Meet the newest member of our Indie studio family: Studio Printworks.
Studio Printworks embodies everything we love about independent studios. From their handmade products to their range of unique designs, it’s not hard to figure out why we are so excited to carry their products.
Temo Callahan and Dennis Shah are the founders of this 10 year old company. They maintain a level of skill second to none, making all their products by hand. However, this does not stop them from offering an impressive range of wallpapers and fabrics.
Studio Printworks was also founded with the vow to always put artistry over commerce. Which is why they offer their “Great Contemporary Artists Series”, collaborating with a new artist or designer each year.
While pushing their designs forward to meet contemporary styles, Temo and Dennis also consciously stay connected to the history and roots of wallpaper design. Their design process often involves research and inspiration from old masters. We love how their work references traditional design while pushing the industry forward.
Studio Printworks understands that their wallpapers are an applied art form, which has the power to elevate a client’s space AND spirit.
Join us as we delve deeper into their world…
Urban Source: Tell us how Studio Printworks manifested itself.
Timo Callahan: Studio Printworks was born in 2004. I had worked at Clarence House for twenty years and there became acquainted with Dennis Shah who happens to be the finest hand-screen printer in the world. His company printed (and still prints) for all the big dogs in the industry including Clarence House, Brunschwig & Fils, Schumacher, Scalamandre, etc. We became great friends and often discussed doing our own collection “some day”. That day finally became possible and we launched our first collection in the spring of 2005. We were featured prominently in the January issue of House & Garden and it basically put us on the map.
US: How did Studio Printworks get its’ name?
Timo Callahan: We wanted a name that emphasized the hand-made quality of the product. Hand screen-printing is a real art. Atelier seemed too pretentious so we settled on Studio. Printing is what we do thus Studio Printworks seemed appropriate.
Screen Printing at Studio Printworks
US: What was the driving force behind starting to create your own patterns?
Timo Callahan: We both felt that wallpaper needed a shot in the arm. It was drooping right off the walls! We wanted to make designs that would wake people up, driven by irony and wit, as well as beauty – something truly artistic. NOT your grandmother’s wallpaper! We found that there was a hunger in the world for more than just pretty.
Flypaper by Rob Wynne, as part of The Great Contemporary Artists Collection
Andy Dandy by Christopher Makos, as a part of The Great Contemporary Artists Collection
US: Your wallpaper patterns range from illustrative, to geometric, to classical. Can you talk about the importance of having such a range in your collection?
Timo Callahan: Well, you know, it’s nice to have something for everyone! We like to give people what they didn’t know they wanted. Even our more classical designs are underlain with the unexpected. We offer a classical damask pattern called “Memento Mori” which on first look is beautiful in and of itself, but revealed there amongst the acanthus leaves is a subtle, tone-on-tone human skull, a reminder that beauty outlives us all.
Memento Mori pattern
The repeating pattern of Memento Mori
US: What is one of your favorite patterns you offer?
Timo Callahan: You are asking me to choose between my children! You know, I love the underdogs. I love the designs that I know in my heart are truly great, but have not yet been discovered by the design public.
A head by a Nose wallpaper
US: What are the differences in printing fabric and wallpaper?
Timo Callahan: Oh, well, there is a great difference. When I was at Clarence House we did many of the same designs on fabric and paper. We always used the term “coordinating” rather than “matching.” Fabric is soft and absorbent and is usually printed with dye. Wallpaper is a harder surface and printed with inks and paints, therefore they will never “match.” This is important to understand when designing a space.
US: What is a typical work day like for you?
Timo Callahan: Printing! Daily! (We always quote two weeks or less because we print it ourselves.) Getting the samples out to showrooms here and abroad. Working with artisans, explaining what we want. Refining designs. Yakking with the press. Thinking two years ahead. Scouring books and magazines in search of inspiration. Sometimes trudging through the Chelsea galleries looking for the right artist. (We continue our Great Contemporary Artists Series, adding one or two fine artists to our roster every year.) And that’s just in the morning!!!
US: Your wallpapers and fabrics are hand silkscreened, can you talk about the importance of keeping this technique current in the industry?
Timo Callahan: Hand-screen printing is important because it is real art. This is the same technique used by fine artists. If our papers were numbered and signed they would be sold for thousands of dollars. Kiki Smith traced her drawing onto the acetate with her own hand before the screens were made. When someone purchases her wallpaper he or she is getting the real hand of the artist. I like for art to be available to all. Hand-screen wallpaper is art, applied art.
Kiki Smith drawing for the repeat pattern
Kiki Smith’s Maiden & Moonflower wallpaper. This wallpaper is now in the Brooklyn Museum.
US: Your company is often inspired by the spirit of 20th Century design masters, can you name a few of these masters and talk about how they specifically inspire/inform your company
Timo Callhan: Fine art and interior design have crossed-over through the centuries, just visit Pompeii! In the 20th century this became especially important with artists like Raoul Dufy, Pablo Picasso, Christian Berard, Salvador Dali. All were interested in design for interiors, for the theater, objects, screens, all manner of decor. It was an exciting time that we humbly try to emulate with the great artists of our day: Kiki Smith, Michele Oka Doner, Mark Fox, Rob Wynne, et al. There is a great deal of homework in what we do, bookwork and archival investigation. I am inspired almost every day by great historical design. We just have to tell the story in a new way.
Michele Oka Donner with her Studio Printworks wallpaper
US: Your company talks about wallpaper being produced specifically by artists. Can you talk more about how the process is enriched by artists?
Timo Callahan: Of course, every designer is an artist. Somewhere along the line the hand of the designer starts the whole thing, be it hand-screened products or something cranked out of a machine. I do not mean to denigrate the digital designs (many beautiful) that are being produced today. Sometimes an artist will prefer digital printing in order to get the idea across. Often they will prefer a process by hand. There is room for many techniques in the industry. As I’ve said, there is something for everyone.
Having said this, there is something so special about working with really superb contemporary artists. They are so fresh in their viewpoints and they don’t think like design-school trained designers. We learn so much from them as they learn the parameters of our craft.
Screen printing at Studio Printworks
Wallpaper during the printing process, on yardage tables
Screen printing at Studio Printworks
US: Where do you see Studio Printworks headed in the future? Do you have any new projects or patterns coming soon?
Timo Callahan: I hope we can continue to hold artistry above commerce. That was part of our original founding promise (though I wouldn’t mind making some money!).
We are delighted to be doing a collection with the wonderful entrepreneur John Derian this year. John has a wonderful historical eye; so creative and full of mischief. I’m sure you know his work. He is seen at Bergdorf’s in New York and many smaller venues across the country.
We have discovered a great young artist named Sparrow King whose new design “New Amsterdam” is full of witty scenes of contemporary New York.
The brilliant young artist George Venson did three designs for us last fall. I expect great things from him in the future.
Oh, it’s a constant process. I’m exhausted!!!
Thank you to Timo and the Studio Printworks team for making this interview possible. Urban Source is so excited to offer Studio Printworks patterns in our showroom. Stop in today to see our selection and check out samples.