at Fota in 1988, but sadly was taken down at a time when the future of Fota seemed uncertain, and has remained in storage since. Several examples of the products of Ireland’s many  ‘paper-stainers’ are in the collection, identifiable by the stamps used on the reverse to show that the maker had paid the duty which was levied on wallpaper in Ireland between 1796 and 1836. These duty stamps were a favourite subject of Ada Longfield, who published several lengthy articles on them – indeed it is probably no exaggeration to say that she was more interested in the stamps on the back of a wallpaper then the pattern on the front.

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The firm of Marks traded on South Anne Street for almost exactly a century, and the material salvaged from their store room represents the best of what was available at the upper end of the wallpaper market in mid- to late-Victorian and Edwardian Dublin. The bulk consists of borders, friezes and corner pieces, many of which exemplify the heavily enriched  and opulent style of the ‘beaux arts’ school of design. Victorian avant-garde or reformist styles are noticeably absent – no specimens of the work of William Morris, Walter Crane, Owen Jones are included, and only a few items reflect the flattened, two-dimensional forms advocated by the design reformers. On the contrary, illusionistic and mimetic effects appear frequently, including a number of faux-bois pilasters, capitals and friezes. These are splendid examples of the skilled block-printer’s art – one imagines them being made by proudly-moustachioed men such as this unnamed printer in a London factory, photographed around 1910.

 

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The collection also includes some early twentieth-century patterns which reflect the influence of art nouveau, while other examples – such as the pictorial frieze shown here – suggest that  by that time the firm’s clientele had moved slightly downmarket.  From slightly later, two examples of the ‘Lancastria’ range of wallpapers made by Wallpaper Manufacturers Ltd show the cheerful and colourful styles available in the 1950s.

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The Fota Archive is a small collection, yet manages to convey a good impression of the development of fashion in wallpapers across three centuries, while preserving for future study and enjoyment significant examples from Irish houses, many of them the product of local artisans. It is a resource that will – it is hoped – be appreciated and used by all those interested in the patterns of the past, be they students, design professionals, historians or architects.

 

 

 

 

Going Dutch

Going Dutch

 

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This neat and attractive wallpaper and border, perhaps from around the turn of the twentieth century, was uncovered during the restoration of the home of a leading Dutch building contractor specialising in conservation and restoration. Something about the pattern has a particular yet undefinable European quality – it is not simply the 18-inch width of the paper that tells you it was not made in England. The paper has a curious flecked background pattern which  we approached with some trepidation, as it required absolute consistency of print quality, and the tiny flecks seemed bound to clog up quickly on the screen. Despite our fears ( and thanks to the addition of a judicious dose of retarder to the ink) the printing went perfectly and the results happily met the client’s exacting standards.

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Garnish Island – papering paradise

Garnish Island – papering paradise

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Lying only a few hundred yards offshore in the quiet waters of Glengarriff harbour, Garnish island – or Ilnacullin as it is also known – can hardly be described as a remote island. Those who make the journey soon realise that it is a place apart, however  – as did George Bernard Shaw, who came to the island several times. As he was leaving at the end of his final visit in 1923 his hostess, Violet Bryce bade him farewell with the words  ‘Goodbye, Shaw – I hope we meet in heaven’. ‘Madam, are we not here already?, he replied before stepping into the boat.

The island’s Italianate gardens, laid out by the English designer Harold Peto for the M.P.  Annan Bryce and his wife Violet  in the early years of the twentieth century, draw thousands of visitors a year, and are managed by the Office of Public Works. This year, the O.P.W. completed a major refurbishment and restoration of Bryce Cottage, the house where two generations of the family lived during their visits to the island. The cottage was originally intended as the gardener’s house, but Peto’s original designs for a huge, Lutyens-esque mansion built around the Martello tower on the island’s highest point never materialised, after the family lost most of their wealth in the Russian revolution, and guests like Shaw or Agatha Christie had to make to do with bedrooms of quite modest dimensions.

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Both generations of  Bryces were evidently lovers of wallpaper, and enough remained on the walls or at the back of cupboards to enable many of the rooms to be papered with copies of the patterns which had been used in the house. These are mostly patterns of the mid-twentieth century, and cover quite a range of styles – from the intricately drawn toile-style paper in the drawing room, to perkily avant-garde geometrics, right down to bog standard cottage florals made in Ireland  by Kildare Wallpapers.  Papers from the early twentieth century were less in evidence, apart from small fragments of a pattern combining symmetrically flattened floral motifs set in strapwork, found in the entrance hall and upper corridor, and which might have been admired by G.B.S.

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The problem of sourcing suitable patterns for the earlier period was solved thanks to the resources of the Irish Heritage Trust’s recently established archive of historic wallpapers, stored in Fota House. Two very attractive patterns from the Fota archive were copied and used in Violet Bryce’s bedroom and another guest bedroom. Also from the archive, a complete pattern – similar in style to the fragments found in the entrance hall – was copied and re-coloured to match the fragments.

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Altogether, we made twelve ‘new’ old papers for Bryce Cottage, most of them screen-printed in our studio in Leitrim, but some – for reasons of economy and speed – digitally printed. These now form a fitting backdrop to the furniture, paintings and memorabilia of the Bryce family and their two remarkable servants, the Scottish-born head gardener Murdo Mackenzie and the housekeeper Maggie O’Sullivan (1908-99), who in her lifetime on the island  ‘cooked tea for all the Irish presidents except one’.

