Things have been shaking and moving for us here at This Paper Ship so far this fall! Our beautiful baby girl Sadie was born with no complications and much celebration in Chapel Hill on October 12 and we’ve had our hands and hearts full ever since. We’ve been hunkering down all month to ease into the full-time freelance parent life. It’s been a balance between chill and crazy; at one point Ashley had to go back to the hospital during a big American Greetings deadline, so we brought our pens, paper, lightpad, laptop, and Wacom tablet and worked on it in the hospital room. We can absolutely sum up the whole experience as blissful, lack of sleep and all.

We’ve recently weighed anchor again to get Sadie used to being out of the house (I’m currently writing this post from the waiting room at the dentist while rocking her to sleep in the carseat with my foot), so a few days ago we took a family trip to Honeysuckle Tea House, one of our favorite local haunts off NC-54 between Saxapahaw and Chapel Hill. It’s a serene open-air teahouse, built atop a handful of old shipping crates, set against the backdrop of the farm where they grow most of the ingredients for their teas, tisanes, and tinctures. The day we visited was one of the last of the season. The fires were going, fellow customers were laughing and talking, and we counted ourselves blessed to have such a haven close by.

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It’s been a busy summer for us at the happy harbor of This Paper Ship!

We’ll be welcoming a new beloved addition to our crew, little miss Sadie Eloise Florence Selby, on October 3—in the meantime, we’ve weighed anchor and are putting on more sail to get ready for her arrival.

On the business end, we’re happily much busier now than we were at the same time last year. We’ve got a whole slew of new clients, from big guns like American Greetings and Adobe, to lovely smaller companies and individuals; we’re steadily growing our Etsy shop offerings and are inching our way toward a This Paper Shop new e-commerce site; and we’re hitting the (digital) pavement to get back into the wholesale and consignment world and offer our goods in brick-and-mortars across the US and beyond. On top of all of that, we naturally are in full-on nesting mode—shifting rooms, purging unwanted stuff, clearing piles, scrubbing everything down, squeezing in those last-minute furniture projects.

Meanwhile, we savor the little moments in the photos above—the cups of tea, the sleepy cat hours, listening to the rain on our roof, the daily light show from our windows—because we shall not pass this way again, and we think Ferris was on to something when he counseled his audience to look around for a moment, lest they missed life as it moved by pretty fast.



We recently announced this new Durham print on our social media and added it to our Etsy shop as an art print and a greeting card, so today we’d like to offer up a little behind-the-scenes GIF of the progress! Here are the four main steps we took, annotated for your edification:

1. The pencil sketch — where everything starts! This particular sketch didn’t change much from start to finish.
2. The black-and-white composite — everything has been inked in separate pieces, scanned and cleaned up, and put together in Photoshop. This process is a bit like digital woodblock printing.
3. The color composite — the black-and-white composite has been colored in. We decided it needed a bit more detail this time, so…
4. The final piece — …we inked a few more details and added them in. In this stage, we also took the time to smooth out some of the wonky bits of the illustration that distracted from the piece, while leaving the wonky bits that added to the character.

Throughout the last few years we’ve had several aborted illustration series highlighting cities, but we’re onto something with this new direction. Instead of going for a real representation of the cities (trying to highlight every major landmark, drawing the real skyline), we’ve simplified the idea by attempting to distill the feel of the city into just a small handful of buildings. In this case, we’re representing Durham with 1) two warehouse/factory-type buildings, since Durham’s downtown industrial core is reinventing itself into multi-use development, 2) a craftsman bungalow, typical Durham housing, and 3) the Lucky Strike tower, a trusty standard in any representation of the Durham skyline.

We’ll be in Asheville this weekend vending at the Big Crafty, so stay tuned on our various social media (links at the top of the page) for a new Asheville city print! We plan to expand into more North Carolina cities and then beyond—the sky’s the limit!



Piggybacking off our our last post about finally doing Spoonflower’s weekly contests, we’re continuing to carve out a little bit of time every Tuesday to complete the weekly contest and upload by midnight. It was a day already busy with client work and a mid-day pregnancy checkup appointment for Ashley in Chapel Hill, so we may have uploaded it around 11:55 PM.

