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Behind the Scenes
The walls of Adelphi Paper Hangings, in Sharon Springs, New York, are lined with the company's colorful wares: reproductions of wallpaper dating to the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early-twentieth centuries.
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Behind the Scenes
For a colorful ground layer, artisan Dave Cocco applies distemper paint with a two-knot brush (a single brush with two heads), which helps hold the large quantity of paint required to get full coverage.
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Covering the Bases
After applying the paint, he hoists the paper onto a ceiling-mounted drying rack, where it rests overnight.
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Wallpaper production is a physically demanding job. To help lighten the load, large woodblocks can be attached to an overhead pulley system, where lead weights counter some of the heaviness.
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On a Roll
Elmwood Floral is a recent addition to Adelphi's ever-expanding catalog. It's a late-eighteenth-century pattern licensed from the archives of Historic New England, a heritage organization in Boston. Most of Adelphi's wallpaper patterns are produced using woodblocks, but for this design, two of the colors are applied with stencils.
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Swatches show the various colorways Adelphi has developed for its many patterns; the first colorway is always a faithful reproduction of the original.
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Fine paintbrushes are used for touch-ups during printing.
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Using a two-knot brush (a single brush with two round heads), Dave Cocco applies a base coat of distemper paint.
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Allowing the Paper to Dry
Dave Cocco prepares to lift paper onto a drying rack, where it will hang overnight.
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The printing surface of the wooden blocks is made from Swiss pear. Patterns are carved out initially with a laser engraver.
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In addition to wallpaper, Adelphi recently started reproducing decorative panels. This French neoclassical design from the early 19th century is still in development.
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Tools of the Trade
After returning from the laser engraver, every block is finished by hand with a chisel.
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An Artist at Work
Artisan Jenn Delpit prints the end of a roll of Hedge House Stripe, originally a roller-printed pattern from the late 19th century.
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Lining Up the Pattern
Registration pins on the edges of the printing blocks help the artisan align the block. The pins line up with registration marks printed with the first color of the pattern.
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Allowing the Designs to Dry
After Dave Cocco prints all seven colors of the Elmwood Floral design, he drapes the paper over a sawhorse to dry.
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Made to Order
There are hundreds of paint colors in storage, organized by pattern. All of Adelphi's wallpapers are printed to order.
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Attention to Detail
Artisans Dave Cocco and Steve Larson inspect new blocks before fine-tuning them with a chisel and mallet.
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Jenn Delpit uses a small block to print the dark-brown outline of Hedge House Stripe.
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Jenn Delpit lines up a small block with the rest of the pattern. The process requires steady hands to keep the design consistent.
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The artisans use a felt that has been saturated with paint to coat the blocks, one color at a time. Jenn Delpit presses the block into paint-saturated felt.
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Jenn Delpit prints while sections that have already been printed dry on a ceiling-mounted rack.
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After the last color, black, is printed, the roll of Elmwood Floral is complete and ready to dry.
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Adelphi keeps several hundred blocks in storage. The staff tries to maintain moderately high humidity in the storage room, since changes in humidity can cause the blocks to warp or split.
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Blocks can last for a long time if stored properly. Adelphi artisans still use some of the same blocks from the company's launch 10 years ago.
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The Building's History
Adelphi's late-19th-century building has a rich and varied history. Over the years, the first floor has played host to a violin maker, a cafe, a video-rental store, and a grocer; the second floor was once an opera house.
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A wall at Adelphi is hung with Webb House Damask, a mid-18th-century motif that decorated a Connecticut bedroom for a visiting George Washington. Webb House Damask is reproduced in a new colorway (the original featured red flock on crimson paper).
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Artisan Dave Cocco unrolls paper in preparation for applying a ground paint color.
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