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(August 2013) posted on Wed Jul 31, 2013

Spoonflower weaves its niche in print-on-demand wallcoverings.

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By Mike Antoniak

Today, Spoonflower is home to a staff of more than 60 and an equipment lineup that has swelled to nearly 30 printers. Customers can choose from more than 200,000 available designs for printing on 10 fabrics, including a range of cottons, canvas, and cotton silk blends. “We’re now running three shifts, seven days a week to meet demand,” says Fraser.

Creating custom wallpaper
With the additional space, Spoonflower could finally address the demand for printing wallpaper, something that had long been percolating. For that, the company added the first of four Hewlett-Packard Designjet L26500 60-inch latex printers.

“We knew we didn’t want to use a solvent inkjet, because of its environmental impact,” says Fraser. “The latex ink provided a solution comparable in simplicity to the pigments we use on textiles. The most important factor for us is the simplicity and eco-friendliness of the process.”

Following a beta trial last summer, the wallcovering service was launched, exclusively using HP’s wall media and latex inks. The printer’s capabilities also allow Spoonflower to offer custom decals for use in wall murals. “We tried to stay away from vinyl and can offer peel-and-stick decals printed on a polyester textile,” he points out.

Compared to the rest of its business, these are highly specialized services. “With fabric, the applications are as varied as people’s hobbies,” explains Fraser. “The largest single use may be for pillows, but they are also used for apparel, bags, plush toys, quilts, curtains, and even the latest designs seen on New York fashion walkways.”

For wallcoverings, it’s primarily as wallpaper, with occasional calls for decorative decals as part of a wall mural. Some customers are designing and ordering decals, then cutting them and combining them on wall spaces.

Printing full-scale murals is not yet an option. “Part of the appeal of our system is that we give people the ability to see what they will be getting before they order their prints,” explains Fraser. “We don’t really have the interface yet that will allow them to preview an entire mural.”

If that’s limiting demand, it hasn’t been noticed. Wallpaper sales have grown month-to-month since launch without an aggressive push, and now account for 10 percent of the company’s overall business. It’s sure to accelerate, as the company puts more focus, and adds additional wall media.