Ilkeston student's wallpaper designs explore dark history of arsenic

Ilkeston student Lucy Bentley and her design.
Ilkeston student Lucy Bentley and her design.

An Ilkeston student has set up a business selling her own wallpaper designs that are inspired by the dark history of arsenic.

Lucy Bentley, a decorative arts student from Nottingham Trent University, has created multiple wallpaper designs by taking inspiration from historical themes.

Once commonly used in wallpaper by world-famous designer William Morris in the 1800s, after many died from mystery illnesses it was later discovered that his arsenic-infused wallpapers were to blame.

One of Lucy’s designs features the poisonous plant Henbane, also known as nightshade.

According to legend, witches would make an ointment using henbane and then rub it on the handles of their brooms, allowing them to fly.

Lucy, 23, of Ilkeston, said: “I want my designs to be a talking point and tell a story. I never intended them to blend into the background. I’m so excited at the prospect of starting my own business and I would be so proud to see my designs hung in homes.”

Aimed towards the high-end market, Lucy envisions her wallpaper designs being used for feature walls in residential homes or boutique hotels.

Her designs will be available to purchase from her own business ‘Hex and Henbane’ that she created during her final year at university. Lucy’s brand will sell wallpapers, home textiles and home furnishing and aims to compete with the likes of Timorous Beasties and House of Hackney.

Lucy’s designs are set to go on public display at Show, Nottingham Trent University’s Art and Design Degree Show 2019. The launch of the degree show on May 31 coincides with the official launch of her business.

“All the opportunities you get through the degree show you’ll never get given again – I’m able to use it as free promotion for myself and my business,” says Lucy.

The show will feature works by more than 1,300 graduating artists across 26 courses. Representing a new wave of talent – skilled and ready to shape our future creative industries.

Pip Spoerry, head of visual arts at Nottingham Trent University, said; “Lucy has taken an original approach to her wallpaper designs, illustrating the dark history of Arsenic in a creative and thought-provoking way.”

“She has designed something unique that has the power to capture her audience and generate conversation. I wish her all the best with her business and look forward to seeing her future designs.”