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Learning Patterns: Wallcovering Workshop Inspires Kids to Print

A nonprofit’s recent pattern-making camp frames a fresh approach to helping wide-format PSPs nationwide engage with local youth.




JON SHERMAN IS used to giving presentations about wallcoverings, but this time would be different: The audience would consist entirely of children, some as young as 8.

Sherman, founder of Brooklyn-based wallcovering specialist Flavor Paper, was an eager volunteer for the youth design workshop at Fresh Artists, a Philadelphia-area nonprofit. However, anyone who’s hosted kids on a print shop tour could probably relate to his initial apprehension. If you’re not a teacher, the idea of acting like one can be more appealing than the reality. But Fresh Artists had thought of that, and fears faded quickly when Sherman learned the students’ art teacher would be on-hand to assist every step of the way. “I basically had a translator,” he says.

The wallpaper workshop was mostly about decorating the new county justice center. However, Fresh Artists also invited participants, shown here with their families, to become the first official members of Kids Who Print. The event was sponsored by Canon USA and the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) and hosted by Jon Sherman, visible at center with Barbara Chandler Allen and Fresh Artists team members.

Another difference from traditional youth engagement events was the focus on tangible results. Far from being bored, these 12 children (and their families) were “ecstatic” to see their designs translated into actual wallcoverings made on the latest wide-format digital printing equipment, Sherman recalls. “Watching them watch the prints come out for the first time … the awe in their faces at the process and the magic they were witnessing was really amazing.”

Fresh Artists has been doing programs like this for years. However, the large logo in the image above – which might be familiar to attendees of last month’s Printing United Expo – reveals something different about the wallpaper deep-dive: The children who participated became the first official members of Kids Who Print.

“Everywhere you look is pattern. It is achievable. Wallpaper is a touchable, knowable medium, and we have the equipment to produce it. To have lofty things that are beyond their ‘can’ — beyond their world — is far less engaging.” — Barbara Chandler Allen, Fresh Artists

The next step in Fresh Artists’ newest initiative is the kickoff of a turnkey shop-tour program for printers nationwide. Sourced in part through Fresh Artists’ expansive network of registered art teachers, groups of children will bring artwork to local printers as part of a real-world project in which they are essentially the “clients.” Designed to be minimal effort for the printers, the program aims to provide the kids with a similar experience as the wallcovering workshop this past August.

By the time this article is published, Fresh Artists likely will have found at least a few PSPs to help pilot the first Kids Who Print shop tours. Even newer wrapping and installation programs might have moved forward as well. Regardless, founder Barbara Chandler Allen says none of this would have been possible without ever-increasing support and recognition from the printing community (including this publication). “Kids Who Print is our way of giving back to an industry that has given us so much,” she says.


Young artists and Judge Clifford watch the printing action through the transparent cover of Fresh Artists’ Canon Colorado wide-format printer.


Fresh Artists’ core mission is to empower children at severely underfunded schools through art and philanthropy. Allen and her son, Roger, founded the organization on the idea of decorating interiors with large, digitally printed replications of children’s artwork in exchange for donations to fund public school art programs. Other activities include hands-on “Design Labs” like Sherman’s wallpaper workshop. Rather than replicating curated art, these projects expose kids to potential career paths by inviting them to create real products for real clients under the tutelage of professional designers.

However, previous initiatives for introducing children to creative careers used print mostly as a vehicle – a means to an end. With Kids Who Print, printing is the career path.

This evolution in thinking has been years in the making. Various Design Labs, as well as other initiatives such as “Cool Jobs” career expos, have introduced students to experts in fields ranging from architecture to high-end office furniture. However, the most engaging projects tended to be focused heavily on printing. The reason why is simple: The kids can relate to it, Allen says. And with guidance, they can do it. “We’ve realized this is our DNA … the thing we should be putting our energy into,” Allen says.

Fresh Artists’ knowledge and capability as a printer – and by extension, a printing educator – also has expanded over the years. Allen credits support from industry manufacturers and organizations (particularly long-term partner Printing United Alliance) for fueling this expansion. In 2020, formal recognition with a Big Picture Women in Wide Format Award led to a critical “a-ha” moment – the sense that Fresh Artists had “made it” as a printer. This newfound validation fueled the confidence and the drive to give back that would eventually give rise to Kids Who Print. “That was the crucible,” Allen says.

New connections led Allen to Deborah Corn, creator of the “Girls Who Print” network of industry women. “What about ‘Kids Who Print?’” Allen recalls asking herself. “That’s what we do! I got up at 3 a.m., went to GoDaddy, bought the domain name, and we were in business.”

Hands-on exercises helped young artists understand the role of mathematics in creating art that can expand into repeating patterns that cover entire walls.


Allen met Sherman on Big Picture’s editorial advisory board, which she joined after winning the award. She thought the wallpaper expert would be an ideal candidate to help with one of Fresh Artists’ most ambitious projects to date: decorating the new Montgomery County Justice Center, a massive addition to the county courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Most of the project involves Fresh Artists’ traditional, standalone scale-ups of children’s art. However, Judge Daniel Clifford offered a more ambitious idea for his family court: Why not adorn this space – where families experience some of the most stressful and difficult moments of their lives – with colorful, repeating patterns?