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For more on Garnish Island and its inhabitants, see this excellent blog (from which some of the above images have been sourced):

https://garinishisland.wordpress.com

 

Edwards Place- a restored mansion in Springfield, Illinois

 

Edwards Place- a restored mansion in Springfield, Illinois

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Edwards Place is one of several historic properties in Springfield, Illinois, associated with Abraham Lincoln. Formerly the home of the Edwards family, its furnishings include a mid-nineteenth century settee on which the future president is said to have sat while courting Mary Todd,  related by marriage to the Edwards family,  who  became the future president’s wife in 1842. Since 1913, the house has belonged to the Springfield Art Association, who  began a major restoration in 2014, aimed at presenting the principal rooms as they were in the 1850s, a time when Lincoln was a regular visitor. We were brought in to the project by our U.S. partners Belfry Historic Consultants, and asked to reproduce two wallpapers which were discovered  beneath modern drywall at an early stage of the project.

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Although large pieces of each paper survived, their condition gave rise to difficulties when it came to understanding how the papers had originally looked. The more elaborate of the two patterns combined trophies and floral swags contained within moiré-effect stripes, highlighted with gold details, but the block-printed colours had faded so much that the outlines of the pattern could only be seen by transmitted light – against a window or on a light-box. One tiny strip of overlapped margin, which had remained protected from discolouration, gave some indication that the pattern had been printed in shades of grey distemper against a satin-finish  ground in pale duck-egg. We produced a range of samples around this theme – both digital and screen-printed – before the clients settled on one which seemed most appropriate. Gratifyingly, the subsequent discovery of another large piece of this paper in better condition showed that our suggestions and the clients’ choice had been surprisingly accurate.

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The second paper was a simpler affair – a two-colour damask, block-printed in off-white on a beige ground and with the kind of intense ultramarine accents which were hugely popular in the 1850s and which seem utterly bizarre to modern taste. This too has a satin ground – so much easier to make in these days of gloss-finish water-based acrylics than in the days of distemper, when the only way to produce a shiny surface was to buff the painted paper laboriously with talc and a smooth stone. The contrast between a pattern in matt distemper (or acrylic) and a satin ground is pleasing, and was widely exploited in the early to mid-nineteenth century. Perhaps the effect is due for a come-back in these days of ubiquitous matt-ness and ‘chalk-finish’ paints.

In the front formal parlor, an original section of wallpaper dating from the 1850's discovered during the renovation is preserved behind plexiglass for visitors. Now known as the Edwards Place pattern, new wallpaper from this remnant was replicated using a computer and manufactured for the project. Renovations are nearly complete on the first floor rooms at Edwards Place in Springfield, home of attorney Benjamin Edwards, son of Ill Governor Ninian Edwards and brother-in-law to Mary Lincoln’s sister Elizabeth. Part of the Springfield Art Association complex, public tours for the antebellum mansion are scheduled to resume April 21 after a nearly $500,000 restoration project begun over a year ago has brought the home up to its mid 19th Century appearance. Money for the project came from private donors and the Jeffris Family Foundation, with fundraising ongoing for future renovation of 2nd story rooms. Photographs taken during home tour on Tuesday, Mar. 31, 2015. David Spencer/The State Journal-Register

A Roman bust of Diana, goddess of the hunt, is displayed atop an 1850's era square grand piano made by E. N. Scherr of Philadelphia on display in one of the home's formal parlors. Renovations are nearly complete on the first floor rooms at Edwards Place in Springfield, home of attorney Benjamin Edwards, son of Ill Governor Ninian Edwards and brother-in-law to Mary Lincoln’s sister Elizabeth. Part of the Springfield Art Association complex, public tours for the antebellum mansion are scheduled to resume April 21 after a nearly $500,000 restoration project begun over a year ago has brought the home up to its mid 19th Century appearance. Money for the project came from private donors and the Jeffris Family Foundation, with fundraising ongoing for future renovation of 2nd story rooms. Photographs taken during home tour on Tuesday, Mar. 31, 2015. David Spencer/The State Journal-Register

Also, for the sitting room at Edwards Place, we supplied our ‘Edenderry’ pattern of oak leaves and acorns set in stripes. This is an Irish pattern of the 1830s, so slightly earlier than the restored décor of the other rooms – nevertheless it fits in very well.

In the Sitting Room, new oak-leaf patterned wallpaper covers the walls along with new carpeting, recessed lighting and other imporovements. An oil painting of Benjamin Edwards can be seen over the fireplace. Renovations are nearly complete on the first floor rooms at Edwards Place in Springfield, home of attorney Benjamin Edwards, son of Ill Governor Ninian Edwards and brother-in-law to Mary Lincoln’s sister Elizabeth. Part of the Springfield Art Association complex, public tours for the antebellum mansion are scheduled to resume April 21 after a nearly $500,000 restoration project begun over a year ago has brought the home up to its mid 19th Century appearance. Money for the project came from private donors and the Jeffris Family Foundation, with fundraising ongoing for future renovation of 2nd story rooms. Photographs taken during home tour on Tuesday, Mar. 31, 2015. David Spencer/The State Journal-Register

For more on Edwards Place and its restoration, see

www.edwardsplace.org