Following the AGM there was an opportunity to hear Clare Taylor deliver a talk on ‘The Flock Trail: Two Hundred Years of Colour, Pattern and Texture’. Clare’s expertise in this area is well known and the audience was fascinated to learn about the origins, making and hanging of flock paper.
Clare took us back to the early days of flock papers in the 18th century, when they were used to imitate textiles and embossed leathers. In fact designs were often interchangeable between textiles and papers and were limited in number, with many still being in existence today.
The flock powder was made from dyed wool fibres and mica (a rock mineral) was sometimes incorporated in order to provide a lustrous effect. Carved wooden blocks dipped in adhesive created a pattern for the flock to adhere to but unsurprisingly consistency was hard to achieve, rendering this paper a luxury. Flock papers were typically found in the homes of the wealthy, such as Clandon Park in Surrey, where a pink and cream paper patterned with leaves and pomegranates was used, signifying the status of the owners. Interestingly the bedchamber of Christchurch Mansion near Ipswich, home to a London merchant, was hung with the same paper and may have had bed hangings in the same design.
Flock papers used in the UK have equally been found in homes in the USA with Eagle House, Bathford sharing a paper with the Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion in New Hampshire, indicating a thriving wallpaper trade with Britain and a way of cementing links between affluent families. Flocks have seen a number of revivals, notably in the 1830s and 1930s and indeed are finding a new audience today. As Clare explained, their place in the hierarchy of wallpapers may go up and down, whether as social signifiers or to adorn restaurant walls, but their appeal is enduring.
We are very grateful to Clare Taylor for such a fascinating insight into flock wallpapers.