Block-printed on a painted ground, Sunflower is a contemporary wallpaper created using techniques popular in the early years of wallpaper production. The design is printed in two colors with a single set of blocks, with the registration shifted after the printing of the first color. This two-layer printing over painted ground creates a subtle all-over effect. Eliminating voids in the pattern creates a nice flow over the wall surface.

This effect brings to mind the slip-printed wallpapers produced in the late 18th century. Wood blocks were labor-intensive to produce and each color printed required its own set of blocks. The price of the finished paper was partially determined by the number of printed colors. In the late 18th century, manufacturers developed a more cost-effective technique for printing designs in two contrasting colors using a single set of blocks, called a slip print. After printing the first color, the registration was shifted a fraction of an inch and the second color was printed to create a relief effect. While printing this second color only marginally increased the production cost and the time necessary to produce, it greatly enhanced the visual effect of the design. The Museum acquired two wallpapers produced by the Alpha Workshops, both of which are beautiful examples of very contemporary designs created using old techniques. These designs represent how the past inspires the future.

Dedicated to creating beauty and changing lives, the Alpha Workshops is the nation’s only non-profit organization providing creative HIV-positive individuals with industry-specific training and employment in the decorative arts. It was founded in 1995 in the Chelsea area of Manhattan and is modeled on the famed Omega Workshops, the Wiener Werkstätte, the Bauhaus, and the American Arts and Crafts movement.

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