Calico Wallpaper at Villa Lena

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.