fairy tale whole-cloth quilt + an interview with this paper ship

Today, I'm so excited to reveal the first of two whole-cloth quilts I'll be launching this week! I've been collaborating with a few designers to design quilt tops for the shop, which I then have digitally printed onto fabric and turn into finished quilts. You can read more about my thoughts on whole-cloth quilts and why I've been exploring them here.

The first quilt in this collaborative series was designed by Joel and Ashley Selby of Saxapahaw, NC, the married duo behind This Paper Ship. Their adorable Fairy Tale quilt is now available in the shop, and will be made to order. Each quilt features a black-and-white bias stripe binding, a Carolyn Friedlander gray-and-white grid backing, and, of course, This Paper Ship's whimsical fairy tale-themed design. I hope you love this new quilt as much as I do!

Ashley and Joel so kindly took the time to answer a few questions for me while they awaited the arrival of their baby girl, who is scheduled to arrive today! I hope you'll read on to find out more about them, their work, and the inspiration for their quilt design!

Image source: This Paper Ship

Caitlin: Can you tell us a bit about your background and why you started This Paper Ship?

This Paper Ship: Going way back, we've both been obsessed with drawing for as long as we can remember. We met in a freshman drawing class and hit it off over a fabric study, kept drawing side-by-side throughout our design degrees, and graduated together. During our last year of college, we started an Etsy shop using our own illustrated wedding invitations as an example, and picked up our first client the day before our wedding. The economy was terrible around that time, which prevented us from ever getting our coveted entry-level design jobs, so we just kept plowing forward with self-directed work and paper goods! Seven years later, we're still crazy enough to continue to make a living off of drawing, and now even raise a family off of it. It's been a wild ride, but we wouldn't have it any other way.

Image source: This Paper Ship

C: How would you describe your illustration style?

TPS: In a word: whimsical! We love bright colors, simple shapes, unexpected textures, hand lettering, and fun detail you can get lost in. Our style is made up of a combination of our two hands, since every drawing is a complete collaboration from sketch to ink to final touches on screen. It's taken a long time to merge our two (often) very different approaches to drawing, but it's been worth the effort, and we learn from each other nearly every day. We both like to approach the world with a sense of childlike wonder, though, so that's often our common ground on everything.

C: What have been some of your favorite projects to work on?

TPS: Other than our self-directed work, which 99% of the time ends up in our online shop, our favorite area to work on is the children's market. We both find that drawing things for an audience of children allows us the greatest freedom to play, to use our imaginations, and to really go for broke on bright colors! Specifically, we got the chance to illustrate for a bathroom line and a sleeping bag for The Land of Nod a few years back, which was awesome. We also really enjoy doing greeting cards and have had a good working relationship with American Greetings for a few years now.

Image source: This Paper Ship
C: Can you describe your studio in Saxapahaw, NC?

TPS: Saxapahaw is a hundred-plus-year-old cotton mill and mill village about 20 minutes west of Chapel Hill. The mill shut down 20 years ago but has since been rebuilt into a small community of businesses and loft apartments, and we're blessed to live and work out of one of them. We wake every day, walk downstairs with tea and coffee in hand, and go to work at a vintage drawing table and letterpress among the old brick walls, massive steel roof beams, and original floorboards pitted from cotton spinners.

Fairy Tale Quilt Sketch. Image source: This Paper Ship

C: Tell us about the stunning Fairy Tale quilt you designed for Salty Oat! What inspired the theme and color choices?

TPS: First, we had a blast doing this—it belongs among the projects in question 3! We had decided on a loose fairy tale theme for our baby girl due October 3 (still not here as of the time of this writing), so we took the basic idea of medieval European banners and used them as the basis for the quilt pattern. In the alternating rectangles with images in them, we drew objects that were personally meaningful to us, but also worked well as general heraldic-style symbols—a ship (for This Paper Ship), the fleur-de-lis of Florence (one of her middle names, where we honeymooned), a bird (inspired from a vintage wall decoration from Ashley's grandma's house), etc. For the colors, we wanted to go bright and make the design work for both boys and girls; we were inspired by Disney's immaculate Sleeping Beauty and their vibrant treatment of color in a Middle Ages setting.

Image source: This Paper Ship

C: Where can readers purchase your work? Any upcoming events or exciting projects you'd like to share?

TPS: We currently are selling solely at our Etsy shop, but are also working on a new shop site coming soon. The next market we'll be vending at is the Saxapahaw Holiday Market in early December at the beautiful Haw River Ballroom—come on out if you can, and you just may be able to meet little miss Sadie in her holiday best! We plan to do a lot of craft markets in the new year, which we'll be announcing on social media as we book them up (@thispapership on just about everything). We're also really excited to announce that we're finalists in the Martha Stewart American Made 2015 Awards, so we would be honored to have you go vote for us! You can vote up to 6 times a day until October 19. (You can see our profile and vote here.)

Thank you so much to Joel and Ashley for taking the time to answer my questions and for designing a quilt for the shop, and congrats to them on their growing family! You can find their quilt in the shop here.