Coral by Juliet Chadwick. Photo by Robert Fairer

Wonder Walls

Juliet Chadwick brings an artist’s sensibilities to wallpaper making. We visited her at her Gloucestershire studio to learn more.

Juliet Chadwick’s Victorian hayloft is one of the few places at Lypiatt Park (the Tudor manor house she and her husband, Daniel Chadwick, inherited from the sculptor Lynn Chadwick), to boast central heating. It does not however, have a staircase. Access is through a straw-floored stable, currently home to the children’s rabbits, up a ladder and in through a hatch, operated by a pulley system attached to a paint tin.

‘I like being tucked away up here,’ she says. ‘It stops the dogs coming in and walking on my work.’

Chadwick’s latest work is a pair of wallpapers, Coral and Sunflower, which she sells direct from her website, http://www.julietchadwick.com/.Created out of a desire to wallpaper her children’s bedrooms, both designs stem from their personal interests. Her son is fascinated by the Titanic and all things (under) watery, so Coral depicts a sub-oceanic world inhabited by fantastical life forms, while Sunflower is a paper for a daughter in love with the woods and valleys that surround her home.

Both designs delighted their small clients (six year-old Casper is constantly picking out tiny creatures and talking about the sounds they might make), but they also speak eloquently of Chadwick’s own aesthetic. ‘My interest is in the surreal,’ she explains, ‘I like to create images that go beyond the familiar and into another realm.’

Chadwick trained in illustration at Edinburgh School of Art and then at Rhode Island School of Design, but she had no previous experience of creating a repeat pattern.  ‘I was a bit arrogant I suppose,’ she says. ‘I just assumed I’d be able to do it. Fortunately, I came across a book, Surface Pattern Design by V. Ann Waterman, which is a step-by-step guide to creating a repeat by hand.’

Chadwick is no technophobe but she was determined to hand draw the patterns, standing at a drawing board that dates back to her father-in-law’s days as an architect. ‘I wanted the papers to have an organic feel and a sense of flow that I couldn’t have achieved on a computer,’ she explains. ‘It was tricky – you have to get the balance and flow exactly right – but I loved the mental challenge.’

The papers themselves are printed in batches of 150 rolls by the Anstey Wallpaper Company in Loughborough. Sunflower is surface printed to give it a textured ink effect similar to that created by a woodblock, while Coral is Gravure printed using engraved copper coated cylinders to ensure every intricate detail of the original drawing is captured.

And, as Casper knows, it’s the tiny, unexpected details - the minute insect crawling up a sunflower stem, the strange anemone lurking in the reef - that are the real joys of these papers. They demand long and close inspection.

So why I ask, did she want to turn drawings, things people are used to lingering over, into wallpaper which generally is pasted to the wall as a decorative backdrop? Chadwick is quick to respond. ‘Because I like the idea of being engulfed in a room full of pattern,’ she explains. ‘It goes back to that idea of entering another realm.’

At the moment, Coral and Sunflower are the only papers she has designed. But given her evident skill and the pleasure she takes in the process of making, it’s hard to believe that there won’t be more soon. As a wallpaper lover, I certainly have my fingers crossed.
Coral and Sunflower cost £90 per 10m roll. Contact www.julietchadwick.com

Juliet Chadwick at her drawing board by Amy Parton
Coral by Juliet Chadwick. Photo by Robert Fairer

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