This is historical only.  We are no longer taking any students.

For a printable plain text copy of this history please CLICK HERE.

In 1978 John Cox was hanging wallcovering in the home of Bill Fields who was the president and CEO of StazTite adhesives. Over the years these two men had gotten to be very good friends. One night, after finishing his installation work, Bill and John were talking about what they wanted to accomplish with their lives. John told Bill that his dream when he retired was to open a school to teach paperhanging the way he dreamed it should be taught. Bill told him not to wait to be an old man but to go after his dream immediately. Bill was convinced that dreams put off are usually not dreams that ever see the light of day. John took Bill's advice to heart and he started looking for a building to house a school.

In 1979 John discovered the perfect building. It was an a "gone with the wind" type of old southern mansion that had been turned into a place for fine dining. The restaurant had gone out of business and the grand old building had been abandoned for years. John had been looking for a building that have a lot of square footage, had difficult hanging areas, and at the same time would give students a feeling of pride when they finished their work. This mansion met all his requirements! An added bonus with this building was that the huge restaurant kitchen would give the students a place to socialize, prepare meals and help to keep their school costs down.

There was much work to get the building ready for students but in September the first students enrolled. John's method of teaching was not to teach (as other school's did) in small cubicles but instead to give each student full entire rooms to work with. Students would work their way around the building, hanging entire rooms while completing different projects. It was compressing years of apprenticing into a three month intensive course.

Another huge difference between the American School and other installation schools was that we admitted up to three new students every Monday instead of on a fixed school schedule. This was so that students would never feel that they only had a certain amount of time to learn each lesson... they could move at their own pace and work on the items that were difficult for them. Thus the course was not time based but achievement based. Each student when they enrolled were also given a key to the building so they could stay after when the teacher left for the day and continue their practice work. This allowed them to use their time away at school to the best advantage.

The lessons the students had to complete were as follows:

  • First lesson: Lining paper... no pattern. This lesson was to acquaint the student with their tools and how to engineer, layout and cut down a room.
  • Second lesson: Straight across match pattern. Usually a prepasted wallcovering. The students would install this directly on top of the lining paper that they had just hung.
    (From this point on in the course no matter what project the students were working on they hung lining paper first and then their finished paper on top of it. We did this for two reasons. To give them more installation mileage and to make the rooms easy to remove for the next student coming in.)
  • Third lesson: A room of drop match wallcovering...
    (After the the third lesson the next series of lessons were assigned based on the rooms available in the building and what we thought each student was ready for. We scrambled the lessons because we didn't want the students to know where they were in the course based on the students that had started at the same time. We wanted them to take the time THEY needed with each individual lesson. These next three lessons were always hung with drop match wallcoverings.... sometimes multiple drops just to add spice to the mixture.)
  • Bathroom. These areas had been modified so that students were not only installing bathrooms but also getting some of the experience that they would need in kitchen areas. They had lots of stuff to cut around.

  • Ceiling. Given proper instructions these areas are not only fun to hang but also big money makers.
  • Stairwell. Learning how to plan for proper pattern placement and cutting points is a big part of this lesson.
    The next four series of lessons was designed to move students into a "senior student" status.
  • Untrimmed handprints. These wallcoverings are the "designers friend" and handling them is a necessary skill for any installer who desires to offer complete services.
  • Grasscloth/stringcloth.
  • Patches and repairs of wallcovering
  • Geometric wallcovering. Up to this point the students had focused on keeping a straight ceiling line even though the room intself was crooked. Geometric wallcoverings (those with strong hoizontal and vertical lines) emphasize any crookiness the room might have. The student's challenge was to make the room look straight even while using this type of patterns. They had to put all their double cutting and pattern fudging skills to work.
    The final series of lessons were those that included dry hanging. These were all taught in series just the way they appear below:
  • Mylar or foil: This was not only to introduce them to dry hanging but also test their prep skills.
  • Anaglypta
  • Suede: Introduced them to wide goods.
  • Fabric. This was the final requirement for the course. Each student would be given a roll of untrimmed drapery fabric and they would hang it on the wall as wallcovering.

Graduation! But this was not the end of the course. Those students who wanted to could stay on at no additional cost to work on any area of the course where they felt they needed more practice. We also encouraged students to work with making graphics out of wallcoverings or doing special miters on ceilings etc. We also allowed any graduate to come back at any time to brush up on their skills at no additional charge.

Some more information about the way we tought and still teach....

The course was set up to be 11 weeks but students were not held to an "ending" time. They had to stay at least six weeks (lectures were on a six week rotary) but they could stay as long as it took them to complete all the above required projects. About five percent of our students finished in six weeks and the same percentage took longer than 13 weeks. Most students took between 9 and 13 weeks. In addition students were also given a complete set of tools when they enrolled because we knew that a well organized tool system would save time and money on every job.

