Emily Davidson, How It’s Made, 2018. Digitally printed wallpaper, 11’6 x 8, 9’11 x 8, and 4’9 x 8 feet.

Sometimes, when we observe at a room, we overlook one of its most fundamental features: its structure. The walls and floors of a room are its frame. In the Living Room, Emily Davidson’s intricate wallpaper provides an aesthetic anchor that ties the room’s many colours. More significantly, the wallpaper’s design makes visible the collective labour required to build domestic spaces. The wallpaper, titled How It’s Made, is an infographic that shows the systems of labour that flank various aspects of the interior design and décor industry. The work specifically illustrates the chain of production for a custom-designed wallpaper, beginning with the moment when the artist – who has created the design on her Apple computer while family and friends provide childcare – clicks ‘order’ on the Spoonflower website, followed by the wallpaper being printed out on paper with inks on special wide format printers. Finally, the wallpaper is packaged and mailed to the gallery, to be installed in a curated art exhibition by the gallery’s technician. Not only do the illustrations share facts about the production of the paper and inks used to make the wallpaper, and the component parts that support each level of production, they also presents the number of workers employed by various industries from around the world involved in the process. The infographic demonstrates the labour forces implicated in the wallpaper’s design, from the global scale to the local scale: from the millions of people involved in the paper and pulp industry, the hundreds of thousands of people who are postal workers and couriers, the tens of thousands of people involved in software design, to the hundreds of cultural producers and arts administrators in Halifax. Emily intentionally hand-drew the workers in a tender style using organic lines and warm hues applied in water colour, hoping to convey the humanity of those who are a part of the supply chain of digitally printed wallpaper. “The wallpaper design depicts both collective and individual labour,” Emily notes. “As a form of mass-produced decoration, wallpaper is found primarily in domestic spaces, which are considered private and personal. Yet the design of How It’s Made suggests that the isolation of domestic life is an illusion, where individuals are constantly implicated in complex global systems of labour and exchange.”

– JH