Melony Rocque-Hewitt finds that walls have never looked so good, thanks to the growth in bespoke digitally printed coverings.
Excuse the pun, but digital wallpaper is on a roll. Digitally produced, bespoke wall coverings (wallpapers or feature wall murals) are gaining momentum not just in the commercial sector but have segued their way into the domestic, consumer zone.
From the traditional wide-format digital printer working in the professional sign and display industries to the proliferation of dedicated interiors portals offering digital collections and/or customisable wall-coverings to the public, wallpaper is definitely making a statement.
One company that has been making some very bold statements with its wall-coverings recently is the wide-format digital print company BAF Graphics.
Recently the company was chosen by renowned cult UK artist INSA to digitally print and install fabric-backed wall covering to showcase his installation ‘Self Reflection is greater than Self Projection’.
Heavily influenced by graffiti, pop culture and fetishism, INSA has been producing his unique artwork for more than a decade working with blue-chip brands such as Sony and Nike on private commissions and projects. This latest exhibition drew on familiar themes in his portfolio, such as society's twin obsessions with money and image.
The exhibition was held in Shoreditch and featured 160m2 of wall covered in Digimura 2.1 Smooth and 60m2 of Aslan floor vinyl with anti-slip laminate. The result? Head-turning. Amazing.
“I have enjoyed watching the digital wallpaper market develop,” says Antony Baglioni, business development director at BAF Graphics. And this isn’t just because wall-coverings have been on an upward growth at BAF but because Baglioni has a background in interiors, working at the internationally renowned wallpaper and fabric house Zoffany, before joining BAF nearly six years ago.
One thing he is adamant about is that self-adhesive materials are not wall coverings, being temporary rather than permanent solutions. Commercial grade wall coverings such as those in the Digimura range from Papergraphics that have fabric backing, and use wet adhesives that bond to the walls is the BAF way. In fact, BAF has worked closely with Papergraphics, giving feedback and suggestions in the development of new finishes, embosses and textures.
Digital wallpaper has bought into focus the convergence of graphic design with interior design. This is particularly prominent in the workspace, an area in which BAF Graphics is very strong.
Last year for example, BAF delivered one of the largest digitally printed interiors projects ever undertaken in the UK for the BBC’s new offices at MediaCityUK, Salford Quays.
Working together with fit-out specialist Overbury and designer ID:SR, BAF developed and installed all interior graphics required for the new premises across three buildings - Bridge House, Dock House and Quay House.
During the course of the project, the installation team surveyed over 800 wall surfaces, many of which incorporated metal riser doors that had to be carefully disguised behind the wall-coverings, but which still required continued access.
Graphical themes designed by ID:SR such as ‘Cityscenes’ were employed on walls on each floor of Quay House, while ‘Manchester and Salford Maps’ decorate the walls of Bridge House.
The arresting ‘History Wall’, comprises a background of abstract black and white images of past BBC celebrities are montaged with a foreground of coloured images of current celebrities.
Another eye-catching feature is the Words Wall consisting of words and expressions from iconic BBC shows represented in different fonts, scales, and colours.
A BAF installation team was resident up in Salford from March to June last year, and all wall-coverings were hung using a wet, decorator’s adhesive, with an overlap and trim join to create a perfectly seamless finish.
“Wall-covering isn’t about just looking good, says Baglioni, it’s about the right quality, the right amount of ink, the right adhesion. When all these come together then you’ve got a product.”
Art, wallpaper or both?
When Zurich’s Fotomuseum Winterthur was tasked with the job of hosting the first major photographic and video exhibition of contemporary of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s work, it had to ensure the impact of the images weren’t lost by poor reproduction, as the works would be displayed across the museum’s entire wall space. The museum commissioned the Zurich print service provider, The Image Factory, to print the exhibits, who in turn made the decision to use Sihl Direct UK’s Wallpaper Persomural in combination with the Epson’s Stylus Pro 9900 and 11880 printers.
Ai Weiwei is an architect, conceptual artist, sculptor, photographer, blogger, tweeter, interview artist and political activist who concerns himself with current themes and social problems. He deliberately questions social relationships in China by means of photographic documentation. This first major exhibition and book project dedicated to his photographic and video work, sheds light on the diversity, complexity and interlaced character of Ai Weiwei‘s work, with hundreds of photographs, blogs and explanatory essays. Ai’s work is extremely impactful to the viewer but needs to be printed on the right material.
Ian Turnbull, operations director of Sihl Direct UK, says: “They chose our wallpaper for several reasons. It has an attractive structure, the good dimensional stability of the fleece material – in both a dry and wet state and easy bonding and handling. Of course one of the main reasons they chose the Sihl Wallpaper was because it offers the best printing results, which is most important when printing images on such a huge scale.”
He added: “Also, because this display was the first in a series of Ai Weiwei exhibitions, the fleece basis of Persomural 170 matt 3260 made it possible to reuse the prints. By using the adhesive supplement Tylose (methyl cellulose), the paper can be moistened and removed after the exhibition. It can be moistened again, pasted and then remounted in other locations. Even after repeated use, the dimension of the material remains unchanged and the printed image is as brilliant as ever.”
This huge benefit was demonstrated when the exhibition successfully moved to the Kunsthaus Graz Museum in Austria, and then onto the Jeu de Paume in Paris.
Help is at hand
Material Connexion provides manufacturers and users a cross-industry overview of trends, material developments and their application possibilities. The consultancy firm with its main office in New York acts as an independent link and has now incorporated the digital print wallpaper ‘Erfurt wallpaper CA’ into its internationally available materials library.
"We have awarded the Erfurt wallpaper CA the certificate for excellent material development,” says Karsten Bleymehl, director library and materials research at Material Connexion in Cologne. "As the raw material fleece consists mainly of cellulose, we have included the wallpaper in our Naturals category. Further important criteria for acceptance into the materials library were the feel and appearance of the material as well as its adaptability to customer specifications and availability in industrial quantities.”
The Erfurt wallpaper CA by Neschen, is made entirely of fleece. The cellular and textile fibers used are free of PVC and softeners; they do not emit any aromatic compounds and acrylics that can be damaging to health. The wallpaper is digitally printable so that rooms can be designed entirely as the customer wishes with their own individual motifs. There are outstanding application options for digital fleece Erfurt wallpaper CA in the commercial sector in particular.
"To complete their range of services, the Material Connexion operates an extensive materials library. Every month, an independent expert jury adds new materials from around the world to this archive," explains Frank Seemann, manager marketing and communications at Neschen in Bückeburg. "When architects and designers now visit the archives at Material Connexion, they will find our digital fleece there."