For a full century, starting in the 1820s, Philadelphia’s Manayunk neighborhood was a thrumming mill town, with factories along the Schuylkill River spinning and dying yarns and weaving textiles. After the Great Depression, industry dried up; today, little manufacturing happens in the neighborhood, and many mill buildings are gone.
One survivor is the high-ceilinged stone building at 116 Shurs Lane, where Liz Galbraith and Ephraim Paul, along with a crew of 14 artisans, create boldly patterned, woodblock-printed textiles, pillows, and pendant lamps. Their company, Galbraith & Paul, which they founded in 1986 while participating in American Craft Council shows, remains firmly rooted in hands-on making: Galbraith handles all the designs, blends her own paints, and mixes her own colors—and her staff works at eight-yard-long printing tables, pressing woodblocks into fabric and hand-printing to order.
Recently they have started producing wallpaper in their studio using a digital printer. "Digital was a way we could expand but still keep control over our process," says Galbraith, who has developed proprietary, high-tech tricks for making the wallpaper look "as hand-printed as possible." Whether reviving an ancient craft or tinkering with technology, "we’re always looking for new technical challenges in making things," says Galbraith.
When not writing, editing, or combing design magazines and blogs for inspiration, Jaime Gillin is experimenting with new recipes, traveling as much as possible, and tackling minor home-improvement projects that inevitably turn out to be more complex than anticipated.