Sometimes, it only takes a gentle nudge from serendipity to have great things happen.
Back in 2003, Jon Sherman was a private-equity and real-estate developer. He was contemplating an interior redesign of an apartment he hoped to flip, when a friend showed him a book filled with artfully crafted wallpapers. The friend had tried to track down the designer – an Oregon-based “Ted” – who happened to call back while Sherman was there.
When Sherman relayed his enthusiasm for Ted’s distinctive patterns, however, the designer told him he had moved on with his life. Wallpaper, he said, was part of his past. In fact, pressed for room, Ted was planning to completely shed that skin and trash his designs and all of his screenprinting equipment.
It was then that serendipity entered the picture – and Sherman’s future turned with what Ted proposed next.
“He literally offered to give me everything he had, just to get it out of his space,” Sherman recalls. “I got 200 screens, a 50-foot-long vacuum table, and his entire catalog of designs just for cleaning them out of his warehouse.”
Sherman’s career as a provider of wallcoverings extraordinaire began when he moved all that stuff to a warehouse in New Orleans. There, the saga of what would become his new company – Flavor Paper –officially begins.Advertisement
“I had already started a design company called the Flavor League, so I thought of ‘Flavor Paper’ as a way to add flavor to peoples’ lives,” he says.
Sherman and a small staff learned all they could about wallcoverings as well as hand screenprinting. Just one year later, Flavor Paper (flavorpaper.com) officially made its debut at the 2004 International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF, ifcc.com), the main event in interior decorating.
From the Big Easy to the Big Apple
“We realized seven patterns based on Ted’s designs,” recalls Sherman. “I tweaked them a little, played with the scale and color to make them more modern.” The look was so fresh they couldn’t be ignored, he says. Flavor Paper garnered the kind of coverage money can’t buy, with high-profile mentions on the front page of The New York Times and in Newsweek’s coverage of ICCF.
From that auspicious launch, Flavor Paper’s reputation grew as word spread through the design community about this boutique company, its fine-art approach to hand-screened wallcoverings, and its growing catalog of traditional and contemporary patterns. The warehouse in New Orleans served as home for the company through Hurricane Katrina until 2009, when demand for Flavor wallcoverings outgrew its space.
By then, Sherman estimates, 90 percent of the company’s clients were based in and around New York City, so the Big Apple seemed the logical place to move. The company relocated its Flavor Lab to a four-story building he owned in Brooklyn’s trendy Boerum Hill neighborhood. The spacious facility, at one time a garage, now houses the company, including street-level production facilities, showroom, administrative offices, and a penthouse.
The move to larger quarters also afforded the company the opportunity to finally venture into digitally printed wallcoverings – an idea Sherman had been toying with as early as 2006.Advertisement
“We did investigate digital printing, but the technology wasn’t there yet for our needs,” he adds. “We wanted to stay away from vinyl as much as we could – and were also looking for something not too heavy on solvent inks, with a smaller dot pattern than was then available.”
Flavor’s first foray into digital: an Epson large-format digital printer that would be used “to move forward on the hand-screening side and improve the accuracy of the film positives we use to produce the screens.”
Expanding into digital
The experience and experimentation with the Epson printer’s capabilities convinced him of digital’s printing potential for producing wallpapers and murals. And, with the move to Flavor’s larger home in Brooklyn, he then had the space and stability to dedicate to a large-format production printer.
There were also creative considerations. “One of the driving forces (for getting a digital printer) was that we couldn’t do photographs” with screenprinting, he explains.
“By then we were already starting to do a few things digitally and outsourcing them to companies around New York,” Sherman says. “The technology had also reached the point where there were some real good alternatives to vinyl.”
The next printer they brought in-house was a Roland SolJet XC-540, installed in 2010. It’s been a workhorse, says Sherman, and one he still uses for vinyl and cutting projects, printing often with its eco-solvent inks onto Type II textured vinyls.Advertisement
The following year, Flavor added the capabilities of a 60-inch HP Designjet L26500 latex printer. Today, this is the machine that handles the bulk of Flavor’s digital production on a range of substrates, including Dreamscape’s PVC-free Nolar and Terralon wallcoverings, and pre-pasted, water-activated, eco-friendly materials.
He estimates that total production from the two units exceeded 200,000 square feet of digitally printed wallcoverings last year. Some were exclusively digital; for other installations, Flavor combined the best digital with screenprinting for a distinctive look. And on some projects, the digital capability allows for new applications for some of Flavor’s hand-screened designs.
“We can now print any color, any pattern at any scale,” he notes. “The turnaround with digital is much faster, and we can change the scale without the expense or time it would take with screenprinting.”
‘As tame or wild as they like’
This kind of versatility is generating some interesting applications and opportunities to demonstrate Flavor Paper’s expertise. While some clientele approach the company as a specialist in screenprinting – passersby outside its Brooklyn headquarters can watch the Flavor team transform material through the screen process – they quickly discover it’s a provider of myriad visual solutions for interiors. Digital production is now integral to the diversity featured in Flavor’s catalog.
Whether in the headquarters showroom or on Flavor Paper’s e-commerce website, clients have the opportunity to shop and compare a dazzling array of patterns and murals that can be rendered for any size and installation, on whatever wallpaper or vinyl material the client prefers. The catalog currently includes 137 patterns and murals, some digital, some screenprinted, and it continues to grow.
