Screenprinting a Wallpaper design – 12 December

Several of the wallpapers used in Sonic Wallpapers were printed using woodblocks, while other designs caused much speculation about their means of production. Researching this online led me to this amazing video clip – which was filmed at Cole & Sons, but which has absolutely no sound! I contacted Cole & Sons to ask if I might collect some field-recordings detailing how some of their wallpapers are made, and they were very helpful and said I could visit their factory and record the machinery in action. Over 60 objects in the MoDA collection were printed at Cole & Sons, so I was hopeful that some of the sounds I would capture may relate to how the wallpapers in Sonic Wallpapers had actually been made.

This recording wasn’t used in the end in any of the Sonic Wallpaper pieces, however it details the process of screen-printing a design onto paper. The paper has been pre-printed with a background colour, and in this stage of the process a layer of silver, solvent-based ink is being skimmed over the base colour through a silk-screen. Each time you hear a loud rolling sound, that is the sound of the ink being dragged across the screen; the low, bassy sound is the vacuum suction mechanism on the table kicking into action. That sucks onto the paper, holding it tight and in place while the ink is screen-printed onto it.

As with the weaving, there is a sort of rhythm to the labour. Every pause in between sounds is time being spent lining up the piece of paper to make sure it is in the right place for the next round of screen-printing.

I have one copy of the Sonic Wallpapers book to give to someone who would like to have a domestic listening experience for themselves! The book has all 18 wallpaper designs from the MoDA collection used in this project, and a CD in the back which contains all the sound pieces. There are introductions both by myself and Zoe Hendon who is the curator of MoDA, and notes on what people said, and what sounds were recorded, for each wallpaper included in the project.

Sonic Wallpapers book

Sonic Wallpapers CD

To win a copy of the book, you just need to leave a comment on this post: -> about a wallpaper that you remember from your life, and one sound you recall from the room where that wallpaper was. If you cannot think of a wallpaper design and a sound, you could also leave one thought/response you have to this project. On 24th December, I will draw a number at random and post out a copy of the book to the winner!

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