In days long gone, wallpaper was made by hand. It was time consuming and specialist and these days wallpaper is made by machines. But, there are still two companies left in France where the 17th century hand and wood block form of printing is still used as it has been for hundreds of years.
Atelier d’Ofard Tours
Tucked away in a side street in Tours in the Loire Valley is a small, barn-like building and inside, working away quietly and dextrously are a group of dedicated artists who create amazing wallpapers.
If you’ve ever wondered about the stunning wall coverings you see in Chateaux all over France including Marie Antoinette’s bedroom at Versailles – well this is the place to go to find out more. I have to tell you, you’ll need to make a reservation to visit and view. And it’s all in French. But it’s quite fascinating and you have an interest in the arts and in wallpaper (call me strange but I do) then you’ll love this place.
Versace and Hermès are among their clients, and, when I went, they were hand printing a blue and white stripe paper (photos below) for the bedroom of Chopin’s house in Salzburg. They’ve made paper for Angouleme Cathedral, castles in the UK and all manner of illustrious buildings.
Making hand-blocked wallpaper to centuries olds methods
The small team of specialists here are devoted to their jobs. From the person who draws the designs, to the cutter who creates the blocks and those who print and check each piece by eye then hang it up to air dry. After which it’s carefully packed and hung by a team of specialists as this is no ordinary wall paper you glue and push on the wall – it’s very fragile. Nothing is rushed, it takes time to create history on paper.
In fact, three whole days are needed to create 1 metre of wall paper with a complex design. Three days.
If you’re thinking of ordering your own bespoke roll it’s expensive, but maybe not as much as you might think at around Euros 550 for 10 m of a 2-colour roll. It’s the colour that dictates the price – the more colour, the more time is involved in stamping with blocks and the more time it takes to dry. They do, they tell me occasionally machine print for example if they’re making a huge amount such as for a cinema. But, it’s the hand-blocked, beautifully coloured, time-consuming wallpaper that draws the eye. The tiny imperfections make it authentic and unique.
The drawers and shelves of the atelier are stuffed full of samples some of which are hundreds of years old. Precious tissues that have come down through the ages, a record of styles and fashions, it’s quite fascinating.
Tours are available by reservation at: cargocollective.com/aterlierdoffard
For more information on tourism in the area see: www.tours-tourism.co.uk; www.valdeloire-france.com; uk.france.fr