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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Penick

A story, a confession, a gift.


Almost 10 years ago, I was contacted by someone who wanted to give me a collection of antique paper. I confess that at first I thought that it was a prank of some sort, but Betsy had seen my art and thought that I would enjoy using her papers in my collages. She did not send photos of the collection, she just fit it into a large box and sent it to me by FedEx. She charged me nothing, and only asked for a collage of mine in exchange.

But Betsy didn't just send me a bunch of vintage paper. She was a wallpaper and fabric designer for twenty years and during that time she bought or inherited hand painted designs for fabric, as well as panels of historic wallpaper. She sent over 60 examples, most of them quite large (20 x 32 inches).

They are very beautiful. But they're more than beautiful. They are also rare and historic and really really old. Several are by Walter Crane (1845-1915), famous a famous English artist who was also part of the Arts and Crafts movement and produced paintings, book illustrations, ceramic tiles, as well as wallpapers and other decorative arts. Some of the panels that Betsy sent me are also owned by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and by the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York. It is an astonishing collection. I couldn't just cut them up. I also don't have room to frame them all and display them somewhere in my home.


So here's my confession: I haven't used the papers. They have felt far too precious to cut up. Betsy said that I was free to use, sell, or save the papers ... but I have been paralyzed by indecision. I have taken them out of their large flat box several times to admire them. For a 2024 new year's resolution, I now vow to figure out what to do with them. I will try contacting museums to see if they would want some of them. And in the meantime, I am going to print photographs of them and use them in my art! I am really looking forward to this and to seeing what it leads to artistically.


I'm making six of the 19th-century wallpaper panels that Betsy gave me a decade ago available here as a multi-page PDF. I've selected the six that feature peacocks. They are incredibly beautiful in person. They will surely lose something in being photographed and then printed in a vastly smaller format. but I hope that they inspire you as I hope that they will inspire me and my art in 2024. Happy new year.

Just click the button below and the PDF should download.

peacock wallpaper panels
Download PDF • 5.86MB

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