For nearly 170 years, contemporary wallpapers have been produced by the Åsunden lake in Västergötland, Sweden. In Ulricehamn’s wallpaper factory, the employees work daily to preserve the genuine handicraft tradition and bring that heritage into the future. Today, all wallpapers in Svenskt Tenn's range are manufactured here.
A total of five people work in the factory. Håkan and Ann who are masters of distemper printing and screen printing. Thomas who is a colour expert, and Frida and Anna who work with the administration and everything that belongs to it. Together they develop the production with passion and love of prints.
All of Josef Frank’s wallpapers are printed using the distemper printing technique, a method that endows the wallpaper pattern with a unique structure and vibrancy. The pattern builds a slight embossed effect in the material so that it is possible to literally feel the solid craftsmanship.
The distemper printing technique dates back to the early 1800s and nowadays is a way for Svenskt Tenn to come as close as possible to Josef Frank’s original concept. The technique makes every single roll of wallpaper unique. The wallpaper’s pattern and details can in fact vary slightly due to factors such humidity and temperature during the production process and the characteristics of the paper involved. It can be likened to a potato print, where the pattern is built up using rollers and colours are added layer upon layer. Printing wet-on-wet gives a vivid and almost hand-painted effect.
It's equally fascinating each time the machine rolls, with wheels spinning and colours dripping. The paints are mixed and filtered before being poured into the paint vessel. The rollers are inspected and placed in the machine in the correct position.
Wallpaper with Estrid Ericsson’s Elefant design are printed using screen printing. The technique is not as old as distemper printing, and is somewhat more automated. In conjunction with screen printing, stencils are used where the colour is pressed out through small holes and creates the design image. In this way, many fine details can be printed since the technique is more exact and creates a fine depth. When screen printing, transparent colours can also be used, which provides a lovely watercolour effect.
The Elefant pattern is printed using a stencil and obtains a fine, matt expression. In the final stage, a layer of transparent colour is added which makes the wallpaper hardy and also dryable.
Ulricehamns Tapetfabrik has a unique screen printing machine. It was extended 10 years ago and two new printing stations were added, which makes it possible to print more advanced patterns with more colours. Printing master Håkan Andersson is one of those who works with production. He has been here since the start and, with 30 years’ experience, he knows the machine’s qualities, weaknesses and strengths to a tee.