Story: Tiffany Adams | Photography: Beth Hall |
The husband-and-wife team behind Northwest Arkansas’ award-winning Assemblage shares what drives their passion for making beautiful, handcrafted wallcoverings
In a nutshell, how would you describe your wallcoverings studio and business, Assemblage?
Heidi: We are a known resource for custom-designed wallcoverings. We work closely with our clients to bring to life their vision matched with our hand.
How did you first become interested in creating wallcoverings? Have you both always been in the art field?
Christian: I don’t ever remember not making things whether that was drawings, paintings, sculptures, furniture, or clothing. I’ve always been compelled to take what was in my mind and make it in the real world. I didn’t think much of wallpaper until I started making it. It was a solution to a creative and logistical problem. We were being asked to apply a wall finish in Japan, but couldn’t get there so the architect sent us handmade Japanese paper to plaster and paint. Then began the process of engineering everything we did on walls to be applied to paper.
Heidi: I, too, have always been a maker and want to create beauty in the world. I received a BFA in Fiber from the Kansas City Art Institute, with that education I focused on textile design. I first became interested in wallcoverings while designing for Carnegie Fabrics in New York.
So, you’ve really had global exposure. Why did Arkansas—Witter, in particular—appeal to you as a place to set up your studio?
Heidi: I was actually born in a tepee on a cold February morning just a few miles from where our studio is now located. My mother is part of the back-to-land and craft movement that exists here in Northwest Arkansas. She founded Dogwood Designs, a custom sewing studio that employs approximately a dozen people. Christian and I met at the Art Institute and lived in NYC for a number of years; however when we shifted our focus to the wallpaper business, Witter just felt right. Once we found the defunct seed mill [which houses their studio], we knew it was meant to be.
In terms of the creative process, how do you go from idea to product?
Heidi: We are mark makers. Christian has a very strong background in drawing and mark making; you can find his work at The Drawing Center in New York. I am obsessed with marks and pattern. A few times a year we have development days where we bring our ideas about marks and pattern, and we just play. Distilling what works and what has potential for wall application.
Christian: We both have always been inspired by materials and experimenting with new tools and processes. One of us might see something in nature and want to recreate that on the wall: Our “Abyss” paper, for instance, is inspired by the inside of a shell. So we will play with layering of different materials and applications until we feel like we have what we want in a technique. Then, we experiment with how we want that motif or technique to be repeated. Much of what we do is bouncing back and forth between hand-cut guides, messy trowels and brushes, and computers. We are using ancient techniques and tools with all of the help we can get from cutting-edge technology. But, in the end, every single layer is applied by hand.
You’ve had the opportunity to work with some pretty big names, too.
Heidi: Yes, we have worked directly with extraordinary clients, such as Chanel, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Louis Vuitton, to develop finishes that are closely related to works of art. Our clients trust us to develop an idea and stick with them through design modifications and budget adjustments, all the while being creative, flexible, and professional through all of the ups and downs of a project.
How can readers purchase or commission a wallcovering?
Christian: In Arkansas, we are sold to the interior design trade and represented by Holly Hunt in Dallas and Houston showrooms. If you are outside the state of Arkansas, please visit our website for a complete list of our showrooms.
Assemblage, Witter, (479) 595-8775, assembledarts.com