The design creations of Harry Richardson and Clare Page are almost always a response to their direct surroundings. “We live and work in southeast London, which is great, but there are chronic problems with rubbish being dumped on the street,” Richardson explains. “There’s also a fantastic market—one rung below a flea market—where things are completely unsorted and items of literally no value are sold right alongside amazing finds.” For a show commissioned by the British Council called My World: Craft and Autonomy in Contemporary Design, the duo applied that influence to another long-standing interest of theirs: panoramic wallpaper from nineteenth-century France. The resulting wall-covering idyllically depicts a garland of trash that appears to float over a sky blue background. Because the screen-printing process is done expensively by hand, the wreath of refuse is applied in one vibrant solitary row rather than repeated. Adjacent walls can be covered in more affordable paper that matches the background, requiring the buyer to purchase only one of the costly rolls. Fly Tip was recently installed in its first residence, a large eighteenth-century manor house in England. “The contemporary paper will be great in the traditional house,” Richardson says. “The contrast is very exciting.” Here Richardson explains the finer points of Fly Tip.
We were concerned that a panorama of garbage could be a bit depressing, but we were keen to make this thing beautiful rather than negative. We feel somewhat sorry for all that’s discarded around us; all of these things were designed to be sold and were attractive a moment before. Now having been used and looking knackered, they’re deemed rubbish.
The usual palette for mass-produced paper is 6 colors; when we started out we wanted upwards of 25. But the printing process is very expensive—as well as time-consuming—because of the skill required, since each color must be applied separately. Eventually we settled on 13 colors to depict the items.
The images are predominantly of found objects that we photographed on a walk within ten minutes of our studio, then turned into illustrations using Photoshop.
The name Fly Tip is a bit of a joke. It comes from a British term meaning illegally dumped rubbish. Generally when one person leaves something, the tendency is for others to leave their rubbish next to it so that it grows into a fly tip. People who discard the items are fly-tipping.
The type of cell phone we depicted is an example of something that will mark the paper as being of this particular era. It was important for us to create something that would eventually look out-of-date. In the conventional French wallpapers there are always references to things that were contemporary when they were produced.
The large flowers and the hummingbird reference more traditional wall-covering patterns—and hopefully put this array of items in a setting closer to Heaven than the one in which they were found.
We chose the items hoping to reference all of the things we need that create trash—such as food, clothing, energy sources, and modes of communication. Then there are a few elements of desire mixed in, like the doll and the wedding ring, which add a more profound emotional component.