Makers Tales


Makers insights – James Randolph Rogers

Our members talk about what has inspired them, how they work and how to survive as a maker.

Makers Tales Collective: Welcome to the Collective James, we are really looking forward to hearing a little more about who or what has inspired you in the creation of your beautiful block printed wallpapers.

James Randolph Rogers: I began working for Allyson McDermott in 2007 as a Studio Assistant. As a studio we were dealing with all aspects of historic wallpaper conservation, restoration and recreation. 

I could not believe such a job existed. I was fascinated by all aspects of the work, but especially interested in recreating wallpapers from found fragments. 

Allyson very much taught me everything I know about wallpaper and instilled a lifelong obsession.  

MTC: With all the different processes involved in producing your beautiful papers, could you give us a brief run-down of your working day?

 James Randolph Rogers: If I’m working in the studio, certain days will comprise of carving historic designs into pearwood with small chisels. This process often takes many weeks. 

If I’m printing wallpaper, then the day will include mixing distemper paint using natural pigments. Applying background colours or printing using my home made oar press. 

Every stage of the wallpaper recreation is incredibly repetitive and cathartic. 

MTC: What has been your most exciting project?

James Randolph Rogers: I spent over a year recreating a wallpaper for a client in the US. He sent me a small fragment which was analysed to ascertain the original pigments.

I then spent 4 months carving the design into 4 separate pear wood blocks. Another month to trial print until the print was accurate to the original, this included trialling over 50 different types of paper.

Once happy with the print, I then printed over 1000 sheets for him, which took several months. Finally, I flew over to Maine and spent another month installing 7 rooms worth of wallpaper.

The finished result brought tears to my eyes. 

MTC: As a maker championing the integrity of traditional processes do you have any tips for survival?

James Randolph Rogers: Don’t expect anything. That way you can only be happily surprised. 

MTC: We imagine your creative day to be a long one but what is your most creative time?

James Randolph Rogers: I love to start working as soon as I wake up. I have a home studio available to me and love being able to make a cup of tea, put the radio on and begin work.

I also love to start working again around 4pm and work until I am too exhausted to stand up anymore, often into the early hours. 

MTC: What is the most essential tool in your process?

James Randolph Rogers: I still use the same chisels that I bought in New York when I carved my first block around 2010. 

I take great pride in sharpening them each time I use them, and love the fact that they were used to create the entire wallpaper collection 

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