Staring at the wallpaper

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Some of Bedford’s greatest interior design treasures are going on display as part of a new exhibition celebrating the work of illustrator Edward Bawden.

Hand, and in some cases, foot-printed designs are on display at the Higgins Museum in its Mermaids, Roses, Camels and Cows exhibition.

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The display covers the artist’s range of papers dating from the 1920s to 1950s, and includes unused designs, preliminary sketches and finished papers.

The earliest design dates back to 1927, when Bawden was still a student.

Experimenting with lino cutting techniques, he made the Tree and Cow print in his London bedsit, stamping each cow onto the paper with his foot.

In 1928, he designed Sahara, which features camels and sand dunes, for an Egyptologist at the British Museum.

Commercially, the designs were made on a small scale and were sold almost exclusively through a boutique in London.

If one could afford these unique papers, hanging them was quite a challenge.

Unlike modern wallpaper, they did not come on the roll, but in sheets which varied in size according to the dimensions of the motif.

The last paper he designed was in the 1950s, and abstract print for home interior firm Sanderson.

The wallpapers are part of a collection of more than 3,000 items Edward Bawden donated to the museum between 1981 and 1989, after he decided his life’s work should be collected together and housed in Bedford.

Mermaids, Roses, Camels and Cows opens on Saturday, November 8, and runs until the end of March 2015.

A lunchtime talk on the exhibition will be given by the curator on Thursday, November 27, at 1pm.

For more information, go to