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Archival Handmade Wallpaper for Use in Reproducing Historical Wallpapers.
Some examples of Griffen Mill wallpapers in use at Strawberry Hill (first three images) and also in the British Galleries in the V&A Museum. (last image)
Click on images to see larger pictures
Griffen Mill supplies handmade paper as individual sheets & that it is white in colour. Coloured sheets can be made to order.The most usual sizes are Royals or Elephants and weights are usually specified by the customer. Joining the paper together to form a roll & colouring or patterning is done by the wallpaper conservator.
Please contact the Mill for further information.
Below is a quick introduction to some of the considerations, time constraints & crafts involved in the restoration & conservation of historic wallpaper schemes.
Looking for Original Wallpaper.
In the event that little of the original scheme remains, fragments of old wallpaper can sometimes be found behind skirting boards, light switches, picture rails and architraves. Sometimes the original wallpaper has just been papered over or can be found lining built in cupboards etc.Unused rolls or part rolls have been found in attics and in some cases have been donated at later date to a museum. Museum donations of large fragments can also occur after earlier restorations.
The search for original wallpaper needs to be done before the contractors/builders start work on the walls or re-configuring spaces. Contractors & builders should also be made aware of the importance of a discovery of any newly discovered fragments of wallpaper and of any ghost marks left on wall substrates. These can indicate the original width of wallpaper or lining paper.
Account books, diaries belonging to the property may contain descriptions & the original bills. Images of the room, in the form of pictures or old photographs may also provide further information. If the property has had a number of important visitors in the past they may have described their visits & included a description of the rooms.
The next step is to decide whether to conserve or install of a reproduction wallpaper. In some cases a decision could be made to retain as much as possible of the original & infill missing areas.
A qualified Wallpaper Conservator would normally be employed.
A decision has to be made as to the degree of authenticity required ie using modern techniques & materials or opting for a reproduction using materials & techniques relevant to the period.Both approaches require skilled craftsmen but the process of reproduction using historical methods is completely different.
Who is involved in making authentic reproductions of historic wallpapers?
This is usually a team effort with architectural or wallpaper historians & wallpaper conservators drawing up the specifications and handing them over to specialist craftspeople who recreate the wallpaper from traditional materials of the period using much the same tools.
At this stage & before any orders are placed or deadlines are set, advice should be sought from the craft specialists as to possible cost & time implications.
The number of different craft techniques varies according to the age of the wallpaper. For example before the invention of the paper machine in the early 1800's all paper was made by hand so one might have to use a handmade paper maker who would then send the paper to another craftsman to print or flock the paper.
Craftspeople need to be involved before a timetable for the project is set. Firstly they may need a tooling up time - such as having new printing blocks made & sourcing raw material, printing test rolls etc. Secondly they may not be able to start right away because of prior orders & thirdly..particularly in the case of handmade paper, time has to be allowed for the paper to mature before use.
If it is decided to have a test roll hung then an extra time allowance should be included for any modifications to be made if necessary.
Who Estimates the Quantity of Paper Needed?
The wallpaper consultant or conservator would normally do this. Expect to have a spoilage allowance included both for the printing & the hanging processes & don't forget an allowance for the number of sheets or rolls required for any test hangings.
Who would hang the Paper?
Recreating a historic wallpaper may at first glance be thought to be relatively easy & quick using modern technology. However modern paints & papers are very different from their earlier counterparts & the print quality is therefore different from the original. Digital reproduction of papers made originally by hand are free of all the minor structural imperfections of the handmade process that give life & depth to the decorated surface.
A modern paper substrate may also have a limited life of only 50 to 80 years depending on its environment.This degree of permanence should be taken into account when judging the true cost benefit of using a modern printing process.
The alternative method of recreating a paper using traditional techniques & materials is far more challenging & will require co-ordinating a team of specialist craftspeople...each of whom will have their own constraints (see above). For this reason it is advisable to talk with all the specialists involved before setting a timetable.
Notes on choosing a Handmade Paper for the Recreation of a 18th C European Wallpaper.
by Chris Gibbs, Griffen Mill
The demands placed on any wall paper during jointing, printing & hanging are considerable so it is advisable to test the handmade paper of choice by printing & hanging a roll before proceeding to the main purchase. Not all handmade papers are suitable.
During the colouring & printing processes the paper must be able to be handled when damp, have a good tear strength, and a low rate of cockling. Tensile strength is important because the paper should not stretch or fall apart when it is hung up to dry.
It is at the hanging stage that the paper is under the most strain. In addition to the properties listed above one can add excellent rub resistance,a degree of stretch to allow for pattern matching & moulding, low elasticity,high tear strength, low expansion even when damp & good burst strength. Finally the absorption rate of paste should allow for efficient hanging.
To achieve a historically correct jointing profile the paper must be the correct thickness & capable of compression. Many modern machine made papers are simply too hard & the joints are therefore too prominent. This can be overcome by sanding the joints down but it is an extra process & therefore an extra cost.
Traditionally many wallpapers were about 90gsm...a relatively thin sheet which is difficult to handle especially when the sheets are an Elephant size. Sheet sizes are often the smaller Royal size. Surface texture is important & was usually NOT. The colour & inclusions of the sheet can, in some circumstances, be quite important adding to the overall effect.
If a lining paper is to be hung then consideration must to be given to the fact that it also will have certain properties & strengths which may differ from the wallpaper pasted on the top of it .- thus setting up tensions which may or may not be resolved during the drying process.
For example using a machine made lining paper & a handmade wallpaper. Here the advice of an experienced paper hanger should be sort before reaching a decision.
In conclusion it is important to bring in the craftspeople at the early planning stages before deadlines are set.
Ensure that the papermakers, the printers & the wallpaper hangers communicate with each other. Many wallpaper recreations are unique & sometimes present difficult challenges. In these circumstances,unless everyone in the chain,the papermaker, the printer & the wallpaper hanger receives a prompt feedback the project can run into unnecessary expense or missed deadlines.