Allyson McDermott

Updated: May 22, 2019

Talk and workshop at the William Morris society

10 May 2019

Since, February 2019I have been looking to meet Allyson, as I know her by her when I read about her conservation works at lot at some of London's important buildings and house like the Place of westminister, Linley Sambourne house. She is a wallpaper expert, a historian, a conservator, artist and a scientist. The lectures was shaped from talking about the history , origin of wallpaper in Britain in 17th century , to how handmade wallpaper were produced only for the riches and was a luxury to afford one to the time when wallpapers are ignored as an interior backdrop in modern era.

I saw some of the oldest wood blocks collection that are still used to manufacture historic patterns. It is noted from the lecture that Machine printed wallpapers and pattern can replicate the iconic wall coverings but as Allyson said historic wallpapers are still manufactured by hand made methods, by painting on the paper. Restoration schemes often begin with just a delicate shred of original paper, and Allyson continues to tell us the investigative techniques to identify the pigments, papers, varnishes and processes used by its makers.

She showed a A magnificent High Victorian Gothic wallpaper based on a design discovered in the Midland Grand Hotel, St Pancras names ` The Venetian’ his flamboyant design is printed, painted and hand stenciled on a 24 carat gold leaf background. It was precious.

She continues to explain the process, for her, the work often begins with standing in an empty room and asking it to 'speak' to her. However, when an interior is not immediately forthcoming, she knows what to look for. She says 'If I'm on the ground floor of a Georgian house, it will be a flock or damask. If I'm in the first-floor private apartments, it's more likely to be a whole suite of Chinese paper.

Once pigments, papers, varnishes and methodologies have been identified, the pattern will be drawn, transferred on to the computer and then sent to the block cutters. The blocks are then finished by hand. In the meantime, pigments are ground and applied with copies of eighteenth-century brushes in 6 to 7 layers on the paper depending on what colour one wants to achieve. Over the years, Allyson has built up an extraordinary archive of original papers, carved wooden blocks and digital images, which, until recently, languished in her studio. The workshop involved making ground using chalk powder, animal glue, and natural oil + natural pigment paints to make a flock wallpaper print.