Cynthia Will Give You Step-by-Step Instructions
August 1 , 2009--The other day I ran across an article on the multi-tasking artist, Cynthia Bogart, based in Newport, Rhode Island (USA) and her "print rooms." Cynthia, it seems, will provide you with all the knowledge and materials you need to create a reproduction of an 18th-century English "print room" (or variation thereon) in your own home. If you insist, she will actually do the job for you.
I confess this was a fine-art-print application which was new to me, and I was fascinated by it. At first glance it seemed to inhabit a curious abode at the intersection of Whimsey-Art and Kitsch-Twee. My fascination was mixed with a shock I hadn't experienced since being stung by a jellyfish last summer, as one of the first steps in the process seemed to be to attack an antique print with an X-Acto knife!
I decided to contact Cynthia and ask her to clear up concepts. She very kindly agreed.
Q: Cynthia, could you tell us how you got into the curious business of 18-century English print rooms? Please give us the five W's: who, what, when, where and why.
A: I was originally a commercial and fine artist (unsteady income) and had begun to doing murals (steady income). I was always on the lookout for improving my technique or finding something new. I was in England staying at Ston Easton Park (a country hotel in Somerset) when I noticed these prints half on half off the walls of the front office. I was told it was a Print Room that dated back to the mid 1700's. I started researching the technique and found very very little on it. My next trip back to England was for Decorex, the interior design trade show, where I was keen on meeting Nicola Wingate-Saul whose one tri-fold screen I had seen in a magazine with a Print Room on it. To my delight, I found she had totally resurrected the entire Print Room technique by herself and reproduced the borders and decorative pieces from the precise designs to the paper it was originally printed upon. I purchased all that I could carry on the plane, went back to NY and floundered trying to figure out how to design and stick these prints on the wall. Finally, she called and said she'd be giving a workshop in Devon, would I like to come? I had a one year old at the time but I handed him off to my husband for a week and got back on the plane to England.
Why? I am passionate about this technique. It is a rich, historic look with the versatility to become whatever you want. Modern, country, classic, Classic Greek, Middle Eastern, French ... you name it, it can be done. I have been a Magazine Editor for 15 years, but the Print Room business has always been an ongoing business.
Q: Where do your clients come from? How do they find you? Could you draw an approximate profile of a typical client?
A: The clients are from all over the world. Since it is a rather expensive technique in materials, they tend to be in larger cities and the Middle East. The women who want a Print Room or screen are usually well educated in the arts and if they are professional artists, they add it to their portfolio. The European clients are both men and women, the men wanting the smoking room, hunt room look in their studies. The Mid East clients tend to like elaborate rooms and to them quite large. How do I find them? I don't. They find me from the internet or client referrals.
Q: Does it require a certain type of home to house a print room? An 18th-century English or Irish manor house, for example?
A: Absolutely not. Should you have a very modern home, very very large prints, architecturals are good, with thick borders, no frilly embellishments in a symmetrical pattern are used. Many homes have their powder rooms done. Transient people buy or make screens they can take with them. Small rooms such as studies or dining rooms are a great size for the average home owner and as they are small, they cost less.
Q: How does one go about creating a print room? Take your time. We're not in a hurry.
A: The instructions are very detailed and long but here is the basic:
Choose and paint the room. Find or collect the prints you'd like to use. Chose 3-5 borders you like so a consistent theme is carried throughout and the type of hanging pieces. Design your room based on the prints you like in a pleasing symmetrical layout. Prepare the prints, tea stain or clean up and frame out with the borders mitering the corners. Use wheat paste or a wallpaper glue specific to non coated wallpapers. First put up cornice molding, chair rail and faux panels. Then begin with the prints working from the middle out. Wet the back of the prints or dunk and slop the paste evenly on the back. Place prints on premarked out spots on the wall and make true and even. Use a wet sponge to smooth down. Add the borders using a level to make sure they are true and add hanging pieces. Coat the entire room with one coat of a Glaze coat designed for sealing painted wallpapers.
Q: I understand you also do workshops for people who want to do their own print rooms. Given the complexity of the process, what percentage of your clients give up directly, before they even get started, and commission you to do the work?