“We’ve worked with an incredible array of people, [and] all our work is printed to order” in-house to the company’s demanding standards for quality, says Sherman. “People can now make any of our patterns as tame or wild as they like; elaborate patterns can be morphed into anyone’s interior. Sometimes, customers take one of our designs and build an interior around it.”
For those who want a distinctive look, the possibilities are seemingly endless. “We allow customers to customize any and all of our digital patterns, be it color or scale,” Sherman points out. “We have taken black-and-white images and colorized them purple, and changed scale over 1000 percent. Whatever a client wants, we’ll create it for them – and digital printing allows this to happen with almost zero initial investment.”
All of this gives the company a winning cachet with interior designers. In fact, Flavor Paper’s reputation has brought it professional associations that underscore and enhance the perception that, when it comes to fine wallcoverings, this company is in a class by itself.
For example, when New Jersey’s Montclair Art Museum was planning to put together a retrospective exhibit highlighting Andy Warhol’s works featuring cars, it hired Flavor Paper to turn his print Twelve Cadillacs into a repeating pattern, silkscreened as a wallpaper background to his work. “We loved the idea of doing wall coverings based on Warhol’s work,” says Sherman.
That led to the Andy Warhol x Flavor Paper Collection, a joint project with the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Following the Montclair exhibit, foundation representatives contacted Sherman, explaining they had always considered releasing some of the artist’s iconic images for wallcoverings, and were ready. Flavor’s design team was granted creative license to develop patterns and wall murals based on much of Warhol’s artwork, except for wallpaper patterns he had produced during his career.
The work began in spring 2011, and the line was unveiled that November. Of the 11 original patterns, four were developed for digital production: Warhol’s portrait of Queen Elizabeth, his version of DaVinci’s Last Supper, the Flowers screenprint, and Landscape with Sailboats. These offer examples of how digital is taking Flavor’s capabilities to a new level. Even the works that were originally produced as screenprints can now be scaled, and colors modified or changed for fresh renderings of the original art.
“We’re able to take his work and re-interpret it,” says Sherman. “A lot of it is screened, but we were able to combine screen and digital printing for some funky effects.” Flavor now offers Warhol’s landmark Flowers, for example, in both a hand-screened version, and a more compact digital version with an explosion of colors simply not practical with hand-screening.
This ability to easily combine the best of screen printing and digital printing gives designers new license for creating unique, truly one of a kind stunning interiors. Flavor Paper’s wallcoverings that have been installed by design-conscious homeowners and celebrities, enable artists and designers to realize their vision, and define the visual experience in commercial and residential settings both large and small.
For instance: Installations for the JugoFresh juice-bar chain, based in Miami, dramatically demonstrate how effectively Flavor can integrate its combination of digital and screenprint capabilities. At the Wynwood Walls location in the heart of Miami’s arts district, customers find a wall mural featuring photographer Boone Speed’s Leap of Faith image, printed on Terralon. Nearby, the service counter is surrounded by a custom rendering of Warhol’s Mossy Fields camo pattern in bright green, while the seating area is adorned with a digitally printed Last Supper mural, complemented by the smaller, hand-screened wallpaper of the same painting.
At JugoFresh’s Continuum location, the highlight is a photo mural measuring 40 x 50-feet wide, covering the ceiling and an entire wall. The ceiling was printed on Dreamscape Nolar material, the walls on its Terralon, all on the HP latex printer.
“It is a photo, but has one of our hand-screened designs added in digitally with a fade that accentuates the photo aspect,” Sherman points out. “It’s something that would be impossible to achieve via hand screening.”
Last year, Flavor teamed with designer Mark Dean Veca on a special project for the Public Museum of Grand Rapids, Michigan. The installation, inside the museum’s Grand Hall, celebrated 2003 as the Chinese Zodiac’s Year of the Snake, and the museum’s own evolving transformation. It combined Flavor’s hand screened patterns of a green tangle of snakes, printed on Mylar and backlit, with a digitally printed floor graphic on vinyl of a massive snake winding through the lobby. (Editor’s note: See last issue’s “At the Floor Front” article for more on this project.)
Although Flavor often prints from a client’s files on projects like this, it also offers a diverse selection of patterns and wall murals that can be adapted to any setting. Some are based on designs developed in-house, others from teaming with leading photographers, artists, and designers.
One of the most recent additions to the Flavor catalog is a series of seven digital patterns based on the work of designer David Nosanchuk.
“We go about all of our collaborations differently,” says Sherman. In this case, he and Nosanchuk discussed the possibility of working together while serving on a panel at The Museum of New York when Flavor Paper’s work was featured there.
“He brought in a number of patterns he was working on, all based off photos,” to be printed digitally, says Sherman. “We worked together on determining the best offerings and at what scale each should be offered.”
Collaborations like these – and there are many, many in the Flavor Paper portfolio – and the highly visible and visually stunning installations of its work will only broaden Flavor’s horizons, and its impact and presence in contemporary interiors, commercial, and residential.
Looking ahead, Sherman expects continued demand for both the handcrafted look and feel of screenprinting, and the rich palette of possibilities with digitally printed wallcoverings. “Both technologies have their pros and cons, but now that we offer both digital printing and hand screenprinting, there isn’t much we can’t do,” he says.
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