Heidi Wright-Mead found her passion for wallcovering almost by accident. Trained as a registered nurse, Heidi was assisting her high-school boyfriend who was a table mechanic when he cut himself at a job site. She stepped in to help complete the work, and discovered a vocation that she found creatively fulfilling and intellectually stimulating — and still partners with her ex-boyfriend on wallcovering projects today.
“It’s such an amazing profession because you can be artistic, and you use your brain,” Heidi said. “It meets a lot of needs as a career goes.”
Her clients say the same of her — her efficient work, creative problem solving, and eye for detail have earned her many accolades and awards, as well as a reputation as one of the San Francisco region’s finest paperhangers.
Wallcovering Installers Association experience
Even after 40 years in the industry, Heidi still finds inspiration in her work, and in her Wallcovering Installers Association (WIA) colleagues. With different tasks to perform every day, no clear-cut options, and plenty of challenges, she also thrives on the symbiotic relationship between designers and technicians.
“We push each other to new heights…when you work with creatives all day, you never get bored,” Heidi said.
Marketing her own membership in the WIA, she’s taken on incredibly challenging restoration projects like the McDonald mansion and has worked with century-old found materials at the Winchester Mystery House. Heidi is event part of Artistic License, a Bay-area guild that takes on historic renovations — her specialty. But despite Heidi’s natural talent for the work, it was several decades before Heidi knew that this was what she would do for a living, rather than as a side-gig for creative fulfillment.
The WIA helped Heidi turn her passion into a career, and continues to provide learning opportunities and enrichment. The support of the association allowed her to push herself further.
“I love this group. My career really took off when I joined the WIA. I was ready to become something better, and the organization was there at that moment,” Heidi said. “I’m so much better by being a member of the WIA.”
Passing on the craft
The WIA is lucky to have her as well. Heidi’s a dedicated mentor who believes in training the next wave of wallcovering hangers. From going to conventions yearly to offering a class on how to run a business, Heidi's passing on her expertise. She’s taken on an apprentice and encourages other wallcovering professionals — especially those in the WIA — to do the same.
“The knowledge in this group is phenomenal and I don’t want it to go away,” Heidi added.
She also advocates for young wallcovering professionals to join the organization early in their careers.
“I think if I had joined the association twenty years ago, I would have done better … I would have understood my worth better, and I would have had more support by joining at a younger age,” Heidi said.
It can be difficult to set out on a creative career path alone, as Heidi often was, and she uses that hard-earned experience to encourage new wallcovering professionals to draw from the knowledge base of their predecessors.
“So many installers are out there alone — we call it being ‘alone at the wall,” she said. “But as a WIA member, you’re never alone at the wall. Peoples’ support, help, and advice is just a phone call or an email away.”
And not all her wisdom pertains directly to her craft.
“Because I work indoors, it’s important that I get outdoors,” Heidi said.
Working under ceilings and up against walls requires a good dose of balance in nature. So, Heidi spends her free time in her garden, hiking, and working on Burning Man art projects. And those little details found in nature seem to follow her back into her rooms in the form of small motifs that delight her clients.