The fine art of designing and hand-printing wallpaper.
Martinborough couple Ben and Helen Masters came up with the concept in 2009, after their search for an “interesting” wallpaper to decorate their own home reached a dead end. During the week, Helen is busy as head winemaker at nearby Ata Rangi vineyard, so the bulk of the design and printing falls to Ben; he used to work as an interior designer and has also followed in the footsteps of his artist mother, Wendy Masters, having had several exhibitions of his paintings.
Handprinting the paper is a far more labour-intensive process than digital printing, says Ben, who painstakingly creates the designs in a relocated workshop next to the home he and Helen share with their two children, Stella, 14, and Harvey, 12. Water-based, solvent-free inks, and paper made using natural wood fibre and mesh screens, produce a more authentic result. “There’s more variation in the print, and the odd slight imperfection, which makes it look and feel more natural.”
Most of the designs include distinctly New Zealand elements, such as flax, native birds, deer and fish. He’s also been asked to recreate wallpaper for the West Coast’s Ōkārito general store from a piece of salvaged 1900s wallpaper, and has designed and printed 30 rolls of wallpaper for a cottage in Foxton where the owners had unearthed a scrap of the original 1872 paper.
New Zealanders are moving away from painted white interiors, says Masters. “People have been focused on adding more depth, character and layering into their homes, and letting their spaces reflect their own personality, which is something wallpaper does.”