Wallpaper is generally associated with surface-level ornamentation. Patterns and shapes dance across two-dimensional base layers while distracting the eye. But for Yolande Milan Batteau, the principal artist of Callidus Guild, this basic concept runs in opposition to her guiding ethos, and specifically, to her new collection of wallpapers, titled Matte.
“My design process is usually inspired by traveling,” Batteau begins by telling AD PRO. While this strikes a similar chord in terms of the methodology of many creatives, Batteau’s description of her process quickly takes a sharp turn. “I go to different regions and am inspired by other people and what they’re building,” she says. “For this collection, I went to the Aeolian Islands and High Sierra Mountains in California. I went pigment and clay foraging in both places.”
For those wondering what the exact meaning of “pigment foraging” is, it is indeed similar to how it sounds. “We got up into the High Sierras and there was this vein of ochre,” Batteau recalls. “We scrubbed [it] and painted it into rocks, and [as it was] drying [we] were surprised by the saturation of the earth pigments.” For Batteau, this interest in the true nature of pigmentation is not unique to this individual experience. (She describes how on a previous trip to Mexico, she was pleasantly startled to see how cochineal, a beetle generally associated with and harnessed for its brilliant shade of red, transformed from white to red to orange to violet depending on how it was ground, exposed to air, and treated with natural acid from lemons and limes.)
And yet, despite this focus on color, the first thing that may strike any viewer of Matte is that it possesses a fairly neutral palette. What Matte is really about is demonstrating how natural materials from the earth (and realistically, the ground) can fuse together to form tactile interior surfaces. In the case of some of the works included in Matte, actual chips of marble were used, thereby evoking the texture of stone. To achieve this, and other, subtly nuanced varieties, Batteau drew upon a range of different thoughts.
For starters, there was the idea that the pigments she experienced on her most recent travels had a powdery finish—which differed greatly from the more polished Venetian plasters that have been popular of late. But her inquisitive focus can also be traced back to the ancient world, and its innate connection to surrounding nature. “It’s a contemporary illusion, the separation of surface and architecture,” Batteau says, describing how throughout the ancient Mediterranean basin, people painted and treated their walls with hybrid mineral-based mixtures. She also is quick to note that the ancient world was not as “desaturated and muted” as we often think of it today. “Pigments have such a range,” Batteau says, citing their “intense opacity, miraculous transparency, and light-reflecting” qualities—among others.
It was the Aeolian Islands as opposed to California mountain ranges that helped spark these particular thoughts. As interested as Batteau is in color (she notes how while island hopping, she couldn’t help but note how even the most brilliant hues could read as somewhat neutral when compared to the azure sky-meets-sea backdrop), it is “the materials themselves that keep me most engaged.”
“I want to pick it up and smash it—and then translate it for people who aren’t having those experiences,” she continues. There’s an added bonus, too, in that by hewing closely to such materials, Callidus Guild’s products truly are natural. (“It’s really just dirt,” she notes at one point of what went into Matte.) Ultimately, as finely crafted and thought-out as Batteau’s works are, she cares most about the fact that such processes live on. “The way to keep these materials alive is to buy them,” she says, noting too that she and her firm are open to discussing pricing. “All of these ideas are beautiful but fading from culture because people don’t realize they are accessible.” And while we may no longer paint our walls with horse-hair brushes as, according to Batteau, the ancient Romans did, it appears that these processes and materials are indeed ever so slightly more attainable than before.
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest