When she decided to use Charles E. Burchfield’s little-known wallpaper designs as background for a designer show house in her hometown of Buffalo, New York, Traci Ackerman had her eureka moment. A former art teacher and volunteer at the Burchfield Penny Art Museum, Ackerman knew that Burchfield—better known for his naturalistic, American regionalist paintings—had briefly been a wallpaper designer for the influential Birge Wallpaper Company in Buffalo. “I knew the designs could be relevant today,” she says.
That was five years ago. After looking without success for an existing wallpaper maker to take on the project, Ackerman jumped in with both feet. Calling on a network of artists and graphic designers, she chose “Flowers At Night” as the first design, and began testing single-roll runs of silk screened paper on a 15'-long table in her garage. “Flowers” is a complex composition of reeds, flowers, birds, and negative space, but Ackerman had no trouble finding artists skilled in silk screening to help her. “Printmakers were coming out of the woodwork looking for us. We do believe what we are doing is artwork.”
Red Disk Studio produces three wallpaper designs created by Burchfield in the early 1920s (“Flowers At Night,” “Dogwood,” and “Rose Bouquet”), as well as two papers inspired by the artist’s doodles: “Archie” and “Walter.” The company has added designs by five local artists. Recently, the studio moved into the 1904 Pierce Arrow building in town, home to many artists. Print runs on two 30-foot-long tables take place several days a week. It’s time and labor intensive, but the studio is moving toward turning a profit. “I really feel that Burchfield is watching over us,” Ackerman says.