The Shells wallpaper is an interesting hybrid design combining a traditional vining floral design and shell art, or coquillage. The vine, foliage, and flowers are all composed of a variety of large and small sea shells. This design is screenprinted in five colors on a white ground. The 1960s sparked a revival of historical styles and there was a resurgence of art nouveau and art deco designs, restyled and colored to meet the current taste. Shells is an obvious play on the art nouveau style with its gentle flowing and curving forms.

Floral wallpapers form one of the largest wallpaper genres and have remained popular since their inception. The rendering of the floral motif changes with fashion, from realistic to stylized, small-scale to large, and this design offers a new interpretation of an old style. This design also takes its inspiration from another old tradition, that of shell art, said to be one of the oldest decorating techniques in the world. Shells have long been used to ornament clothing, make jewelry, and to line the walls of grottoes. The motif became popular during the Victorian era to create elaborate boxes, mirrors, and art pieces with shells. More recently, it has been suggested that a nautilus shell inspired Frank Lloyd Wright’s design of the Guggenheim Museum in New York City.

Woodson Wallpapers was founded by A. Woodson Taulbee in 1956. Woodson was known for its use of bright and vivid colors, and is credited with re-introducing the trend of using matched wallpapers and fabrics within a room. In the early 1960s, about 60% of his wallpaper collection was available with matching cotton or linen fabrics. Frederick Bradley was one of the more prolific designers at Woodson, and after joining the company in its early years, remained with the firm for over a decade.

One thought on “No Shell Shock with this Design

I have samples of wallpaper and fabric by Woodson called ‘Legend’. It is a whimsical black and white design featuring flora and fauna and folkloric characters. Can you tell me anything about this design? Dates in production, designer, etc? Thank you.

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