Thursday, June 1, 2017

Artist Q&A | Susan Harter of Muralpapers

Interior design by Morrissey Saypol Interiors, wallpaper Aldsworth Faded by Susan Harter

Susan Harter is the artist behind the ingenious concept of creating life-size mural wallpaper from her original paintings. These works of art create the highly-sought after look of imported exotic papers that we have all come to love and envy, but with a fresh, painterly twist. Susan's muralpapers have graced the pages of Architectural Digest, House Beautiful, and the Washington Post, to name a few. After long admiring her work, I was thrilled to be able to have a chat with Susan, learn more about what brought her into this world of art and design, and share her stunning work with you today.

Interior design by Carter and Co.,  Boston. To get this look, try Susan's Barrington's Mist mural.

Nancy Marcus: What led you to the field of art?

Susan Harter:
I was studying sociology at college, then a friend dragged me to a painting class.  She was too nervous to go alone. She ended up hating it, but I was hooked, especially when the professor hugged me at the end of class and said, "Never stop doing this!"
I'm never happier than when I'm painting, or out in nature. Painting mural landscapes combines both. I'm just delighted I can make a living at it.

Peaceful bedroom in Delft -Classic Blue wallpaper 

NM: What do you love most about your career?

I love the chance to see some of America's most beautiful homes, and learn from some of the best designers. Interior designers elevate ordinary living to an art form. The discipline fascinates me; their choice to constantly create beauty and visual harmony, rather than settle for whatever's easy. Designers create little heavens on earth. I wish everyone had the time, energy, and funds to create one for themselves. I like to joke that if we all could do that, we'd have no war. We'd be too busy making the world beautiful!

I also love the freedom of running my own business. My studio is in a brick loft  in Port Townsend, WA, a gorgeous little Victorian seaport at the tip of the Olympic Peninsula. Bald eagles fly over downtown, deer wander around eating roses. Anytime I need a break, I can walk my dogs to the ocean and watch the sailboats.

A sophisticated nursery designed by Erin Gates, with Calmsden Grisaille wallpaper

A sophisticated nursery designed by Erin Gates, with Calmsden Grisaille wallpaper

NM: How would you describe your personal style? And do the wallpapers you create influence your own décor choices?

My career started in Boston, and I was fortunate to work with some of the greats of New England Design (folks like Bill Hodgins, Charles Spada, Richard Fitzgerald, Michael Carter, Eugene Lawrence, and Gerald Pomeroy).  Boston style still shows its Puritan roots. It's never gaudy, never overstated. But it's not stuffy, either. Though it's grounded in traditional forms and classic proportions, there's an emphasis on clear, light, subtle colors. That, and an almost Shaker-like rejection of excessive ornament, make it perennially fresh.

I wish I could say my own home is as stunning as those of my clients! Interior design is a discipline I'm still learning, and I confess my own home is often in a state of churning.  I get inspired by each new great design I see. But my home palette, yes, is pretty much the same as my mural palette. I think interior colors are most restful when they mimic nature, and peace is what I'm after at home. The world is challenging enough without being challenged by your wall colors!

Interior design by Veronica Castellucci, Delft-Black wallpaper

NM: I love that answer, and I couldn't agree more! Soothing color palettes are evident throughout your works and I think 'peaceful,' is probably the perfect descriptor of your murals.

NM: What/who has been your greatest professional influence?

David Webster of Webster and Co. in Boston is someone to whom I'll always be grateful. He believed in my mural wallpaper in it's earliest, roughest, "here's my dream" version.  He was kind enough to promote it, and the work of emerging artists everywhere.  Truly an extraordinary man with a generous heart and a killer eye for design. I'll also always be grateful to Eugene Lawrence, who gave me so many fun projects (and whose kind, yet frank, criticisms helped hone my painting skills).

NM: What project are you most proud of?

Recently I donated a mural to a charitable auction, and the proceeds went to an orphanage in Africa. I'd love to do more of that. Before starting my career as a muralist, I worked for Oxfam, raising funds for overseas development projects. So that donation felt like coming full-circle.  I feel like I should shout here, "Attention designers! Think of my wallpaper for charitable show houses!"

NM: I love that full-circle circumstance, how fantastic. I hope designers will indeed connect with talents such as yourself for such amazing causes. I absolutely loved your collaboration with M and M Interior Design for the Lake Forest Showhouse, and such a fantastic cause.

Collaboration with M and M Interior Design at the Lake Forest Showhouse

NM: What is your next career venture?

Oh, I'm just bubbling with ideas! On my desk today is a sketch of a cactus-strewn landscape inspired by a recent trip to AZ, while one of my wonderful assistants is stretching canvas for a painting of Puget Sound.  The move west has inspired all kinds of new artwork ideas. We're also experimenting with some exciting new printing techniques, and substrates.  A friend in town weaves the most amazing silks - for fashion designers like Chanel -  which she can back for us as woven wallpaper.  So, new products coming soon!

Sue De Chiara's dining room in a custom colorway of the Calmsden design

Sue De Chiara's dining room in a custom colorway of the Calmsden design

NM: Susan I know I am not just speaking for myself when I say I cannot wait to see what you are cooking up. I love hearing that your creative brain is brewing what's next, and I know you will be successful in whatever you touch. Thank you for sharing a bit of your story and your talent with us today, it was an honor to have you! (to see more from Susan Harter, visit her website here).



Lily said...

It is just amazing! Wonderful!

Anonymous said...

Wow a very talented artist indeed, thank you for the introduction to Susan's work!


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