Astek: Maximum Impact
Versatility has always been at the core of Astek, so it’s not surprising that during the COVID-19 pandemic the Van Nuys, California-based provider of digitally printed and specialty wallcoverings tapped into its CNC router proficiencies to assemble face shields for local medical professionals and streamline the cutting of patterns sewed into tens of thousands of masks donated to frontline workers. Additionally, says Sarah LaVoie, Astek’s COO and creative director, “We’re using our manufacturing capabilities to come up with new signage and safety features to help businesses—including our own—turn their spaces into safe and functional environments.”
Founded in 1991, Astek flaunts a resourcefulness that stems in large part from its cross-disciplinary in-house design team, a mix of illustrators, graphic designers, surface designers, and photographers bolstered by advanced technology. An innovator in the digital printing realm, Astek embraces the likes of large-format printers that control shine levels through the use of white opaque ink and haptic printing to produce dimensional wallcoverings.
These initiatives are also grounded in sustainability, beginning with the inks in Astek’s printing process that yield zero VOCs and printers that “cure the inks quite efficiently through UV lamps. In many cases UV lamps emit ozone but our printers are designed to extract that before it enters the ambient air,” explains LaVoie. Even Astek’s catalog of digital substrates consists solely of PVC-free or post-consumer recycled materials, if not both.
Merging design and tech know-how yields collaborative collections for Astek like Glaze and Re-Glazed, developed with L.A. interior designer Jeff Andrews as an ode to his vintage ceramics stash, as well as BIGS by Fliepaper, striking single-image wallcoverings calling to mind interiors from the 1960s and ‘70s that are shot in ultra-high resolution and at very close range by celebrity photographer Don Flood.
It’s a combination that also resonates with the hospitality community. Astek’s grass cloth wallcoverings, for instance, get the limelight at the Kelly Wearstler-designed Santa Monica Proper Hotel, just as L.A. photographer and installation artist Genevieve Gaignard’s hand-collaged artwork, an homage to African-American women digitized and printed by Astek, graces the downtown Los Angeles outpost of Soho House.
Wallcoverings “once evoked memories of dated childhood homes or a visit to grandmother’s house, but more recently it has evolved into a modern statement piece and accessory to a well-designed space,” says LaVoie. “I believe the secret in this resurgence lies in the ability to customize. With the option for digitally printed wallcovering, the sky’s the limit. Even the simplest personalization, like color, can make the wallpaper unique and ultimately complete the look of a room.”
Astek planned to show off its most recent vibrant collections at ICFF, including a range of contemporary geometric patterns that reference art movements past in bright colors and metallics dreamed up with the Brooklyn, New York design house Society of Wonderland, as well as Animalistic Animals, “an eccentric and unexpected series of chinoiserie-inspired designs,” as LaVoie puts it. Guest directed by Chicago hospitality designer Andrew Alford and illustrated by Astek’s design team, it depicts monkeys, kittens, koalas, and sloths acting naughty in their natural habitats. Ephemeral, another newcomer, is the handiwork of Astek’s own studio. These murals “of tactile paint and brush strokes,” points out LaVoie, are based on photographs of in-flux painter’s palettes, capturing an energetic dialogue between pigment and texture. Although it’s been delayed by the public health crisis, there is also a new collection, launching in late summer, to look forward to, says LaVoie: “large-scale botanical murals that challenge point of view and perspective with oversized details.”
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