Housed in a recently remodeled building on Pacific Street in Brooklyn, the high-end, high-design team of wallpaper makers at Flavor Paper don’t mind putting their manufacturing process on display. The workshop is on street level and passersby freely gawk at the massive sheets of colorful paper—and the people making them—through a massive window. A mirror on the ceiling shows pedestrians even more of the process in what founder Jon Sherman calls "open kitchen–style production." He founded Flavor Paper in New Orleans in 2004, but moved to Brooklyn in 2009. Here’s what you’d see if your nose were pressed to the glass.
A sheet of Flavor Paper wallpaper starts with the screen. Once the pattern—digital or hand-drawn—is finished, it’s printed onto a large sheet of film. Next comes a photographic process, in which an emulsion is placed on film, the film is exposed, and the emulsion is washed off. From there the image is burned on a screen and is ready to print.
In the Ink
Flavor Paper makes all its ink in-house and is constantly matching custom colors as well as keeping its existing stable up to snuff. The water-based inks are comprised of various powders and additives all mixed by eye. But lest you think this is an imprecise process, Flavor Paper records the weights of each element, creating a recipe book of the company’s family of inks.
Essentially screen printing writ large, the printing process starts with laying a long piece of paper (called a "ground") out on a 48-foot-long vacuum table that sucks it down to the tabletop. From there, the paper maker lays the screen over the paper and squeegees as many coats of ink as are necessary to achieve the desired design. A four-color printing process can yield as many as 13 colors in the final product. As the printers make their passes with the ink, a heater trails along behind, drying the ink shortly after it’s applied.
Once the paper is printed, the screens go back into the washout room, where they’re hosed off, and the reusable bits of ink left on the screen are scraped off with a spatula-like tool and dropped back into the ink bucket. Because Flavor Paper runs on a print-to-order basis, there’s little waste.
Aaron writes the men's style column "The Pocket Square" for the San Francisco Chronicle and has written for the New York Times, the Times Magazine, Newsweek, National Geographic and others.