A: Good question. The women who take the course who want to do their own usually don't have the patience so they end up doing a screen or hire one of us to do the room. Many professionals take the course and are very well prepared to step out and do their own projects immediately. It is not a difficult process to learn, but following the explicit instructions produce the desired result. They just can't say I am going to put up a Print Room without knowing some of the basics (like I started out to do). Lately, I find we are filling orders for the Print Room and shipping them out where the client will have her faux artist or technical artisan install it. I do, of course, send out step by step instructions for all.
Q: What themes are available in prints? Which ones do your clients prefer?
A: Anything. Most clients prefer a Besler, Munting, Buffon, Oudart Fish prints, Palladio, Stewart & Revett, Batty Langle's, Seashells & Coral, Nautical, English country scenes etc.
Q: Where does one find the materials necessary to make a print room?
A: At www.printrooms.com We sell repro prints from England and Italy, however, if you have batches of old original prints that are flocked, torn or damaged, they are very easily repaired for use in a Print Room (providing they're not in shreds). All the other materials are easily gotten in a hardware and art supply store.
Q: What about the prints? Presumably you're not about to go chopping up and gluing original antique prints. What kind of reproductions do you use? Offset? Giclee? Other? Where do you find them?
A: Old books, antique damaged prints and yes, good original antique prints . Ouch! BUT there is a way to use them . They can be backed with shojii paper and wheat paste. They are removeable that way providing they are not sealed. We only use b&w original prints and there are a ton of medium quality ones out there that are not normally picked up for framing. There are so many good quality ones to go ahead of them.
Q: If you use quality reproductions, don't they look too new for your purposes?
A: Not really, they all get a nice bath in tea to age them. However, they will never look as aged at the old ones because the ink is crisper in appearance.
Q: Do clients ever specify copies of contemporary prints? That would change the entire aesthetic, wouldn't it?
A: Totally which is why I like this technique. You can use any prints, even coloured and it will look great with the borders we supply. They are simply classic designs on the borders and wonderful and versatile .
Q: Do clients tend to start out with a small room, like the bathroom, then come back for more?
A: Nope - they do usually one and that is it.
Q: How long does it take to create a modest-sized print room, from start to finish?
A: A dining room about 40 prints - to prepare the prints (cutting, framing, designing) about a 4 days, to install it or put it up, about 4 -5 days.
Q: Could you also give us a hint as to the range of prices we're talking about? If you do it. If they do it.
A: Totally depends on the prints that are chosen. Are they repro's or originals? Every room is custom. A Dining Room of about 40 prints for materials alone can go from $3000. On upwards. Installation depends on how much your technician is charging you. If we do it, we charge a per diem base plus all traveling and accommodation expenses. I have a few people I recommend who can put up a Print Room and when I work, depending on the size of the room, I ususally have an assistant at lease.
Q: Have you considered manufacturing wallpaper with reproductions of prints on it? Wouldn't that make for quite a nice “poor man's print room?” Has it been done yet?
Q: What do you like best about this business?
A: The prints of course. They are rich, luscious, wonderful and filled with history and information of times gone by. When you pull a theme together and they are all united on the wall in a harmonic design, it is truly thrilling. Do you know how it is hard to pick out which prints you want to frame and put in your room? This method lets you pick LOTS of them and you can continually enjoy them while in that space.
Q: Is there anything you would like to add? This is your opportunity to do so.
A: I have a great portal to the world offering information on this technique and print room products via the website. Actually, I believe I am the only one with the amount of information and the catalog related to the true original method of the English Print Room. However, Nicola Wingate-Saul is the real doyenne who resurrected this technique. Nicola does not have a website and sells through a catalog received by request. I work in close association with her on everything I do professionally.
She was the curator of Desmond Guiness' home, Castletown, in Ireland when one day he opened up a dusty huge room and said, ‘you're clever with your hands, see if you can fix this,' and she saw the her first original Print Room which had been designed and implemented by Lady Luisa Connoly, one of the four infamous Lennox sisters (http://www. wikipedia.org/wiki/Lady_Louisa_Conolly). She set about learning what she could which led her into the depths of the V&A where she and her brother, Jeremy, meticulously documented and photographed the borders in their collection and reproduced them as true as possible. That was over thirty years ago and she is still designing and putting up Print Rooms today.
Her clients have included Sir Sacheverell Reresby Sitwell, 7th Baronet; Oil Barons in Texas and wealthy homes in the Middle East.
Should you like to contact Nicola, she can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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