American Made Design: Galbraith & Paul

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By Jaime Gillin
A trio of design studios forms a distinctly American picture of modern design: Despite their regional differences, all three produce forward-thinking products and furniture made using time-tested craft and fabrication methods. Here, we take a look at Galbraith & Paul from the Northeast. Head over to the Southeast to check out Charleston, South Carolina-based Moran Woodworked Furniture.

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.

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The Lotus wallpaper pattern by Galbraith and Paul is produced in-studio with the help of a digital printer.

The Lotus wallpaper pattern by Galbraith and Paul is produced in-studio with the help of a digital printer.

Liz Galbraith and Ephraim Paul update the ancient art of woodblock printing in their studio in a 19th-century mill building in Philadelphia.

Liz Galbraith and Ephraim Paul update the ancient art of woodblock printing in their studio in a 19th-century mill building in Philadelphia.

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.

Textiles, including the Lattice pattern, are produced by staff that work at eight-yard-long printing tables, pressing woodblocks into fabric and hand-printing to order.

Textiles, including the Lattice pattern, are produced by staff that work 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.