In the early eighties we started making video tapes to aid in the student's training. The tapes were a great teaching aid because they allowed students the freedom to watch instructions as many times as they needed in order to understand the "concepts" we were teaching. Instructions for individual projects were now available at a push of a button anytime day or night.

After working with video tapes for years it was decided that the school would come out with a tapes directed at those students who wanted good instruction on paperhanging but couldn't afford either the tuition ($4,000) or the time away at school. John was convinced that there was a hunger to learn good techniques but the logistics of school attendance were sometimes out of the reach of painters (who ran their own businesses) or women who had families to take care of and couldn't attend away from home.

The first plan was just to release some individual tapes...

These would show people how to hang areas like kitchens, baths, fabrics, handscreens etc. It was quickly decided that this was not a workable plan. We decided that selling individual tapes was a great way to make money it was a lousy way to teach. For example... what if a student ordering the kitchen tape didn't know the basics? There wasn't enough time on one video to show all the basics and the kitchen lesson also. Instead home learners must have the same advantage students at school had. The school would start them off with the basics and gradually work them up to the high end and more complex techniques. Each lesson should build on the ones before. The tapes must become a series.

There was also a need to make certain that the home course would be COMPLETE. This is much more difficult then it sounds. If students at school had questions they could find an instructor and bring them into their room and discuss it with them. These students at home were not going to have that advantage. Therefore any questions needed to be answered in the tapes themselves.

So for every tape that the school made a test video was first filmed. Students at school were given the video and if they couldn't complete their project WITHOUT additional questions it would be reshot until they could. This was a almost two year long project working every night and every weekend. Scripting, shooting, setting up sets, and reshooting until it was right.

Why have a given you a long history?

Because it is important you understand how the tapes came into being and how they were made. Our home course on tape still essentially follows the way the course was set up at school. You also need to understand that at the the American School of Paperhanging Arts, just as when John started the school, we take your training and support VERY SERIOUSLY. We know that we hold lives in our hands... the way people feed their families. This is a tremendous responsibility.

We still allow questions with our course (students have an 800 number to talk to John) but we are convinced that if that toll free number was being used quite a bit we were failing at our job. Very few people who take our course ever call us with problems or questions. We believe that is how we take our temperature and know that the tapes work.

Why did we close the school and now have only videos?

After we came out with the tapes school attendance started to drop. This was because for the first time prospective students now had a choice about the way they received their training. When we first released the course we thought that the tapes would be a supplement to our course that most people would still prefer "hands on" training. Unfortunately this was not true.

Instead we found that most prospective students ordered the tapes with the thought that if the tapes didn't work they would then come to school. When the tapes worked.... well.... so much for attending school. Students investing in the home course had discovered that school attendence was unnecessary and expensive both in time and money.

Before the tapes there were usually twenty to twenty five people in attendance at the school any one time. After the release of the tapes that attendance went down to fifteen or less students per YEAR. Even after all the other paperhanging schools in the United States closed the attendance at ASPA did not go up. It was costing the school huge amounts of money to teach a handful of students. Finally after two more years we were forced by economics to close "hands on" part of the school.

We have found that the home program is better than attendance at our "hands on" school.

For example it might have been years after school attendance before a graduate got an anglypta installation. After all that time how much would the student remember from the lesson they had at school? The tapes answered this problem by allowing review of installation techniques by simply putting in a tape.

At the school everytime we trained 100 people we used over 100,000 rolls of wallcovering.Obviously the costs for these practice wallcoverings had to be built into the student's tuition. We also discovered that given complete and detailed instructions ninety-nine percent of all the practice work was of high enough professional quality to be sold to paying customers. The obvious conclusion was that paying for practice wallcoverings was a foolish waste of student money. Given good, detailed instructions students should be able to install wallcoverings without fear of failure. If practice work was desired before charging for installations students would have no difficulty (even in the smallest villages) finding people who would allow them to install wallcoverings they had purchased. Thus saving the students the necessity of purchasing practice wallcoverings!

Students can also use the tapes to train helpers at no additional cost. Helpers or employees would all then be taught alike a very little additional cost.

In conclusion...

John always told his students that he needs just a few things in order to teach them:

1) Students have to be ready, willing and ABLE to learn... You have to have phsyical abiltity to be able to clearly see patterns and to walk up and down ladders.

2) You have to be clean and neat about your work. Sloppers have no place in the industry.

With the American School of Paperhanging Arts course we are able to give indepth and quality instruction backed up by support delivered right to a student's home. Our program allows a short cut in that we carefully and with great detail show students what works and caution them againist what doesn't work.

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