O&A London celebrates its 20th anniversary this year! With a growing number of international projects, and in order to create distinctive collections of furniture, lighting, textiles, wallpaper and rugs under its own unique brand, the company develops collaborative projects with amazing and talented people. We are fortunate to work with leaders in their field: people who do not see boundaries and make the impossible possible. We proudly name these creators, not just as partners but as co-designers and friends.
We are now delighted to announce the anniversary project «20 // 20». The project will present a series of exclusive interviews. The interview with Cory Barber, Creative Director at Holland & Sherry, is about design process, new trends in wallcovering, inspiration and dreams.
Cory Barber, Creative Director at Holland & Sherry, earned his Batchelor of Fine Arts from the State University of New York Purchase College’s School of Art & Design.
O&A: What did you dream about when you were a child?
CB: I grew up in an oceanside town (Long Island, NY). Looking out at the water, I just feel like the world is open to you. I guess I’ve always dreamed about what’s over the horizon.
O&A: Why wallcoverings? Many people still think that wallpaper is something old fashioned, and associates with historic Victorian homes.
CB: I came to wallcoverings from a Fine Art background. At that time, I was an Artists’ Assistant for some of the biggest names in printmaking. Working on projects for Donald Baechler, Chuck Close and more, I could see the connection between printmaking, painting and bespoke wallcovering. At its core, handpainted wallcovering and printmaking has the same goal. Number 1 has to look like Number 46. It’s all about consistent editing. Wallcovering is very personal. You are in control of someone’s environment. It’s where they feel most comfortable. I’m happy to be a part of that. The final result of someone loving their living space is extremely rewarding. With printmaking you get a framed image, – but with wallcovering you get every walls!
O&A: What are the top trends for wallcovering design?
CB: Currently there has been a big push towards murals and tons of color. We in the studio just wrapped up a large handpainted mural project. Five murals for a hotel! It was fun and challenging but a custom handpainted mural is hard to beat.
O&A: When and how did you start your collaboration with Holland & Sherry?
CB: Holland and Sherry approached me when they were interested in creating a handpainted wallcovering studio way back in 2015. I was fortunate that they put their trust in me to build a division they currently didn’t have. Since then we have more than tripled the size of the Wallcovering Studio.
O&A: How do you work on a collection? Who and what inspires you?
CB: Collections are often built with the idea that wallcoverings can stand on their own but also be paired with Holland and Sherry’s Rugs and Fabric department. Sometimes inspiration comes from mistakes. For example the paint might act in a surprising, but interesting way. Then it’s about controlling the mistake so it becomes planned. My biggest inspirations come from the art world.
I was fortunate enough to work alongside Malcolm Morley in his studio on Long Island. He spent a lifetime reinventing himself as an artist. Even in his later years, he was adventurous. It’s impressive when a person creates a “Genre” of painting then moves away from it for others to develop. Ruth Lingen, has been another shining star I look up to. She has been a Print Master to artists on the forefront of fine art since the late 70s. She is a technician second to none and such a joy to be around. Her knowledge is endless.
O&A: What dominates your work: creativity or technology?
CB: A large majority of our designs never see a computer. Our colours are mixed by hand. Our tools are made with hand tools. Our type of handpainting could be done the same way 100 years ago. You need to be creative. I consider the wonderful technological advancements an addition to creation, not the sole way to create.We had to create all new painting techniques.
O&A: Tell us about your insights working on the Caledonia collection?
CB: Caledonia was interesting from a development standpoint. O&A provided plenty of inspiration, from photographs to paragraphs of inspiring words. These were paired with Anna’s detailed and well drafted drawings. The pressure was on! We had to create all new painting techniques to stay true to Anna’s drawings.
O&A: How much time does it take you to make a meter of wallcovering?
CB: 1 meter can take up to 10 mins. Most times it’s well under that and is often done in 30 seconds. The important thing to remember is that it is a layered process. If our wallcovering has 7 steps, we have to paint that 1m of wall covering, 7 times over the course of 7 days. We have to be efficient.
O&A: What do you love about your work?
CB: I love hiring graduates from the Arts Universities. It feels good to be providing steady paychecks to those in the Arts field. I hope they can apply the skills they learn here, to their own artwork.
O&A: What are you dreaming about?
CB: Building a Tiki Hut Raft and floating around lakes and rivers.