This week’s theme was simply “llamas”—part of the fun of being an illustrator is that at any given week, you never know what you’re going to be drawing! We had a lot of fun reducing the body of the llama to simple shapes, then adorning him with just enough texture to suggest depth and form. We also decided to go for non-representational colors and kick our little buddy up a notch in lime. You can check him out on our Etsy shop as a print and a greeting card, and stay tuned on our social media outlets as we get ready to officially release him as a fabric line!


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We recently had the pleasure of ordering our first fabric on Spoonflower, which has been a long time coming. Though Spoonflower consists of a worldwide community of designers and users, its headquarters is in Durham, less than an hour down the road from us. We got to work with them and STC Craft a couple of years ago on their first book (slated for release this September), and though we spent quite a few hours lurking around their building with cameras, many other illustration projects kept fabric design on the backburner until we decided to finally squeeze the trigger this past month.

We love fabric design. It’s got a long and glorious history, with a big tie-in to Mid-Century Modern, our favorite era of illustration and design. Illustrating for the children’s market has been our favorite niche for a while, but now with a baby on the way, we have a lot more wind in our sails for launching forward with fun, whimsical, colorful fabric design. It will probably continue to be slow going, since you first have to order samples of your new fabric in order to release it for sale to the public; but we’re really excited about design stuff for our little Sadie, and then sharing our love of whimsical fabric illustration with others, so be sure to stay tuned!

You can check out our Spoonflower shop at the link below, and follow us on Instagram and Facebook to watch for announcements on new fabrics!


We returned to our home and studio in Saxapahaw a little over a week ago and hit the ground running, refreshed from our week visiting Joel’s parents in sunny California. The day before our flight back East, we had the blessing of squeezing in a trip to Disneyland, one of our favorite places of all time. Today we’re featuring one of our favorite Fantasyland attractions based on one of our favorite classic Disney animated features, the Mad Tea Party spinning teacups. Half of the fun of the ride is watching those glowing lanterns at night!




As our East Coast friends braced themselves for another onslaught of winter weather, we hopped on a plane for a much-needed break to visit Joel’s parents in sunny California. These late winter breaks are always so needed because by the end of February we’ve typically been grinding the studio back to running order after the Christmas holiday, and there’s often a heavy dose of cabin fever weighing down our spirits. Yesterday we drove down the hill to Zuma Beach for a picnic lunch, where we were greeted by the spout of a gray whale slowly coasting southward; today we put our pencils to work to commemorate how awesome it is sitting back in the sun and watching the whales.

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On pitted floorboards, where giant cotton spinning machines once churned and where our living room is now located, sits a refurbished antique press. As we wrote way back in 2011 when our buddy Tony personally drove it down from his letterpress warehouse in Syracuse so he could get some proper sweet tea, the press is a circa-1870’s Golding Pearl. It’s an elegant foot-powered machine with a conversation-piece flywheel and a 5 x 7″ chase. We’ve taken what feels like a lifetime to offer in-house letterpressed goods, but we never gave up on trying to make time for it. This week we finally leapt off from last year’s simple one-color black ink jobs and took a dip in bright red ink on vibrant pink French Pop-Tone. The Queen of Hearts never looked so good, and she’ll be hopping into our shop this Monday with her royal husband, the King of Hearts, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

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Buried like a pearl in T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets is this beautiful quote about returning to your roots:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

Our stylistic and subject roots are nautical imagery. We drew our first nautical print, The Original Ship in a Bottle, in 2009 from a makeshift studio in the bonus room above Ashley’s parents’ garage, where we landed between apartments after college. Metaphors of sea voyages abound for our freelance career since we drew that first print. Today we completed another take on a whimsical tall ship illustration, this time in the form of a whimsical hot air balloon. When the seas are tempest-tossed, sometimes the best route is to take to the skies!




Today as rain paints the South Atlantic states in soft grays and blues, we’re holed up inside at the drawing board, drinking tea and listening to the whish of wet tires on the road outside of our apartment.

We love working on rainy days. Yes, they make for messy Post Office runs, but they also help you appreciate having a roof over your head—or an umbrella if you’re out. In honor of today’s rain, here’s our tribute to The Blue Umbrella, the theatrical companion to 2013’s Monsters University and one of our favorite Pixar shorts.