Another floral design, but not “just another floral.” This wallpaper is truly a product of the late 1960s, printed in four deeply saturated colors of flock on a marbled Mylar foil ground. From a distance it takes on the appearance of clouds with their free-form, rather ambiguous shapes. But closer inspection reveals this is indeed flowers, with each color flower rendered in a different manner. The red flowers are composed of many petals, maybe representing daisies or asters; the green flowers contain far fewer petals with a yellow center; the orange flowers are drawn as heavy circles, rather taking on the appearance of Life Savers candy. A closer look shows they do indeed have petals. The yellow flowers are more densely packed making it hard to discern individual shapes. And behind all this is the metallic, reflective Mylar foil, printed with a marbled pattern. While only bits of the foil are exposed through the density of flower motifs, it is enough to give the pattern some movement. There are some older flocked wallpapers in the collection that are printed with flock on top of flock which creates an interesting look, creating a very tactile surface with even more relief. But I think this design takes the cake when it comes to most colors of flock. Mitchell had a number of wallpapers in this collection printed with multiple colors of flock on Mylar, while others were printed on cork.
Mylar is the brand name for a special type of stretched polyester film developed by DuPont in the 1950s. I don’t have a date when wallpaper designers and manufacturers started printing on Mylar foil, though Florence Broadhurst in Sydney, Australia, may have been one of the first. By the late 1960s many companies were introducing wallpapers printed on this material. NASA’s Echo II balloon was launched in 1964, composed of Mylar film sandwiched between layers of aluminum foil. Maybe this was the inspiration. I love Mylar foil wallpapers, which may be a good thing as they are back in a big way today.
Greg Herringshaw is the Assistant Curator in the Wallcoverings Department at Cooper Hewitt.