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A tale of renewal

From Habitat plus – wallpaper

The work of William Mason, arguably the most important wallpaper designer and manufacturer in New Zealand history, has been brought back to life by Resene.

Napier-born and London-trained textile designer Mason lived in Wellington in the 1950s, teaching art and exhibiting paintings. He and his wife Maureen began producing hand-printed textiles, then wallpapers which were eagerly snapped up by homeowners renovating old villas. By 1965, the Masons' work adorned the walls of our embassies worldwide as well as the New Zealand suite in the Hong Kong Hilton hotel. Today, examples are held in prominent galleries and museums including the Alexander Turnbull Library and Te Papa.

Printing wallpaper is an ancient art. Originally printed by blocks made from fruit tree wood it superceded the previous means of decorating walls – hanging plain paper and illustrating it when in situ. By the 1950s the ‘screen printing’ technique became more widespread and is the process we are most familiar with today.

Mason Handcrafted Wallpaper collection.
Far left: This Mason Bamboo design uses Resene Rangoon Green and metallic paints Resene Pioneer and Resene Pure Pewter.   Centre: This Mason Tosca design uses Resene Half Delta on Resene Rice Cake.   Top right: This Mason Poppies design uses Resene Nero, Resene White, Resene Bedrock and metallic Resene Gold Dust.

As Bill neared retirement, he sold his business to his friend Tony Nightingale of Resene. Wallpaper has been a part of the Resene story since the company bought Mason Prints in 1974. Resene continued to expand the original Masons collection into new designs and colourways.

In 2016, Resene commissioned boutique wallpaper producer Ben Masters of PaperHands to recreate Mason designs using Resene paints to screenprint the papers. Martinborough-based PaperHands was formed in 2009 by Ben and Helen Masters in the age-old Kiwi tradition of DIY when the couple couldn't find a suitable product for a renovation project at their own home. They are still the only commercial hand-screeners of wallpaper in the country.

Around 20 of the Mason collection positives were in good enough condition to consider using, from which eight formed the final selection. While the resulting sample book features selected Resene colour combinations, customers are welcome to specify their own preferences from any of the Resene colour collections.

Using paints instead of inks has meant slightly altering the production methods used by PaperHands but the process is fundamentally the same. Specialist blank papers are imported by Aspiring Walls, which also supplies Resene with commercial wallpaper ranges.

View the Mason Handcrafted Wallpaper collection at your local Resene ColorShop (selected stores only). Or view the Mason designs and colours online


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