Porcelain wallpaper – are you thinking what I was thinking? What could that possibly look like? The idea was starting to make my head hurt so whilst on our travels through Europe, we decided to seek out the maker of this magic and ask him to explain himself and this witchcraft. We’d been lucky enough to visit the Czech Republic a few times in the past but always to the city of Prague and we’d never ventured beyond to see the Czech countryside, towns and villages in the surrounding area.
Meeting The Maker
We set off from Prague in our black camper, Miko strapped into the back and with a little hand sketched map to help navigate the country backroads. After just over two hours, we finally reached a little town called Mikulov in southern Moravia. This is home to the studio of Daniel Pirsc – ‘The Porcelain Wallpaper Maker’ himself. OK, that’s not actually his title, he designs and makes many wonderful things including handcut filigree porcelain skulls but the porcelain wallpaper created a bit of a storm in the design world and by now I’d built him up in my mind to be a bit of a ‘Wizard of Oz’ character with me ‘Dorothy’, about to knock on the big door of the Emerald Palace. Toto and the Tin Man ( ok I’m getting carried away now ) otherwise known as Roddy and Miko, went for a coffee in a nearby cafe – dog tails and porcelain do not mix.
Thankfully there was no deafening voice when I knocked and instead, one of Daniel’s friendly assistants showed me through a dusty polythene curtain and straight into the workshop where it all happens. Daniel and Tereza his wife and business partner were very welcoming (not at all like the the Wizard of Oz so I’ll probably drop that analogy now) and took time to show me around the studio, introduce me to their kids and have a chat about his process. Having studied at the Academy of Arts, Architecture & Design in Prague before setting up his own studio in Mikulov in 2005, Daniel is highly skilled in mould making and casting. I know this not because he told me but because I could see the mastery in evidence around the workshop. I’m familiar with a lot of these processes having used them in my own sculpture work and I know that its easy to become a bit obsessed with making beautiful moulds even though they are a means to an end – they almost become artworks in themselves.
Breaking The Mould
If you know about moulds then you’ll know I’m not talking about the green fluffy stuff on forgotten cheese at the back of the fridge or some black dots on a damp patch on the wall. You also won’t mind me explaining what a mould is to those who don’t. A mould is a kind of outer shell shell into which you pour or pack another material that then takes the form of the inner surface of the mould. Think of easter eggs or jelly ( i.e jelly and ice cream), yes jelly’s a good one – remember those rabbit shaped wobbling edibles from the seventies that stunned us all into silence at birthday parties amidst the hysteria of crazed balloon bursting? Those were made in a simple plastic mould in the kitchen.
The ones in this studio are the sophisticated relations of those moulds and made of plaster – Daniel’s are in a different league. Sleek silky smooth ‘shells’ lie in identical halves or quadrants on his work bench and the rhythmic repeated forms say everything about his attention to detail and professionalism. He uses porcelain slip (a type of liquid clay) to pour into the multi-piece moulds which are held together with rubber strips.Without getting overly technical, the clay then stiffens inside the mould, shrink slightly and then the outer shell (mould) can be removed. The porcelain cast is then cleaned up and fired and the remaining plaster mould can be used again – thats the magic of moulds!
3D Porcelain WallPaper
What about the porcelain wallpaper I hear you ask? I asked the same thing.Tereza explained how Daniel is passionate about porcelain and its properties and wanted to push the boundaries of how porcelain is used in the home taking this luxurious and seemingly delicate material away from the dining table and into architectural objects, lighting and… wallpaper. Daniel then laid out three forms on the table, a small shiny child like aeroplane about the size of my hand with a glossy white surface , a teardop in a shiny metallic finish and a cross (as in knots & crosses not the religious kind) in matt white.
The Making Process
There are more forms in the collection he explained but these three were the some of the first he made. The idea is that you create the wallpaper in situ by placing the modular casts in repeated patterns until they cover the entire wall. As a whole it could be seen as an art installation in some ways but also portable wallpaper and that’s genius because if there’s one thing that often puts people off buying expensive wallpaper, it’s that once it’s pasted on there you have to leave it behind if you move house. With these you can have any colour of backdrop you fancy and change with the trends – you could even configure them differently every time. The forms he creates are whimsical and playful but also reflect a slick and edgy design scene that we discovered exists in several of the cities across eastern Europe.
Each perfect little cast is hand finished when it comes out of the mould. First it’s dried on a rack and then fired in the kiln to a high temperature to make it really hard. It’s then sanded until it’s glassy smooth and glazed to a shiny finish. These are design objects as well as being an inventive and alternative home decor solution and the concept has taken off in his architectural commissions around the world. As I left, Daniel and Tereza mentioned they were moving to a bigger studio and had some exciting projects in the pipeline with high profile clients including innovative lighting company Lasvit and a possible collaboration with Moooi – exciting!
Inspiration and Ideas
All this talk of porcelain wallpaper got me thinking about accent walls again and how we could be really experimental in a small area of the house to begin with. By arranging repeated forms on a wall using collected objects painted the same colour or gold leafed you could create a similar effect . If you’re handy you could go as far as creating your own simple casts in plaster creating a series of identical forms and then hang or stick them to the wall. A really simple way to do a plaster cast is to make an impression in clay by pressing an object into the surface and then remove it and pour in some casting plaster – you can buy small bags from the art store and once you’ve got the hang of it, it’s more economical to buy from specialist ceramics suppliers. I’m seriously thinking of doing some simple how to sculpture sessions as part of the blog – what do you think?
If all this sounds like too much hard work I’ll leave you with the inspiring work of another artist Beth Katleman who has created a 3D Toile de Jouy porcelain wallpaper installation called ’Folly’ . It looks like a classical motif at first but look closely and you might find these miniature sculpture scenes have some cult characters such as the Pillsbury Doughboy playing the part of an English country gent – ‘Oh my whatever next!’ she cries clicking her ruby slippers together.
As always I’d love to hear about your home decor adventures and inspiration – ideas on a postcard please!