Industry Profile: Dennis Shah and Temo Callahan

US-based Studio Printworks was founded with the philosophy that sophisticated, hand-printed wallpaper adds style and richness to any home, be it city maisonette or rustic country cottage. We caught up with Dennis Shah and Temo Callahn - the creative team behind the company's exciting wallpaper designs - to find out more...

How did you start out in the industry?

Dennis: My family owns an important high-end wallpaper handprint mill. I fell into it from the process and business side and fell in love with it from the design and product side. When wallpaper usage declined 10 years ago, I teamed up with an industry friend, Temo Callahan, and we launched Studio Printworks, a collection that made a statement!

Temo: By accident. I was supposed to be a lawyer and perhaps go into politics. After school I had no desire to do any of this. Not my sensibility at all. I was in New York and met a gorgeous woman named Grey Watkins who ran Clarence House at the time. She offered me a job on the spot. I took it temporarily for 20 years. During this time I took courses at Parsons School of Design

What’s been your proudest career moment to date?

Dennis: Landing in London for Decorex 2005, having barely launched our company there, and winning Wallpaper* magazine’s 2006 Best Of award in the wallpaper category. We took a risk in creating the kind of collection we did. And won the industry’s ‘Oscar’.

Temo: Co-founding Studio Printworks with Dennis Shah.

Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?

Dennis: Speaking to the design world - the users, the designers, the art creators - about how a truly fine hand-print product is made. It’s the artisans.

Temo: Same for me… Ideas! Colour! Dazzling! Meeting fascinating artists!

What do you love the most about Decorex?

Dennis: The attention to best designs allowing the success of smaller lines.

Temo: Meeting divine people!

Any exciting new products launching at this year’s show?

Temo: It’s a secret, but we are doing a knock-um-dead new marbleised wallpaper called Faux Marbre. Head on around to Tissus d’Helene and have a look.

Who or what inspires you?

Dennis: People from outside of the industry who look in, and start a collaborative process which generates a spark in my mind.

Temo: History. Know history and you are surrounded by inspiration. Great designers of the past, Berard, Dufy, Picasso, Ken Scott, that fabulous woman in Australia, the Bloomsbury crowd. Inspiration is everywhere!

If we could give you an extra day per week, what would you spend it doing?

Dennis: Experimenting with new techniques to bring new possibilities to life.

Temo: Writing. I am working on a musical theatre piece currently with a terrific composer. I am the book-write. Completely original story. You’ll see.

Where do you live and why?

Dennis: New York, New York. Every 10 years, the city has reinvented itself.

Temo: I live in New York City because it is just brilliant. We face catastrophe and a week later it is still New York. You can’t nick it.

Can you tell us a bit about your own home?

Dennis: In Manhattan at the borders of the West Village and Chelsea. The style is very bold and brave with a contemporary, yet exotic feel. A brightly colored living room with the colors of India and a black bedroom with “Syrie” our persian tree of life grasscloth wallcovering. It works.

Temo: I have an apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, just off the theatre district. It has evolved over 30 years. Some call it mad. Others say it is “artistic,” which scares me. Anyway, it was published in the American magazine Domino in 2008. Have a look. It hasn’t changed much.

What are you working on at the moment?

Dennis: Pushing the envelope with my artisans workers and ancient print techniques like hand blocking and hand crafting to create the next look for our company.

Temo: Beautiful wallpaper designs.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Dennis: It really is important to appreciate production along with design. We organised an presentation at the Smithsonian Institute’s Cooper Hewitt Museum on how wallpaper is designed, made and used - with a slide show and live demonstration and props. It was a 11am on Saturday and completely oversold; one of the museum’s hottest tickets. Like Studio 54, there was a line out the door and onto the street of people trying to talk their way into the room! Who knew we had created wallpaper fanatics? 

To find out more about Studio Printworks, visit the website.

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