Introducing Sarah + Ruby, a new collection of domino style wallpapers made entirely by hand in California. Each individual sheet of wallpaper is made using time honored techniques resulting in a richly textured surface with subtle variations.
HOW DID YOU MEET AND COME TO LAUNCH YOUR LINE?
We met while taking textile design classes in Berkeley, California, and launched Sarah + Ruby Design Studio in 2012. Our business was quite a bit different then: we began as a completely custom solution to the design trade for fabric and wallpaper, leveraging the new (at the time) digital printing technology. While this custom work was creatively stimulating, we spent most of our time in front of computers, and we soon realized that we preferred to work with our hands.
Over the years we considered a variety of handmade processes, including block printing, screen printing, and marbling, and eventually discovered the rather obscure technique of paste paper making. Historically, paste paper was used as decorative end-papers for books. The process involves using a clear methylcellulose paste tinted with pigment. When it is applied to paper it creates very textural, glaze-y effects. Since our design work has always gravitated toward free-form, organically flowing shapes and textures, it seemed like we had struck gold! Once we tweaked the formula for durability, we knew we were ready to launch a completely handmade wallpaper line.
WITH EACH OF YOU WORKING FROM DIFFERENT LOCATIONS, HOW DO YOU MANAGE THE CREATIVE PROCESS REMOTELY? DO YOU DESIGN EVERYTHING TOGETHER, DO YOU EACH HAVE YOUR 'OWN' DESIGNS?
Our creative process involves a lot of “play” and materials exploration:
What happens if I pull a comb through the paint?
What happens if I put one color on top of another and then push them around with a palette knife?
What happens if I run a carved brayer across the surface?
After several hours of “play” we usually come up with a multitude of ideas for new patterns. This is where it gets challenging – not because we are in different locations, but because we usually have too many ideas! We share images of our experiments and have a conversation. All of the results are completely fresh to the other person, so it immediately clarifies where the strongest ideas lie. We push each other to further develop our concepts, and in going over the patterns together we often come up with even better designs. So even though Ruby is in San Diego and Sarah is in the San Francisco Bay Area, our creative process is super collaborative.
As far as whether we each have our “own” patterns, we do both paint all of the patterns. BUT, you really get a strong sense of the artist’s hand in every pattern. If Sarah paints our Low Tide pattern and Ruby paints our Low Tide pattern, the results will be very similar, but there will be subtleties in the painting that are distinct to each of us. So to get a little more consistency in the product, we tend to have one person focus on particular patterns.
THE PAPERS ARE MADE IN SHEETS, HOW DID YOU DECIDE ON THAT FORMAT?
We often take historical processes and make them modern — our paste paper technique is a good example. So when we first started thinking about sheets instead of rolls, we were thinking about it from a historical perspective: before the technology existed to make continuous rolls of paper, wallpaper came as individual sheets or “dominos.” We quickly realized how incredibly versatile sheets are. Layouts can be horizontal or vertical, straight grid, half drop, or third drop. And sheets can even be mixed and matched with patterns and colors. Providing this tile-like ability for our clients to customize their installs was very appealing!
We've discovered a few additional pros to this format:
Sheets equal very little waste — there's minimal trimming needed. And we paint to-order the exact number of sheets needed for the install plus a bit of overage, so it's more eco-friendly in that sense.
Sheets are east to install — yep, installers love us, ha!
We. Sarah and Ruby, paint each and every order with our very own hands! This compact format allows us to create, manage and ship orders directly from our small studios, which is really important to us for quality control.
DO MOST PEOPLE USE THE DECKLED EDGE FINISH IN AN INSTALLATION OR DO THEY CUT THE PAPERS TO CREATE A CRISP LINE?
Each sheet of our wallpaper is individually painted, with no pattern repeat. Though each piece is unique, with its own organic dimension and texture, they all hang in a beautifully unified way when installed. The deckled edges, which are a natural part of a traditional paper making process, are designed to overlap and show. They enhance the organic feel and emphasize the nuances of each individual sheet.
So far, all of our clients have kept the deckled edges. And while we find the deckled edges beautiful, we know there will be an amazing install at some point where the deckles are removed. It will be interesting to see.
Styled by Kate Evans/Exult Design, Brisbane, Queensland
HAVE YOU SEEN ANY INSTALLATIONS THAT GO BEYOND JUST WALLS?
We recently saw an install where our Lanai pattern in Jungle (emerald green) was installed on both the walls and the ceiling in an entryway. It was like walking into a jewel box!
CARE TO SHARE ANY KNOCKOUT INSTALLATIONS YOU'VE SEEN?
There have been many! With her great maximalist aesthetic, Judy Aldridge installed our Lanai pattern in Jungle in her Texas loft. The wallpaper created a rich background against which she displays colorful artwork, flea market finds, and lush plants.
Designer Kate Evans of Exult Design in Brisbane, Australia, created a modern and
serene, yet richly patterned bedroom in a luxe beach house using Low Tide in Blush.
We were also really thrilled to see Good Vibrations in style-maker Liz Kamarul’s New Orleans dining room. The olive green tones in the custom colored wallpaper really fit right in with her eclectic vibe.
WHAT'S COMING NEXT?
We recently introduced a square sheet format with our Cadiz pattern, and we love the ability to rotate individual sheets for a dynamic install. So it’s likely we’ll be creating more in that square format.
And of course, we are always excited to see what clients bring us for bespoke work. From custom color to pattern modification, it is eye-opening to see how others engage with and envision our products. We would love to create a tonal wall for someone — painting one of our patterns in a variety of tints or shades of a single color for an ombré effect. We think it could be amazing!