We wanted insight into where the wallcovering industry is going, where new installers are finding their inspiration, and how the Wallcovering Installers Association can keep up and meet the needs of new installers. Creatives, hands-on crafters, and students graduating in design fields looking for a unique career, as well as seasoned professionals looking for new inspiration, will find something from our latest interview with the talented installer, Amy Anderson, apprentice to Heidi Wright Mead of A Paperhanger. Get the summary here from our live interview last month:
Becoming Interested in Wallcovering Installation
Amy takes it back to her days working in a high end showroom in the San Francisco Bay area. She shares how at the time Heidi Wright Mead was working with the designer, Geoffrey De Sousa (of Geoffrey De Sousa Interior Design) and how they seemed to always be in similar circles. It was soon after that Amy popped into a talk led by Heidi that Amy learned of the trends projected over the next five to ten years of professional wallcovering installers retiring with no new installers entering the field to fill the demand.
At the time Amy wasn’t interested in anything outside of interior design. Later Amy found herself working for another store and designer (that Heidi also happened to have worked with). There was a turn of events when Amy found out the retail store how to close and that she was going to be out of a job. “To say this was kismet is an understatement”, because the next day after Amy found out the news, Heidi came into the store. That was in 2015 and the rest is history. They have been working together ever since.
The Biggest Advantages of Starting Out as an Apprentice
Amy has the good fortune of being surrounded by talented installers and contractors amongst Heidi’s tribe. The full group is comprised of Heidi’s brother Sam and friend Joel (who both studied in Northern California at a trade school). They also have as part of that tribe, Heidi’s husband who is a general contractor. Together this group makes a talented team where Amy has the opportunity to work both one-on-one with Heidi, and also gain exposure to larger jobs. Apprenticing with Heidi, allows Amy insights into all aspects of the business directly from installers and contractors with decades of experience. When summarizing her experience as an apprentice to Heidi, “To learn by working, it is so much more valuable to start from the bottom and work my way up versus going to school.”
Advantages of Working With Heidi Wright Mead
Working in the San Francisco bay area, affords Heidi and Amy opportunities to work with high end designers. Among the big names are de Gournay and Gracie; known for their intricate, hand-painted wallcoverings. For reference, the two embark on three or more special high end projects a year. The specialized material requires someone really experienced; emphasizing that new installers wouldn’t want to start here without a mentor. These projects require exceptional detail and artistry from the installer including hand painting the switch plates and seams for a professional flawless finish.
What are the opportunities for WIA to focus on in the next five years?
Amy would like to see WIA get an update; a refreshed look and feel. Mainly the website could be simplified and clarified to help attract new people. She sites that more educational opportunities either in person or online are a huge opportunity for the WIA to move into for new installers. There’s also opportunity for the WIA to create a set of basic videos for a new person starting out to help gain a footing in the field.
Thoughts Overall on the Wallcovering Industry
Amy speaks to how the industry is poised for growth and how it gives her unique autonomy, “It is growing, but we need to find more installers. There is a lot of opportunity and I’m excited about where it is going. I have the ability to shape it to how I want.”
Favorite Project to Date
Amy cites her favorite project to date to be the Winchester Mystery House. The Winchester Mystery House is a historic Victorian house in San Jose that was once owned by Sarah Winchester; whose husband invented the Winchester rifle. It is said that when her husband passed away, Sarah went and saw a medium where she was told she would be haunted by all the people killed by her husband’s guns. Sarah, an aspiring architect, built this 160 room Victorian structure; the Winchester house. It is now carefully undergoing restoration. Heidi and Amy are already contracted to do another dining room in 2019. It’s somewhere Amy can work on for the rest of her career.
The highlights are how much those in charge of the restoration really care about the historical aspects of the design. Heidi and Amy were able to work with of the original wallcovering from over a 100 years ago! These older materials, made with wood pulp and embossed, were brittle and rolled up in the attic. Heidi was able to carefully unroll the antique paper, add water, and carefully place heating blankets to bring the papers to life again.
What are the top influencers and designers you follow on Instagram to inspire your craft?
We wanted to pick the brain of our creative, Amy, who would most definitely have her own list of sources for inspiration. That list is as follows:
- Emily Henderson
- Orlando Soria (who used to work for Emily Henderson)
- Interior designer, Sasha Bikoff, for her work with Voutsa out of New York designing custom paper based off the Memphis design movement; “an almost 80s deco with a modern twist.”
- Lake August
- Flavor Paper for their Andy Warhol collection, and for when they partner with designers to do screen prints on mylar.
- Grow House Grow: known for their narrative-inspired wallpaper design.
- Sarah and Ruby for their historical twist with domino style papers. The paper is offered in rectangles and, “gives you flexibility on the way the installation looks.”
You may not be aware of this, but wallcovering installers are in demand, yet the supply of new installers is trending down. That means there is a huge opportunity for new and talented creatives to enter the niche field that is poised for growth. Since the wallcovering installation craft persists as a bit of a secret amongst the seasoned professionals like Heidi Wright-Mead, those willing to embark on a career in wallcovering have the opportunity to shape the entire future of the industry. If you are a crossroads like Amy found herself once, and have an interest in interior design, furniture design, or a creative hands-on field, then the Wallcovering Installers Association doesn’t need to be a secret.
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