During the mid 20th century wallpaper production benefited from technological advances with the introduction of new processes such as gravure, flexo and continuous rotary printing which virtually wiped out the limitations of the current technology of the time.
Today it is digital print which brings the story up to date. Now it is possible to reproduce photographs and digital art with ultraviolet cured inks that can be scaled to to fit custom projects.
The Anstey wallpaper factory in Loughborough has been in production for over 100years and they have accumulated a profile and expertise which is unparalleled, making them the one of the largest, most capable and versatile wallcovering printers in Europe. They print for many prestigious clients, as well as being involved in restorations of Royal residences around the world and the Palace of Westminster.
On a recent tour of the factory, the breadth of their expertise is undeniable. Hand carved block printing is still possible with original machinery, hand printed silkscreen production regularly takes place on unimaginably long tables and the skilled eye of an accomplished technician oversees many processes just as in the times before mass production. Now, the once cutting edge technology of the heavy, etched copper cylinders used for gravure, which 60years ago were so new and revolutionary, occupy an entire warehouse and form an incredible archive of both current and old designs, ready for immediate reuse, reworking into contemporary colour-ways or in conjunction with other concepts and processes.
Their passion for, and long tradition in the industry, sees them at the forefront of an exciting new wave of designers who are capitalising on digital advancements and completely re-inventing the concept of wallpaper. With their digital print room, the clattering, inky environment of factory production is replaced with the futuristic, atmosphere controlled hum of large format digital printers that steadily and cleanly build infinite colour into exquisitely detailed images and designs with breathtaking accuracy. At this level technically, and creatively, wallpaper looks set to have a renaissance which might finally see it enjoying the limelight at last.