Monday, 4 January 2016

The Rolling Hills of Albion - A bespoke Wallpaper

A commission to design a wallpaper 
for the Albion pub, Hastings

The Albion wallpaper by Melissa White
The Albion wallpaper by Melissa White
Whilst Hastings Old Town has been heralded the new Shoreditch-on-sea The Albion pub at its heart had become a rather dilapidated boozer in need of an update. Straddling pedestrianised George Street and the seafront prom it was built as the Albion Hotel complete with stables in the 1830’s.
The Albion pub before its 2015 renovation
The Albion pub before its 2015 renovation
The new owners, Adam Daly and Bob Tipler have recently been revitalised Hastings’ music scene by establishing popular music festivals in a town rich in musicians and aficionados. Now, in need of a musical HQ, they have taken on this ambitious transformation and engaged local artisans to give the venue something unique.

When I was approached to propose a wallpaper design that epitomised the spirit of Albion I was delighted to take on a project in my hometown. 
The seafront bar before renovations
The seafront bar before renovations
The space for the wallpaper was high-up between the room's panelled walls and a cornice so it made sense to design a landscape to run around the room as a frieze. 

Drawing inspiration from 18th century painted wall hangings and tapestry cartoons I designed a bucolic scene of rolling hills and towering trees. A watery blue/green colour palette was chosen to keep the bar where it would hang, light and airy with an indirect nod to its seafront location. 

My references had been populated with exotic birds and distant Italianate buildings so I removed those to make the scene look more like home. A windmill, a bridge and, as requested by the clients, our local Hastings castle in homage to 1066 Country.

Detail showing Hastings Castle
Detail showing Hastings Castle
At early design meetings we had envisaged hunting scenes with wild boar, dogs and all sorts going on but as we progressed a calmer more serene mood developed with animals going about their business unhindered. Deer and stags, a dashing hare and a rabbit (spot him in the hedges). 

Detail showing stags and a rabbit
Detail showing stags and a rabbit
The sky is populated with birds whilst a tawny owl surveys all from his tree. 

Detail showing crows and an owl
Detail showing crows and an owl
The Process:

As with much of my design work, I collect my ideas and references together in Photoshop where I create the composition and the repeat (in this case a simple horizontal repeat). Then it's off to my studio to translate into paint. I do this initially using acetates and an overhead projector to guide me with the general structure of the design. then I work from sketches and references to complete the detail. 

Studio setup
The scene was painted with my favourite fresco secco technique whereby I build up a plastered surface over hessian and paint on this before rubbing back and distressing the paintwork to "settle in" the patina. 

At studio painting the design
At studio painting the design
Finally the flexible substrate is attached to a plywood panel to reinforce it.

Adding the finishing touches to the artwork mounted on its panel
Adding the finishing touches to the artwork mounted on its panel
Next the panel goes off to be professionally scanned in London and comes back to me as a huge digital file. Back in front of my computer I set to work making any final adjustments to the paintwork and mending the repeat so that it joins up perfectly left to right. 

A few proofs later and the client has selected the more muted of the colourways options.

colour proofs
colour proofs
I then scale the file up to its final 140cm height (having painted it at 60%) and zap it over to my fabulous printers who work their magic on it. A few days later it arrives at The Albion in a continuous 20m long roll of beautifully printed wallpaper. The finish we went for was a lustrous mica paper and it was expertly hung just days before the grand re-opening.

Mica finish wallpaper being hung in the seafront bar
Mica finish wallpaper being hung in the seafront bar
As you enter the airy seafront bar the undulating scene is both unexpected and enchanting.

Wallpaper in situ
Wallpaper in situ

Wallpaper in situ
Wallpaper in situ

There is still work being carried out at the Albion. Local metal artist extraordinaire Leigh Dyer, who made the bar stools and zinc bar tops is currently creating impressive chandeliers for the coved ceilings. He also made the front signage based on the artwork I was commissioned to design for the pub's branding:

Signage by Leigh Dyer based on my brand design graphics
Signage by Leigh Dyer based on my brand design graphics

Leigh's metalwork: components for the signage and oak leaves for the chandeliers (bottom left)
Leigh's metalwork: components for the signage
and oak leaves for the chandeliers (bottom left)

The Albion is open every day and plays host to the best bands in Hastings. Keep up with events via their Facebook page and Website.  

My Albion wallpaper is available to order p.o.a. 

I am very happy to discuss bespoke wallpapers &'s one of my favourite thing to do :)

Friday, 4 September 2015

Announcing my new STUDIO SHOP

I am very excited to announce the opening of my online STUDIO SHOP!

Melissa's shop logo

On a glorious day this summer, as I glanced around my sunbathed studio, I realised it was time to add a new string to my creative bow. 

My busy work space was glowing with colour and pattern like an Aladdin's cave. All sorts of pieces were on display, leaning against walls, hanging on hooks, draped, propped and pinned around to keep me inspired and motivated.

