Tie-dye wallpaper. Designed and made by Barbara White, New York, 1958. Gift of Barbara White.

Wallpapers in Tie-dye

Tie-dye wallpaper shows the influence of pop culture on the decorative arts. Designed and produced by Barbara White in 1958, this handmade paper was produced using only rice paper and Higgins inks. These designs were created by manipulating the ink with added moisture. The paper was placed on a glass surface, then moistened. The colors were applied with a brush, then the paper was strategically folded over onto itself, then squeezed to spread and blend the colors. It was then unfolded and left to dry. These were also created in matched sets of wallpapers and borders.

White traveled to Japan to study the art of paper folding and dying, and after mastering these techniques created a wide range of patterns using these skills. All of her designs were produced on single sheets of paper. White tie-dye wallpapers were created for and sold through the Karl Mann wallpaper company. Along with tie-dye papers she also created a line of molded papers, where the paper pulp was mixed in a variety of shades, then melded together into interesting patterns and color combinations.


The technique of tie dye dates back to ancient times, but didn’t reach its peak in the West until the 1960s and 70s with the beatnik and hippie movements. Tie dye appealed to this generation as it allowed them to be very expressive, and was easy and inexpensive to do.

Museum Number: 
2000-64-1