New Antique Books, Deborah Bowness

Profiles: Deborah Bowness

Homegirl London pays homage to Deborah Bowness.  With her creative and inventive take on decorative wall hangings – she’s the wallpaper woman to watch.  Her pieces include ‘wallpaper frocks,’ which are quite literally a dress, coat or ball gown hung on your wall as a stand-alone decorative delight or alongside one of her utility hangings – chairs, lamps or drawers.  I particularly love her fake books on shelves – fabulous if you want the illusion of reading matter without the dust.  Deborah’s ready-made room kits are fun – a collection of cut out household objects using wallpaper decoupages such as fake frames, gilded mirrors and phoney phones.  Simply ‘place and paste’ to create unconventional, interactive wall decoration.  Her artistic background includes BA (Hons) in surface pattern and textile design from Leeds College of Art and Design in 1997.  It’s the MA in printed textiles at The Royal College of Art in 1999 where she was first inspired to produce wallpaper which has become the focus of her business today.  I caught up with Deborah to ask a few questions …


Q: What’s your fascination with wallpaper?

A: I really wanted to make my art useful and wanted a functional surface with an instant result which took me in the direction of printing onto paper as opposed to fabric.  I was properly introduced to wallpaper when I visited Temple Newsam, a historic estate in Leeds.  I have strayed away from this medium a couple of time but have always returned because it is so satisfying.

Q: Did you have any wallpaper in your childhood bedroom and do you have any of your wallpaper in your current home?

A:  When I was a teenager I had ochre and pink floral Laura Ashley wallpaper which I thought was very stylish.  I don’t own my walls at present so have not had the pleasure of pasting any wallpaper to them.  I currently have some dodgy borders and one room is an offensive purple … YES purple.  If my walls were available I would go for other people’s designs … I think it would be floral chintz all the way.  I would change the walls often.

Q: How would you describe your wallpaper design style/techniques?

A:  I produce Trompe L’Oeil for the 20th century (which means ‘trick the eye’ in French and refers to the particular style of painting where the artist creates an illusion of space and painting an apparently three-dimensional image on the wall within the context of surrounding architecture).  My prints feature life-size domestic objects – I’m inspired by everyday objects around me.  The paper I make is unique.  I worked out my own production techniques and combine digital and silk screen printing.  I often describe the look like an old-style tinted photograph.  All the paper I design is printed in a small factory run by my sister in the north of England.

Q: Tell me more about your commissioned wallpaper service.

A: I have produced one-off site-specific installations for clients such as Polydor records, Christian Lacroix, Philippe Starck, Reebok, Selfridges, Sotheby’s and Paul Smith.  Through my commission service, I offer unique wallpapers where I work closely with the client to create an original, site-specific piece.  To me, this is the truest form of decorating, walls designed to express identity.

Q: You work with your sister in the business, how are your roles split and what is it like working with your sibling?

A: I’m lucky to be able to work with my sister, who has all the skills that I lack.  The split of roles was a natural process.  We do occasionally have to remind one another when we are stepping on each other’s toes.  When we do have our differences a resolve always means progress for the business.  We do challenge each other which is healthy.  I couldn’t think of a better person to work with as the trust is unspoken, Leigh’s drive is infectious and we get to see the world together which is fun.

Q: What’s been your most memorable career moment?

A: It’s been a continuous continuum … Peugeot design award, ROSL scholarship to travel!  Flown to New York to install an exhibition in Anthropologie.  Designing 12 windows for Selfridges in 6 weeks.  A burst water pipe flooding the basement of my shop.  Most recently being recognised as an artist and being commissioned by House 2012 to wallpaper walls on the streets of Brighton for the festival.

Q: What’s coming up in the future?

A:  We will be exhibiting at Decorex in September our first UK trade show since 2009.  There are quite a few new designs to be introduced to the collection plus new ranges and extensions to existing ranges.  Most inspiring for me at the moment is the opportunity to bring my one-off pieces and limited edition prints straight to market in our new webshop.

For more information about Deborah and to purchase her works visit Deborah Bowness.  You can also buy from Caravan, Atelier Abigail Ahern, Found Home Store Ltd, Mister Smith Interiors and Solid ID.  Credits: text by Homegirl London, images courtesy of Deborah Bowness, Abigail Ahern, Julian Anderson and Claire Richardson.  Special thanks to Deborah and Leigh Bowness.

Utility Tiles, Deborah Bowness
Utility tiles, £185 per drop

New Antique Books by Deborah Bowness

New antique books, £185 per drop

Grand Illusions, Deborah Bowness

Illusions of grandeur, £185 per panel

Utility Lamps, Deborah Bowness

Utlity lamp, £185 per drop

Flora and Fauna, Deborah Bowness

Flora and fauna, £185

Cagey Birds, Deborah Bowness

Cagey birds, £45

Clock Deborah Bowness

Clock, £25