The studio looked particularly emporium-like from a recent photoshoot and I thought....

It's about time I had a "shop" 

brushes, Melissa painting, saffron walden cloth

My studio is tucked away in a residential area in what used to be a bakery. I receive clients there by appointment but no passers by, no browsers....

I mostly work to commission you see, and only occasionally produce "stock" for fairs, exhibitions, shops or galleries. And yet I have an ever-changing array of pieces I've painted or designed that are for sale.

Now suddenly e-commerce has become available and efficient and artists like me can do it all ourselves. So exciting! 

I've chosen to use SupaDupa to build my shop and it has been a breeze. I hope you'll take time to have a rummage and if you see anything you like, making a purchase couldn't be safer or easier. what's for sale?

Melissa's studio panorama

...all sorts of FRESCO SECCO wall art....

a few of Melissa's fresco secco panels

...CUSHIONS...if I'm required to make one, I'll often make up four to use up a metre of fabric....

Zoffany Verdure cushions

....FABRICS.... during collaborations with fabric and wallpaper brands I sometimes end up with spare samples and colour trials....

pile of Zoffany Canterbury linen

...these may become cushions or be sold as OFF CUTS....

Zoffany Arden velvet cushions

...more FRESCO SECCO...I produce paintings for an American publishing and licensing company called Wild Apple and when my original artwork is returned this gets mounted ready for sale...

wild apple fresco secco pieces

...and then there are the pieces I make in between commissions when I have time to paint what I fancy....

black butterfly fresco secco

Shhh don't tell anyone but I've also created a SECRET SALE corner....

here you'll find bits and bobs that may have been hanging around the studio a little too long. Or pieces that are slightly damaged, or where the design didn't quite fit right on the cushion or that are ex-display or ex-perimental....

shelf of painted cushions

scraps of painted linen

So I hope you'll come and have a browse and keep coming back as everything is a one-off and when it's gone it's gone....unless you commission another (!)


Tuesday, 21 April 2015

MAKE/CREATE exhibition

For the all new LONDON CRAFT WEEK I've been invited to be take part in an experimental collaboration with a contemporary artist.

Painted Cloth: distressing the surface
Painted Cloth: distressing the surface
MAKE / CREATE will pair 13 craft scholars (me included) from the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (QEST) with 13 contemporary artists selected by Griffin Gallery, for a creative dialogue with each other. 

The Crypt Gallery, St Pancras Church, Euston Road, London, NW1 2BA

The exhibition will take place at the pop-up, underground Crypt Gallery in St Pancras Church, Euston. It is one of many events taking place during LONDON CRAFT WEEK (6 - 10th May). 
London craft week logo

The city's new annual event will showcase "exceptional craftsmanship through a journey-of-discovery" and will feature hidden workshops and both celebrated and upcoming makers alongside famous shops, galleries and luxury brands.

The spirit of the Griffin Gallery's MAKE/CREATE exhibition "lies in the desire to demonstrate the contemporary nature of craft, and the craft involved in contemporary art – changing perceptions of both" (Griffin Gallery)

Test pieces for the final painted cloth
Test pieces for the final painted cloth
I am collaborating with conceptual artist Chantal Powell on a work that combines my large Tudor painted cloths (such as the one pictured below) with her theatrical installation pieces.  

Reproduction Elizabethan painted cloth: "Kent Multivine"
Reproduction Elizabethan painted cloth: "Kent Multivine"

Titled “Veneer” our installation will play on notions of imitation, illusion and deception.

At this stage the components are still coming together as we work from separate studios 100 miles apart (Southampton and Hastings) so for now, here's my perspective. 

The collaboration began when we first met in February 2015, paired because Griffin Gallery saw potential creative connections between our very different artistic practices. 

With Chantal's focus on concepts of truth and illusion, reality and deception, she honed in on similar elements in my Elizabethan work.  The wall paintings and painted cloths I reproduce from the 16th and 17th centuries are laden with imitation. Our domestic ancestors covered their walls in aspirational motifs designed to express status, intellect and allegiance. For example the painted cloth below mimics expensive wooden panelling.

reproduction Elizabethan painted cloth
Our reproduction Elizabethan painted cloth for
Shakespeare's Birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon
These decorative paintings often imitated expensive tapestries, wainscotting and woven textiles. Motifs could be borrowed from craftsmen's patterns books for ironwork or knot gardens, glazing patterns or embroidery stitches and re-appropriated as wall decoration. The C16th wall painting below references luxurious gold thread embroidery.

Original Elizabethan wall painting in Oxford
Original Elizabethan wall painting in Oxford

And so grew the idea of creating a dramatic painted cloth with historic faux elements and setting it amongst sculptural objects that present us with more falsity: pretend panelling, artificial floorboards, the illusion of aged surfaces and expensive materials. 

An exploration of how both then and now we create domestic settings that reflect a reality we aspire to.   

