At first glance this wallpaper may appear to be a fragment but it is exactly one repeat of the pattern. Designed by Edward Bawden in 1927, Seaweed is a casual, very relaxed design. You can just imagine the different strands of seaweed gently swaying in the water’s current. Bawden was a watercolorist, book illustrator, mural painter, and designer. In 1925, Bawden saw William Morris’s wallpaper, Daisy, in an exhibition and was inspired to design his first wallpaper. Bawden’s favorite method of making prints was the linocut, or linoleum block print, which leaves a soft, somewhat imprecise print. The effect is very similar to printing with a rubber stamp where the ink is not evenly distributed across the design. While these prints did have a beautiful look, it was not an economical way to print wallpaper. Here, Harold Curwen of the Curwen Press, enters the picture. The Curwen Press excelled at lithography and proposed printing Bawden’s designs using this method. To capture the look of the linocut, the linoleum block design was printed on transfer paper, and then onto the lithograph plate (1). The fact that the lithograph technique prints in oil colors makes this water-themed paper an appropriate choice for a bathroom or other high-moisture area. The only possible downside to this printing technique was the fact that the wallpaper could only be printed in single sheets. It was not possible to print these designs in rolls. Bawden designed fourteen wallpapers for The Curwen Press between 1926 and 1933.
(1). “A Popular Art, British Wallpapers 1930-60”, an exhibition from the Silver Studio Collections, 1989.