Larger Than Life—Behind the Scenes with MILIEU‘s Spring 2023 Cover Story

Interview by Leslie Newsom Rascoe, MILIEU Design Director
with Katrin Cargill, MILIEU European Editor

The Spring 2023 cover story is so wonderfully playful and colorful, as well as creative, in showing the vast varieties of wallcoverings on the market.  However, it wasn’t until I saw the “behind the scenes” photos from the shoot that I fully appreciated the fantastic and, frankly, surprising scale of the vignettes.

With many thoughts and questions for Katrin Cargill who produced and executed this shoot so beautifully, I went straight to the source.
Behind the Scenes
Behind the Scenes

Katrin, how did you come up with the concept for the shoot? Have you ever done something like this before? 

This was entirely Pam’s (MILIEU‘s Founder and Editor-in-Chief) idea. She kept sending me pictures of huge paper poppies and I kept saying NO!!! I am not a big fan of paper flowers…..but I realized she was serious, so I buckled down!!  She wanted to do a pink and green story which made it much easier when selecting wallcoverings to feature.

Behind the Scenes
Behind the Scenes

Did you intentionally coordinate the design on the wallpaper with the type of flower/plant you created? 

I’d like to say yes, but really I worked with lovely Mel who made everything. We definitely had some specific flowers in mind on most of them but not all.  We spent a couple of days in the studio together trying to craft flowers—and even though some of these were very large (about 5-ft high), most were actually pretty small.

We knew we wanted to enclose the flowers on all sides, including the floor and ceiling, so working out the proportion for a page size was a challenge. Mel and her husband mocked up a set and worked out the proportions so that when we got to the studio we knew what to do—or the set builder, lovely Rob, did! So, four of the arrangements were huge like the one on the cover, and the rest were in boxes hung against a wallpapered flat that we could crop into for the right page size.

Behind the Scenes
Behind the Scenes

The scale is fantastic and surprising. I actually had no idea how large the vignettes were. Why this scale? 

The first thing Pam showed me was this massive 6-ft paper poppy so it sort of went from there, but we were limited to three studio days and the large flowers required a lot of set building and precision measurements by our very patient and talented set builder. The smaller arrangements were in boxes that we made, about 2-ft high and 18″ wide and 8″ deep.

Ninety percent of the flowers were made in Mel’s workshop and brought to the studio. But they were assembled at the shoot and one or two things appeared magically as we progressed and Mel saw an opportunity!

Behind the Scenes
Behind the Scenes

Structurally, was each flower made differently? Some seem more flat while others are three-dimensional. What’s inside the puffy poppy-like ones? 

Each of these pieces was pretty unique in structure. The poppy seed heads were actually balloons, which were covered in papier mâché. The flowers on the cover were made with chicken wire and then covered with papier mâché before having the final wallpaper attached, with a lot of glue. The stalk and stems were made from a great array of mainly plumbing-goods plastic pipes, pipe lagging, and even some copper piping. Weighting the flowers into their containers was a challenge—lots of big rocks, bits of concrete, you don’t want to know what we used, and a lot of fishing wire used to hold some of them up.

What type of flowers/ plants were created? I see tulips and possibly an aloe vera?

The cover flowers were a strange form of poppy, we thought.  We had a lovely tulip in its last stages of life, and some very stylised young tulips, large aloe vera leaves, huge poppy seed heads, and oak leaves. Most everything else was just lovely paper craft, fantasy flowers if you will, made out of borders, and leaves cut straight from a pattern in the paper.

Where was this shot? And who was on the shoot with you?

We have shot a lot of MILIEU features in a studio in central London and this is where we were again, in the coldest January, so the kettle was in constant use for hot teas!  We were in the studio for three days, and work swiftly with our team—Simon Brown, our photographer; his assistant Huxley, who is handily tall; Rob, our set builder who pre-made the boxes on the walls, and then was very busy on set to make the cubes and wallpapering them, with great deftness; Melanie Williams who made all the flowers, along with me and my very able sister, Andrea, who can turn her hand to anything! And of course we had Elsa the Labrador there to keep us all in line!

Katrin, just a couple more questions to ask because I’m so curious, and I know our readers are too…
What did you do with the flowers and set design after the shoot? 

Sadly we had to bin the large flowers as they got a lot of wear and tear during photography, but Mel took smaller ones, as a memento, back to her workshop where they joined some other delightful makes for MILIEU over the years.

Was there anything that didn’t go according to plan? 

Every shoot is a learning curve, but actually this one went pretty smoothly, with no dramas.  We planned and planned and prepared and prepared!! But believe me, we’ve had plenty of times where we do have to revert to plan B!!

Were there many laughs or any tears? 

Definitely a load of laughs every day! We’re a happy crew!!

Readers can see the feature story and all of the wallpapers sourced in the Spring 2023 issue of MILIEU.





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