Wallpaper Projects Devises a Vibrant Ode to Cyanotype

Channeling the 19th-century botanical illustrations of Anna Atkins, the Brooklyn studio’s latest collection emulates cyanotype photography with wispy, flora-like shapes made entirely by hand.

Cyanotype N.1 in Blue

In the mid-19th century, Sir John Herschel invented the cyanotype, an intricate photographic process that uses iron compounds to create prints with a lustrous blue hue. His close friend Anna Atkins, an amateur botanist who took particular interest in scientific illustration and taxonomy, decided to use the new technique to document algae from her extensive seaweed collection, resulting in ethereal, highly detailed illustrations rendered in wispy shades of white set against a radiant cyan background, also known as Prussian Blue. She then published her works in Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions, widely considered to be the first book illustrated with photographic images. Cyanotypes became a simple, low-cost process to produce copies of drawings, commonly referred to as blueprints. 

Though the method’s popularity waned as photographic technology evolved, numerous contemporary artists such as Christian Marclay, Kate Cordsen, and John Dugdale employ cyanotype processes in their work. Enter the Brooklyn designer Amanda Dandeneau, co-founder of boutique studio Wallpaper Projects, an emerging firm that’s renowned for transformative wall coverings defined by material and chemical experimentation. (You may recall the studio’s lifelike Storm Cloud pattern—a collaboration with Various Projects and Print All Over Me—that debuted at Collective Design in 2016). She noticed fellow artist Devon Caranicas experimenting with the medium and was galvanized to turn the radiant blue prints into Cyanotype, the studio’s latest collection and a vibrant ode to the photographic process.

Cyanotype N.1 in Beige and Green

For the process, Caranicas’s first step entailed diving into the medium’s history and immersing herself in its intricate chemical methodology, in which paper is coated with an iron compound solution, and the object is laid on top and exposed to light. The paper is then rinsed with water to reveal the vivid blue-and-white motif. “We wanted to consider the action of pattern making and how it’s also involved within the photographic process,” Dandeneau says, in reference to the prints.  

Much like the botanical illustrations published by Atkins, the collection features a playful overlaying of irregular flora-like shapes rendered not only in cyan, but lush shades of purple, green, and beige.  The collection also honors its inspiration by utilizing the same materials—paper, chemicals, and sunlight—needed to make cyanotypes. Due to each pattern’s handmade origins, no two prints are the same: “We love how you’re never fully sure what the outcome will look like in this process,” she says. “It makes it organic and free.”

Cyanotype N.1 in Purple

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