Wallpaper – we’re think it’s time we made an apology to you.
For the last few decades, you’ve had a bad rap. Jeez, people even you as a bit of an insult – “it’s just wallpaper”, i.e. it’s just background noise. At FEATHR we are anti-background noise. We are pro-the-abolition of MEH. We we are on a mission to reclaim wallpaper an art form. Because it was once an art - and art changes the world, whilst MEH barely changes its socks.
You don’t have to go too far back in time to find wallpaper working both as high art and as a tool of social revolution. Don’t believe us? Hold tight, here’s the history.
Back in the 18th Century some people got rich. Not like Rich Kids of Instagram rich, more Whole Foods-shopper kinda rich. And they wanted their homes to look like the homes of the mega-rich, the aristocrats lording it around Europe. Unable to afford actual tapestries, they jumped on some new printing technology developed by Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf & Louis-Nicolas Robert and started lining their walls with this new fad. And, wow, what they did hang. They didn’t plump for roses scattered tastefully in beige. Instead this new European middle class used wallpaper to display high art – pieces like the 1804 20-strip wide mural panorama Sauvages de la Mer du Pacifique (Savages of the Pacific) by Jean Gabriel Charvet.
Soon, everyone wanted in on this trend. Suppliers and styles exploded. Some name are still with us, but many, like the wonderfully named Blanchard & Curry, have gone.
Then the came the revolutionary. William Morris might seem like an unlikely revolutionary now – especially as the chintzy floral patterns he’s famed for now recall the chink of tea cups on saucers, rather than blade on blade. But a revolutionary and anarchist he was.
Driven by anger at inequality, he believed real art could not exist whilst people were divided into ‘cultivated’ and ‘uncultivated’ classes. His mission was to put art everywhere, in how towns were built, houses designed, in every detail – including the walls.
Perhaps he was too successful? The revolutionary Arts and Craft movement he founded, segued into suburban chintz and wallpaper went with it. Disappearing, you could say physically and metaphorically, into beige.
But now it’s time to make it mean something again. Like William Morris, we believe that art can change the world – in fact, that only art can change the world. And there’s a lot to change. Popular culture, to quote philosopher Terence McKenna, is “shit-brained”. It’s full of MEH and decoration: the Kardashians, X-Factor, chain coffee shops – they’re the decoration that fills the everyday. And it’s time to fight back with more art.
Wallpaper is our way of doing it. That’s why we work with unexpected artists from all sorts of creative genres. That’s why we give these artists a blank canvas. That’s why we’ve set ourselves up to get the designs into your hands at a decent price. Because, just as William Morris said, “What business have we with art at all unless all can share it?"
So, wallpaper, we’re all sorry for having misused you for the last 80 years. But now we can make it up to you. Because once more there is wallpaper that is art – and it ain’t "just wallpaper".