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South Wairarapa Rebus Club – Meeting Review

August 21, 2019 August 2019 No Comments

At our July meeting we heard from Ben Masters of PaperHands in Martinborough. Ben is an artist and retail designer who finds creating wallpapers an exciting way to blend his talents and experience. His wife Helen, a winemaker at Ata Rangi, enjoys the opportunity to add her own design ideas and often comes up with new concepts. Ben’s designs can be seen in the foyer to the refurbished Martinborough Town Hall and at Peppers Parehua Hotel in Martinborough, the site of the Club’s Christmas lunch this coming November. 

Ben and Helen began looking for interesting wallpaper for their own house in 2008 and were surprised to find that there was no one in New Zealand then making handcrafted papers. But from their background in art and interior design they were aware that NZ does have a history of people passionate about both making and using them. After a period of research and trial and error they developed their screen printing setup: two 10 m long tables each fitted with a simple rigid device to ensure reproducible registration or placement of the screens as they are moved to and used, sometimes repeatedly, at each location. 

From the start they have worked with their own range of hand drawn designs based on NZ flora and fauna, aiming to create designs that are bold, simple and distinctive. They use premium water-based inks, sourced internationally and made to the highest environmental standards. The paper base is 100% natural wood fibres and is bought in in rolls. The designs, although often very natural – flax, tuis on kowhai – are not necessarily printed in natural colours, giving rise to distinctly different wallpapers from the same patterns. Because they print only to order customers can order their own colour choices from existing patterns.

Recently they have been collaborating with Mitch Manuel, a digital artist, who draws on his Maori and Cook Island traditional forms to inspire new designs and to bring them to the world of wallpaper. Depending on the colours used in printing, these patterns can feel more traditional or more contemporary.  They have also been invited by Resene to re-print a range of papers from their “Mason Handprints” archive. William Mason was a leading supplier of New Zealand handprinted wallpapers and fabrics in the 1960’s and 70’s. His business was bought by Resene in 1974 and they have preserved his original designs.

The internet has made it possible for PaperHands to be set up with a minimum of working capital. In particular they have not had to prepare numerous books of samples nor to deliver them to numerous retailers; you can view the full range online from around the world.

The South Wairarapa Rebus Club meets in Greytown at the South Wairarapa Working Men’s Club on the fourth Friday of each month. Anyone in the retired age group who may be interested in our activities is welcome to come along to a meeting as a visitor.  Contact David Woodhams 06 306 8319.

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