Printsburgh Wallpaper Finds Beauty in Life’s Imperfections

10/22/2018 By Adrian Thompson

Having an appreciation for makers and their work, office furniture company Kimball went all out with its Chicago showroom by showcasing products from makers across the nation. So far, we’ve seen how Kimball incorporated hand-blown lighting from the Midwest, custom wood creations from America’s Music City and hand-died leather rugs from Brooklyn to create a showroom that aims to provide an environment of comfort and wellbeing.

Picking the Right Wallpaper

Using its own furniture and having already selected the rugs, accessories and lighting, Kimball had one component left to select: wallpaper. The furniture company teamed up with Printsburgh, an up-and-coming wallpaper brand located in (you guessed it) Pittsburgh, PA. Founded by Clinton Van Gemert, who originally designed clothing before making the leap to interior wallpaper, Printsburgh products embrace the inconsistencies, scars and wear of life. Gemert even uses this fresh approach to loomed rugs as well.

In the final chapter of this Monday Maker mini-series that has highlighted collaborations with Kimball, find out what encouraged Gemert to create his own business and how he finds inspiration in imperfection.

Beginnings & Inspiration: Before Wallpaper

interiors+sources: How did you get your start?

Clinton Van Gemert: While working full-time as a book jacket designer in New York, I started a screen printing side project as a creative outlet and a way to make some additional income. I was fortunate enough that my side project took off literally overnight and allowed me to make the leap into being self-employed.

While working independently on my printed clothing brand, HeadHoods, I decided to advertise my new brand locally by pasting my designs on the streets of Brooklyn. I found myself enjoying the process of printing paper more than the clothing and loved the way it felt, covered surfaces and decayed over time. I began doing bigger pieces and taking part in group art shows. I was beginning to witness all of the developing going on in the neighborhoods, and it just clicked one day to start making wallpaper for these new walls. Instead of printing a garment for an individual to wear, I realized I wanted to print rooms for people to live in.

i+s: What inspires you?

CVG: I’m inspired by more traditional approaches to doing work in the creative fields, such as illustration, hand lettering, wood cutting, sewing and weaving, to name a few. Finding that balance of being efficient but also having that bit of rawness that makes the work feel human and more desirable, in my opinion. I’m always inspired by genres of music such as jazz and folk music. I feel those tunes are not meant to sound perfect, and it is that imperfection that makes it real.

i+s: What is your most memorable wallpaper product or collection you’ve worked on and why?

CVG: I was asked to paper an entire Victorian mansion/B&B called the Urban Cowboy in Nashville, TN. It’s a fun and wild place and the papers they chose were a good match. I’ve never done a job of that scale before and that far away from my studio. It took a lot of planning, energy and time to print and install the work, and it felt really good to complete it. While working on this install, I would find myself putting another layer of wallpaper over sometimes multiple layers of old damaged wallpaper that was hung a long time ago. It gave me a sense of doing a trade and doing it successfully as it really transformed the space.

The Wallpaper Creative Process & Must-Haves

i+s: Describe what a typical work day for you looks like.

CVG: I’ve been self-employed for about 10 years now, and I have since forgotten what it was like to have a scheduled work flow. That said, I have to constantly keep in mind where my next job is going to come from while trying to keep my business fresh and evolving. Moving to Pittsburgh has made this a lot easier, as this city is more affordable to live and create in. Some days, I’ll print all day, and during breaks in between sessions I’ll get back to prospective clients, answering questions about my product and scheduling appointments.

Then some days I’ll be at a site installing the paper I printed the day before. On days I don’t have a job to print or install and want to feel productive, I usually find myself looming a pillow or a rug that I sell online or at a local spot. There are days I don’t want to do anything work related, and I’ll go for a hike or bike ride with friends, or play some music and decompress. I feel very lucky to have this certain balance of work and life that seems to be organic and currently working (knock on wood).

i+s: Name some must-haves you need or like to have on-hand when starting a new wallpaper project.

CVG: It’s essential to be on the same page with the client, to find out what their goals are for their space and what they want it to look and feel like. I usually reference my website or social media before a new project so the client has an understanding of what I am capable of and my aesthetic. At meetings, I like to have my portfolio of paper samples for the client to see the patterns in person.

i+s: What challenges you most during your creative process?

CVG: My biggest challenge is wallpapering! There are a lot of factors when it comes to papering a new space, whether it’s the scale, the lighting, the surface or timing. It’s a little tricky to tell, even for me, what a pattern will end up looking like in a space because every space is different. Usually when I am done installing a job, the wallpaper is still wet and transparent, and I don’t even get to see the final product until the client follows up with a picture and a thumbs-up.

Favorite Design Era & More

i+s: What is your favorite thing in your working environment?

CVG: At the moment, it is my accordion, but my print studio is full of random projects and musical instruments. I feel like I can’t keep still in there as there is always something I can get into. It’s a great space to practice and hone different skillsets.

i+s: What’s your favorite color?

CVG: The blues.

i+s: What is your favorite design era?

CVG: I would have to say the deco era.

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i+s: Who has helped you realize your dreams?

CVG: I feel my dreams continue to be strengthened by my clients who have been hiring me and, in turn, reinforce that what I do is working.

The Future of Interior Design

i+s: What do you think is next for the interior design industry?

CVG: I hope the industry continues to become more resourceful with repurposing material/recycling as I feel there is still entirely too much waste in our day-to-day lives. I also hope that the trend continues in people seeking out local tradespeople, designers and artists to do the work that is out there.

i+s: What advice would you give to students studying the design field?

CVG: Always be open to new directions in your studies and creative paths because you never know if that one little thing you learned how to do could end up leading to an opportunity down the road. I never would have thought that I would be doing what I am today 10 years ago. There is also that analogy of digging in the same spot and never finding what you are digging for. I’d like to think I’m still digging my share of holes.

i+s: What’s next for you?

CVG: I’m currently moving to a new studio space in the woods. I am looking forward to new surroundings and putting that new energy into my work.

i+s: Where can people find your goods?

CVG: My wallpaper is definitely online for people to see. If you are in the Pittsburgh area, schedule a time with me and let’s look at some samples.

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