Anatomy Of A Design: A Closer Look At The Hypnotic And Hieroglyphic Inkblot Study Wallpaper

Robert Malmberg, artist, wallpaper designer, and Founder of Malmberg Studio, Inc., joins us to discuss the design process in creating his “Inkblot Study” wallpaper. Printed on non-woven vellum paper, the hieroglyphic-esque symbols create a bold and unique pattern; a beautiful statement for any room.

Raymond Paul Schneider: When did you first start to develop this new collection?
Robert Malmberg: “Inkblot Study” is one of Malmberg Studio Wallpaper’s 16 designs. As I developed designs for our company’s launch, I contemplated a bunch of different patterns that would translate unexpectedly into wallpaper. I began exploring designs for “Inkblot Study” in January 2021. The wallpaper went into production in March 2021.

“Inkblot Study” in Gold colorway.

“Inkblot Study” in Gold colorway.

Raymond: What was your initial inspiration, and where did the idea(s) come from?
Robert: At the time, I had been reading about Shodo (ancient Japanese practice of artistic handwriting) and had also been visually exploring the designs of the original Rorschach inkblot tests. In my mind, I saw the two coming together to create something akin to a new language of art and design. My ultimate goal was to create a pattern of unique elements that people could get lost in and visually engage with something new each time they entered a room. There is something very beautiful about the freedom of bringing an individual interpretation to the forms and perhaps sparking interesting conversation along the way.

Raymond: What was the overall timeline from conception to achieving the final design?
Robert: “Inkblot Study” was an intentionally slow(ish) process, taking approximately 8 weeks to complete. Testing the right materials took some trial and error, but once that was set I was able to take my time in the studio. I started with making plates, exploring different ways to create textured and visually meaningful inkblots. Once I had a selection of plates, I photographed each of them individually, playing with the light and shadows and textures. From there, I spent a lot of time on the layout of the plates to create a cohesive design that hit the right notes for a wallpaper print.

Creating plates in the studio, the latex paint dries overnight.

Creating plates in the studio, the latex paint dries overnight.

Raymond: Please describe your overall creative and design process.
Robert: My design process is simultaneously chaotic and peaceful, but ultimately it’s a rewarding, personal, and analog experience. There is always some sketching and loose framework prior to starting any new design, but in the end, it usually evolves into something quite different. This is largely in part because I’m a deeply curious person and love exploring the infinite amount of options that are presented during the creation process. It usually feels like I’m designing a puzzle, making the pieces up as I move along until it all seems to flow and fit in a way that resonates with me. Studio art allows me to tap into my inner child and encourages a playful spirit, which I find to be quite therapeutic.

The “Inkblot Study” wallpaper print is available by the yard in Hummingbird Pink, White, and Gold. Custom color ways are available.

The “Inkblot Study” wallpaper print is available by the yard in Hummingbird Pink, White, and Gold. Custom color ways are available.

Raymond: Please describe the methods, tools, and materials you used to develop and prototype this design?
Robert: This wallpaper print was inspired by Hermann Rorschach’s historic inkblot tests that allow the viewer to interpret ambiguous designs. The interpretations are then analyzed to examine a person’s personality and emotional functioning. With that said, my intention was not to necessarily open any psychological doors but to use this method to express some bold and abstract forms in a pure symmetrical fashion.

I created these plates in the studio using black and iridescent gold acrylic paint on high-quality textured fine art paper. I went straight from the paint tube on to one half of the folded paper, keeping in mind the general shape I’d like to end up with by working with curved broken lines and random dollops. I then folded the paper back together, manipulating the paint by moving my hands along the clean backing. Once reopened, the paint reveals a hieroglyphic-esque symbol usually quite different than what I anticipated. The moment of reveal is always fascinating, and honestly quite addictive — while the “Inkblot Study” design comprises twelve carefully selected motifs, I created about a hundred of these unique plates before the editing process began!

An up-close look at Robert’s technique for the inkblots, using acrylic black and gold on textured fine art paper.

An up-close look at Robert’s technique for the inkblots, using acrylic black and gold on textured fine art paper.

Raymond: Describe your overall brand DNA and Ethos.
Robert: The Malmberg Studio brand is committed to creating authentic art and designs for human beings to feel more human, and to inspire a sense of curiosity and wanderlust. In an increasingly anxious and noisy digital world, our wallpaper and limited edition prints offer a way for people to connect with the beauty of the natural world, physical art, and the power of imagination.

We proudly design, print, and frame all of our products in the USA using environmentally-friendly materials. All Malmberg Studio fine art prints are individually printed in-house and framed by an incredibly talented framer just down the street from the studio. Our wallpaper is printed by a small business in Connecticut that shares our commitment to quality and artisanship.

Click here to see more of our “Anatomy of a Design” series.

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