The following three days were a cacophony of activity, ranging from “Rorschach” folding exercises with painted paper to exploration of patterns by cutting and rearranging geometric shapes. Judge Clifford was on-hand to watch, while Angel Georgiou, senior product marketing specialist at Canon, helped with the printing process. Three teachers from the Thomas Jefferson University’s Center for Excellence in Surface Imaging stopped by and invited the kids to visit their textile-focused digital printing department. To top it all off, the families of all twelve kids visited for the final unveiling of the wallpaper designs.

“It was all about opening their eyes to the possibility that this can be a job, and that it’s attainable. They all saw that it can come from a simple sketch that you can sell to fabric and wallpaper companies – that can be your business – and that surface design is a huge field with endless opportunities.” — Jon Sherman, Flavor Paper


Through her burgeoning print industry connections, Allen met Kyra Hartnett of Twenty2, who used select pieces of children’s Philadelphia-related art to create the toile (Toile de Jouy, a French term for fabric printed with narrative patterns) on the left. Later in his hands-on workshop, Sherman explained toile and guided students through its creation. At right, a young artist points out her contribution to the group’s Norristown toile, which consists of landmarks and other unique aspects of the neighborhood.

At the end of the lab, the 12 young artists became the first students to join Kids Who Print. At the time, the shop tours now coming into fruition had yet to be conceived. However, the justice center project provides a good example of what the experience will entail, and why it will work. Just ask Jon Sherman. “This was the kind of thing that will help a lot of print shops understand how they can help their communities,” he says.

Based on testimony from Sherman and Allen, the shop tours will replicate the workshop experience in the following ways:

  • A well-defined project. The first tours will invite 6th through 12th graders to design their own 3- by- 3-inch logo stickers for printing at local shops. Although not as ambitious as decorating the justice center, designing logo stickers for printing at local PSPs shares the advantage of keeping the kids focused on a tangible, real-world result (and on the potential of real-world career opportunities).
  • Outside involvement. Sherman had plenty of help during the workshop. Similarly, the potential hosts of nationwide “Kids Who Print” tours will rely on schools or organizations such as scout troops, church groups, or Boys & Girls Clubs. After all, the whole idea is to make this easy. Fresh Artists will provide templates, videos, and everything else these local partners need to run the majority of the workshop. When the artwork is ready, the art teacher (or other leader) will chaperone the tour of the print shop, where students watch their designs move through scanning, color-correcting, printing, and cutting into sticker sheets.
  • A receptive audience. Sherman’s three-day, family court wallpaper workshop was the third and final segment of the nearly three-week-long MONTCO Justice Art Stars design camp. The overall camp included 21 “Art Stars,” all of whom were hand-selected by Fresh Artists from a group of more than 50 initially nominated by their art teachers. Sherman’s workshop involved only 12 of those 21. As an extension of project-focused workshops rather than a standalone events, Kids Who Print shop tours will naturally involve some level of vetting by local organizations as well. In short, the kids who attend are likely to be the ones who most want to be there.
  • Lasting lessons (and a souvenir). In addition to showing the process, shop owners will have the opportunity to guide discussions about how staff got their jobs and specific paths the kids could follow. They can hand out literature on any internships available to older high school students. After a group photograph, the kids will go home with three sets of sticker sheets they designed to trade or use however they please.
  • A learning experience for the host. On some tours the students may well become the teachers, as they did in Sherman’s workshop. As he explains it, working with kids’ art was a reminder that a great wallcovering “doesn’t have to be perfect. They’re less precious about it, which makes it more precious. They’re not concerned that every line matches up – it’s not in their minds at all. When you’re a polished designer you think about these things, but that takes out some of the character.”

Featuring playful, colorful patterns, the children’s wallpaper for the new family court is meant to be welcoming, uplifting, and comforting.


Fresh Artists was founded on the idea that the refrigerator door doesn’t have to be the last stop for children’s artwork. However, another burgeoning Kids Who Print initiative is leading the organization to make an exception for community fridges, which philanthropists keep stocked with fresh food for use by anyone in need.

Known for now simply as “Refrigerator Wrappers,” this Kids Who Print pilot program aims to attract young teens to sustainable careers in wrapping and installation by designing, printing, and installing community refrigerator wraps. Like the shop tours and workshops, the program will provide access to professionals in the field. Ideally, it will help expose and explore pathways to enter the workforce “with credentials, experience, and an altruistic heart,” Allen says.

In addition to more in-house workshops focused on prototyping and printing, future ambitions for Kids Who Print include connections to paid summer internships for older teens. Whatever the future of this initiative, Fresh Artists sees plenty of opportunity not only to further its own mission, but also to give back.

For evidence of that, look no further than the pamphlet that came with the KWP-logo tote bags distributed at the recent Printing United Expo in Atlanta. “For several years, our friends at Printing United told us ‘our industry needs to cultivate the next generation of engaged and diverse employees,’” it reads. “We know the kids you need to know! And we’re designing a new program for PSPs as a thank you to the industry that’s been so supportive to us for 16-plus years.”

For more about Fresh Artists and Kids Who Print – including how you can help — visit

📷 Images courtesy of Fresh Artists




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