A couple before they were partners in design, Nick Cope and Rachel Mosler founded Calico Wallpaper together two years ago in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Mosler was an art therapist on paid leave from NYU’s temporarily shuttered hospital; Cope ran a design/build firm whose projects had all been put on hold. “We’d always wanted to do a project that touched on both of our backgrounds — something for the home that had an art-like quality,” says Cope. “Rachel studied sculpture at RISD and has a Master’s in art therapy, and I went to NYU for photo and digital design.” On a lazy afternoon in the East Village, Cope found an image of obscure types of paper marbling in an antique shop and brought it home. Mosler loved it and immediately began delving into the history and process of the ancient technique. “We realized quickly we had something interesting on our hands,” says Cope.
That’s something of an understatement. Calico’s delicate, shimmery organic wallpapers feel like nothing you’ve ever seen before, because in truth you haven’t. For Calico’s original edition, Cope and Mosler worked with a paper art center in New York called Dieu Donné to create a limited set of 100 percent cotton fiber papers that measured 40×60 inches — some of the largest marbled paintings that have ever existed. In Cope’s hands those turn into a large-scale graphics for interior applications — massive, moody unrepeated papers whose patterns seem to tumble gorgeously across the wall.
When we heard Cope and Mosler had been selected for a residency program at Villa Lena — a centuries’ old villa nestled in the hills of Tuscany, where they’d have a week to refine and explore their paper marbling process — we knew we had to get them to document their journey. See their trip and learn more about the process in the slideshow at right, then visit the duo at ICFF and Sight Unseen OFFSITE to view the new collection and the next chapter in their story.
The sense that anyone can attempt these 26 DIYs — which include tie-dying with Shabd Simon-Alexander, jewelry-making with Jennifer Sarkilahti of Odette, and marbling with Ilana Kohn — comes in part from the incredibly detailed, step-by-step photographs, which were taken during the course of a weeklong shoot last fall at the Textile Arts Center in Brooklyn by Maria Alexandra Vettese and Stephanie Congdon Barnes, of the photography site 3191 Miles Apart, who also shot the film photographs documenting the day-by-day of the shoot, which we're sharing here today,
Long ago, wallpaper was reserved for royalty — a handcrafted thing made with high artistry and hung with equally high aspirations. But since then, with a few very recent notable exceptions, it's become the ambitionless cop-out of modern-day interior design, a failure blamed on wimpy printing techniques but which probably has to do more with a lack of imagination. Among those getting it right is the Athens-based design collective 39.22., which draws both its name and its stable of talent from its own geographical coordinates.
Had you visited eskayel.com back in 2004, when Shanan Campanaro was still an art student at Central Saint Martins in London, you would have seen a very different site from the one posted at that address today. That’s because the whimsical high-end wallpaper and fabric company Campanaro now runs out of her studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, was once a homespun t-shirt label she started with a college friend, featuring the booze- and boyfriend-related escapades of a comic-book character she’d invented. “My tutors at Saint Martins encouraged me to get really honest,” she explains of the project. “It was right when all the YBAs were coming out and Tracey Emin won a Turner Prize making personal quilts — that’s what everyone was into.” For her, the original Eskayel was like one entry in a diary that’s seen the San Diego native reinvent herself several times over the years, from her childhood as the science-obsessed daughter of the bodybuilder who founded Total Gym, to her switch from physics to fine art while studying abroad in Italy, to her time as a graphic designer for the shopping-mall staple Express. In Campanaro’s case, it's turned out to be more about the destination than the journey.