Sewing 3 panels of my cloth together
Sewing 3 panels of my cloth together to make one big piece

The installation will be animated by amateur footage of a guided tour of Hearst Castle, William Randolph Hearst's pastiche laden mansion in California. Shoehorned with genuine and reproduction architecture and antiques, this Hollywood fantasy both deceives and beguiles visitors as we hope to do on a smaller scale at The Crypt Gallery in May.

We hope you can make it to MAKE/CREATE for a show that promises some intriguing collaborations between artists and craftsmen. 

We can't wait to see what our fellow collaborators have been working on too. 

map of Crypt Gallery near St Pancras Station, London
Map of Crypt Gallery near St Pancras Station, London

Friday, 3 October 2014

The Triumph of BACCHUS

My latest design for Lewis and Wood has won BEST PRINTED FABRIC at the Homes and Gardens Fabric Awards 2014.
Bacchus linen in Meade colourway
Bacchus linen in Meade colourway
The awards were announced at a glamorous breakfast event at Ham Yard, the stunning new Firmdale hotel in Soho. Homes and Gardens editors Giles Kime and Deborah Barker hosted the event and Firmdale's design director Kit Kemp gave a talk about the development of this fabulous hotel. (I am now completely besotted with Kit Kemp style - it's a blast!)

The Judges said of Bacchus: "Different to anything else, Lewis and Wood’s fabric is interesting and beautiful, with a stunning soft palette.”

Homes & Gardens Fabric Award for Bacchus
Homes & Gardens Fabric Award for Bacchus
Bacchus is part of Lewis and Wood's English Ethnic Collection launched in March this year. I joined artists Su Daybell and Flora Roberts in creating six distinctive designs united in their dynamic and large scale format.

The English Ethnic girls:
The English Ethnic girls: Melissa White, Flora Roberts & Su Daybell

Lewis and Wood, being a fairly small UK fabric house, are unhindered by trends and seem to thrive on innovation and originality. It was fascinating and exciting collaborating with them and I'm thrilled with the resulting Bacchus and my other design; Rococo (below).

Rococo wallpaper in Heraldic colourway
Rococo wallpaper in Heraldic colourway
Read more about Rococo in this post

Bacchus in meade colourway.
Bacchus in meade colourway. 
Seen here in front of a Swedish bureau by Lorfords Antiques 

Bacchus is a large scale swirling multivine, derived from a rare black and white Elizabethan wall painting in Kent.

16th century multivine wall painting in a private house in Kent
16th century multivine wall painting in a private house in Kent

It's a masterful, full wall painting  that would have been carried out by itinerant craftsmen during our late flowering Renaissance. I've interpreted the design in various ways over the years so it has become an old friend:

Multivine painted cloth by MW, Norfolk
Multivine as a painted cloth battened to walls in a Norfolk castle

Multivine curtain by MW on hand painted linen
Multivine curtain: hand painted linen 

Multivine cushion by MW
Multivine cushion: hand painted grain sack

Multivine fresco secco by MW
Multivine fresco secco: hand painted, plastered wall panel
The original painting is very large scale (about 5m wide x 2m high) so to coax it into a manageable repeat I pulled out a central element to maintain the scrolling flow, nudging it into a more formal arrangement. All the while trying to maintain the spirit of the original.

Melissa painting Bacchus artwork
Melissa painting Bacchus artwork for Lewis & Wood

The design is finished with the original border which, in the 16th century frieze, runs across the top. Here we have placed it down both sides of both the fabric and the wallpaper so that it can be left in place or detached to use as a trim.

Bacchus in "malt" colourway
Bacchus in "malt" colourway
The whole repeat runs up and down vertically and, if you trim the border, it joins horizontally as a half drop repeat.

The images below show how the trimmed border can be cleverly used to frame walls and furniture.

Bacchus wallpaper in Grigio colourway
Bacchus wallpaper in Grigio colourway

Bacchus linen in Grigio colourway
Bacchus linen in Grigio colourway

I adore the Kent wall painting with its honest, spontaneous and bold execution. It exemplifies why I pursue the wall paintings of this period and thrive on reviving them to be appreciated today.

Detail of 16th century multivine wall painting
Detail of 16th century multivine wall painting
Homes and Gardens also nominated Su Daybell's turbulent Force 9 wallpaper from the English Ethnic collection:

Detail of Su Daybell's Force 9 wallpaper
Detail of Su Daybell's Force 9 wallpaper in Big Blue colourway

It was up for Best Wallpaper over £40 a roll. See all the Homes and Gardens winning fabrics and papers on their Living Beautifully website.

Meanwhile here are all 6 of the English Ethnic designs:

English Ethnic all 6 designs
English Ethnic all 6 designs

Further exploration:

Lewis & Wood

Homes & Gardens magazine

Su Daybell artist and florist aka Twig of Tetbury

Flora Roberts artist

Firmdale Hotels

Mike Garlick photography (for Lewis & Wood)

and of course me and all my stuff