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March 21st, 2012

 

Marthe Armitage studied painting at Chelsea School of Art just after the war. When marriage and motherhood interrupted she laid down her brush, but then in the 60s she and her architect husband wanted to live with a new more minimal style of decoration, and she began to design wallpaper. ‘I’d done a bit of lino cutting at school’ she remembers. ‘ It struck me you could make wallpaper that way.’ Her first design ‘Angelica’ was based on this vigorous cow parsley-like plant which grew all along the river bank at Chiswick where she pushed a pram.

 

She cut her design into big blocks and printed it on rolls of lining paper, laid out on the floor.

Marthe Armitage

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These blocks ‘last for ever,’ and she is still printing from them today. A hundred year old lithographic proofing press made things easier and the garage at the bottom of the garden became her studio.

 

 Even so, in the eighties and nineties she found herself thinking ‘but nobody wants them. Her wallpaper was a fairly exclusive secret. People saw it on other people’s walls, at a neighbour’s or at dinner with the Warden of All Souls College Oxford, and sent her a line. It was only when the design company Hamilton Weston asked to represent her in 2004 that she looked back over her archive and thought (with astonishing modesty), ‘well perhaps they are … something.’

 

She goes on walking about, looking over walls into other people’s gardens, and dreaming up new patterns. ‘Chesnut’ was made for a friend who wanted to see foliage when she woke in her urban bedroom. With her daughter Joanna Broadhurst she still prints by hand in the colour of your choice, though her own preference is for a palette of greens, blues, dull blacks and ochres. Her papers look good in Victorian houses she says, lending themselves to long drops, but their serendipity is that they will look good anywhere. ‘Manor House’ is a piece of Bawden-inspired Jacobean topography, while ‘Jungle Birds’ is boldly graphic. She designed an ‘Alphabet’ wallpaper for The Woman in Black, (the film adaptation of Susan Hill’s ghost story), papering the haunted nursery full of automata where Daniel Radcliffe meets his nemesis, and she is always open to ideas for new commissions.

[All images : copyright bibleofbritishtaste.com ]

To celebrate Marthe show at Hogarth's House in West London until May, I am posting this photograph of what is probably my favourite of all her patterns, 'Gardeners,' taken in her sitting room, where the hand made lamp seen behind the sofa was designed by her late husband. A new version of this lamp with 'dunce's cap' shades made by her talented grandson Joe can be seen and bought from his website here.

To celebrate Marthe show at Hogarth’s House in West London until April 27th, I am posting this photograph of what is probably my favourite of all her patterns, ‘Gardeners,’ taken in her sitting room, where the hand made lamp seen behind the sofa was designed by her late husband. A new version of this lamp with her  ‘dunce’s cap’ wallpaper shades, made by her talented grandson Joe, can be seen and bought from his website here.

11 responses to “The best hand-made wallpaper in the world is by Marthe Armitage.”

  1. Marion E. O'Hearn says:

    Wonderful…Beautiful…Very Special……………..A True Treasure. I would simply love just a poster.

  2. James Curran says:

    Such beautiful, timeless work. An inspiring lady.

  3. Such beautiful work. I would like to let my clients have access to seeing and having these beautiful designs in their lives. How do I go about finding out more. E

  4. Gloria Dean says:

    Beautiful work, wonderful lady and such an inspiration.

  5. Val Bott says:

    May I use this comment box to do a small advert, please? Marthe Armitage’s wonderful wallpapers (with original drawings, linocuts and a few textiles are on show at Hogarth’s House in Chiswick until 25 April 2014. Don’t miss! Open Tues-Sun. 12 noon to 5pm, admission free!

  6. Abigail says:

    Hooked on Martha Armitages work.

  7. Gretchen Frank says:

    For an artist to be this modest about incredible work only shows how deep and true her
    artistic brilliance runs.

  8. Julie O'Neill says:

    You are truly inspirational – love your life story and success.

  9. Carla Johnson says:

    Just saw her wall covering in the new House Beautiful magazine and it blew my mind

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