Shop Tour: Adelphi Paper Hanging

Adelphi Paper Hanging is America’s only producer of block printed historical wallcoverings.
Adelphi Paper Hanging
aboveSteve Larson and Chris Ohrstrom founded Adelphi Paper Hangings in 1999.

Over 20 years ago,Steve Larson and Chris Ohrstrom founded Adelphi Paper Hangings with the intention of preserving a nearly forgotten craft: block printing wallpaper by hand. Their archive is now considerable.

Sought out by restoration specialists, museums, historic sites, and homeowners as well, Adelphi is the only commercial production facility block printing historic papers in the United States.

Working from an archive of historic documents and fragments, these dedicated artisans make accurate replicas of wallcoverings from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. The patterns are printed using custom-made, pearwood printing blocks and paints based on traditional formulas and materials.

Where no block exists, an in-house artist creates a series of transparencies from the original document paper, for each color in the pattern. The transparencies are sent with fresh wood blocks to a company that laser-cuts the pattern onto the blocks.

Adelphi Paper Hanging
Steve Larson of Adelphi Paper Hangings hand prints one of several colors on a roll of ‘Pineapples’, a wallpaper pattern discovered on a wood bandbox.

Depending on the project, rolls are either printed on continuous sheets of acid-neutral, cotton-based paper or on individual sheets glued together, as would have been done with papers made before about 1800.

Adelphi Paper Hanging
An artist prepares to match a repeat on ‘Chestertown Vine’ with a freshly inked block.

Before any color or pattern goes on, the paper is coated with a chalk-based paint and hung to dry. Printing begins by brushing the paint into a felt and tamping the printing block into the paint. Using a foot-operated lever system, the block is pressed into the paper, then gently lifted. The paper roll is advanced and the process repeated.

Adelphi Paper Hanging
An artist-drawn transparency is the basis for a new wood block at Adelphi Paper Hangings.

Applying multiple colors to a single roll of paper means making precise impressions with the block, one color at a time. As each color is applied, it’s allowed to dry in undulating festoons. Successive colors are block printed in perfect register with the previous ones. That is why block printing is so time consuming and labor intensive to make. “If we print one color on 15 rolls, that’s a good day’s work,” Larson says. 

Adelphi Paper Hangings
Sharon Springs, New York
(518) 284-9066

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