WHEN most parents are handed a child’s drawing they see an artist in the making and stick their progeny’s work on the fridge. Offer the same artwork to designer Angela Groundwater, however, and she sees a wallpaper: a more permanent and personal way to preserve your child’s precious creation.
Now the bespoke wallpaper and fabric designer — and mother of two daughters — works with children’s groups to transform their daubings into fun and festive papers for their bedroom walls.
‘The idea came when I was working with the elderly in care homes for my charity, Aggie’s Grannies, and used to take my children along to do baking and other activities with them,’ says London-based Angela. ‘I began to create wallpapers based on important elements in the lives of the older people.
But when the children became involved they responded so well I came up with the idea of running a similar project at the other end of the age spectrum. The children really create their own wallpaper with their drawings. I’m just the hand that edits and organises them into a pattern.
‘I see all the wallpapers I create — for people and for many pubs — as a story, a narrative that contains many symbols and elements. But working with the children is such great fun. The children tend to be aged from around five to ten. They find it really exciting to see their drawings transformed into a wallpaper.’
In her nine-year-old daughter Aggie’s room the walls are resplendent with smiling cloud faces and rainbows. While her older daughter Evelyn, 11, helped create an elephant pattern design for her bedroom.
One young client, Stanley Croucher, ten, drew Star Wars characters in one of Angela’s workshops and was thrilled when he saw the resulting paper. ‘It looks really cool,’ he says. ‘It’s brilliant.’
The living room of Angela’s east London apartment is papered in a muted dusty pink pattern called Barbican Walk, from her Brutalist Alien series. Androgynous alien characters stand, like Egyptians, amidst symbols of the Barbican’s distinctive architecture. But this is subtle compared with some of her extravagant themes — think Robinson Crusoe Loves Goats, a woman with a dozen dogs, and a circus theme blended with pieces of London history.
Her bedroom is covered in a design called ‘Pheasants’ from her Victorian Feathers series and at first looks fairly classic in style. But peer closer and you’ll see birdlike women’s limbs blended in with the feathers, together with pieces of jewellery. ‘It was created for a pub but I liked it so much I’ve used it here,’ says Angela. ‘The children’s papers are the most simple to produce — and it’s such fun to work with them. I also like the idea of getting children interested in design and patterns at such a young age.’ All patterns can also be produced on linen and silk scarfs and cushions.
Australian-born Angela began her working life in film post-production in London as a 3D artist on major blockbusters including V For Vendetta, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and the Harry Potter series. But she longed to return to the tactility of drawing, surrealism and storytelling — hence the move into wallpaper.
Her work caught the eye of British designers and she won a London Gold Award from DRIVEN x DESIGN.
All her work is created and produced in the UK, something she is proud of. ‘I love the idea of creating something so highly personal for people in their own homes, or business,’ she says. ‘I love helping them tell a story about their lives and featuring things that they love, or that are important to them. The results are often surreal and very definitely quirky.
‘But I always get a kick out of seeing how thrilled people are with the papers we have effectively designed together.’