Elevating Wallpaper Into Fine Art

Whether it’s the bright city lights, the sunrise at dawn or the Aurora Borealis, Nicolas Cope and Rachel Mosler seek to capture the ‘heavenly’ aspects of light in their exquisite Calico Wallpaper collection. Hailing from New York, the duo collect images of light in the way that one might collect postcards: as mementos inspired by the backdrop to the Statue of Liberty or a neighbour who watches the sunset each evening.

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However Calico Wallpaper, whose namesake is their treasured Calico cat, was not always part of their grand plan. Nicolas, a contractor by trade, and Rachel a therapist, happened upon the idea when left stranded for a month after Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012.

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Following lengthy experiments with various fabric dye techniques – the pair began to work with Dieu Donné “to make a 100% cotton fibre paper that enabled them to create the largest marbled papers in existence”. Now, drawing inspiration from ancient Japanese and Turkish marbling traditions such as the Suminagashi and Ebruhe, they use these “motifs as a catalyst for creating contemporary design work” and consider it their responsibility to continue this “human effort”; which, in their eyes, is already perfect.

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Shopikon caught up with the Calico team recently to discuss their vision and how they implement “the phenomena of light” into their designs.

There are spiritual and elemental themes running through your work where you have stated that you are “inspired by horizons at dawn and the phenomena of light”. Where in the world have you encountered the most impressive natural light?

Calico Wallpaper: This is such a challenging question, yet the answer for us is so simple. Home. In Red Hook, Brooklyn, we have the loveliest light each evening as the sun sets behind the Statue of Liberty. It all feels very heavenly and wonderful – in fact, our pattern Aurora Ray, is named after a kind man in our building who spends each day watching the sun slowly descend and the sky darken.

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What are your top three favorite wallpapers and do you have any designs in your own home? 

CW: In our home we have Wabi River, Lunaris Midnight, and in another room, Aurora Ray. We feel that Wabi (light ground and gold metallic highlights) and Lunaris (dark ground and silver metallic highlights) are polar opposites in form and mood – they sit on two walls facing each other in our Brooklyn loft creating an interesting duality. Wabi represents everything good and light – it is playful, yet fancy and most definitely luxe. On the other hand Lunaris is dark and edgy, perhaps a bit more masculine one might say. In our bedroom, we wake every morning to an Aurora mural on the opposing wall – it is our eternal sunrise.

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You say that the idea for Calico wallpaper came to you when at a cross roads in your careers. What words of wisdom do you have for aspiring artistic entrepreneurs? 

CW: It may sound like a cliché, but I think that it is important to just go for it and figure it out as you go along. Rachel and myself never planned to be designers – I was a contractor and she a therapist, when we decided to embark on Calico Wallpaper. It was just all in the spirit of fun – yet folks responded to the product and it began to take off. Randomly, I was just watching Steve Jobs Stanford University speech, which is inspirational gold and wrote this down, which I believe to be true:

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking back. So you trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something; your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever, because believing that the dots will connect down the road, will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path. That will make all the difference.”

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What are your long-term hopes for Calico Wallpaper and do you have any exciting plans lined up?

CW: We just love seeing wallpaper that is faded and yet still hanging proudly in homes in upper Manhattan, or in London, etc. and would love to create timeless work. As for the near future, we are very excited about a new collection, titled “Inverted Spaces”, which has been created in collaboration with Amsterdam-based designers BCXSY, premiering in April at Spazio Rossana Orlandi. In May, we are showing a new collection at ICFF titled “Brasscloth”, which is comprised of lush metallic gradients on an interesting and textural material. We are also jointly presenting “Ladies & Gentleman Studio + John Hogan” with our friends for Sight Unseen’s OFFSITE fair. It’s going to be a fun and exciting installation!

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Watch Calico Wallpaper’s artisanal process of paper marbling in the video below: