Designer Feature | Pilgrim Paper Co.

Pilgrim Paper Co. is an illustrated paper goods studio based in Seattle, Washington. Founded by talented illustrator Teresa Grasseschi in 2014, the studio has grown with the addition of artist and illustrator, Kelly Bjork. Together this team of two has created a thoughtful, colorful, and witty collection of stationery and art prints.

We visited the creative duo in Teresa’s Lake City studio to see where the magic happens.

Photography by Rachael Lang and Joe Rudko


Tell us about the name and origin of the line. How did you both meet and start collaborating?

TG: During my last year of college, my good friend Colleen moved to NYC. Colleen, became my favorite pen-pal during our years living in separate cities. During the storm of my idea-chasing-year, writing Colleen became my constant. One afternoon, I sat down to write Colleen, sifted through our past letters and had a thought -- 'what if I made cards for people beyond Colleen?' -- I went for a walk, came home and drew my first card idea. From that tiny little seed, I ran full steam ahead. My tiny apartment became my one person workshop. I took class upon class, got a business license, created and edited idea after idea, and put together our branding deck -- all while somehow holding a full time day job and peppering in occasional freelance illustration work. I launched our first retail platform in September of 2014, debuting our business name: Pilgrim Paper Co., taking Colleen's dog's name (Pilgrim) in honor of the pen-pal who changed my life.

Kelly and I met in college. She was two-years above me and quite a force. Beyond being an extremely talented artist, Kelly also radiates such positivity that it turns heads whenever she enters a room. After Pilgrim's launch, Kelly was the first person to shoot an email of support my way and at our first pop-up, Kelly was the first person through the door, there to cheer me on.

One day while we chatted about upcoming Pilgrim events, Kelly asked where I saw the company going in the next year. I developed this excited little knot in my stomach and tried to be real smooth, suggesting I wanted Pilgrim to grow into a business of two. Kelly cracked a little smile, quickly mentioned that she had always wanted to design cards and then changed the subject I drove home my mind racing to find the best way to woo her into coming on board. Days went by, emails were exchanged, lists made and meet ups were set to talk details. She was in.

In the time between Kelly jumping on board and now, we have grown our wholesale market, re-launched our website, created a new batch of products and become queens of the pop-up shop. As a small business we care an exorbitant amount about what goes out our door and the community it serves. Our tiny seed origins are never lost on me. I am immediately giddy every time I see our cards in the wild.

 

Studio rituals are so important. Tell us a little about each of your daily routines.

TG: I think my favorite part of this question, is that though Kelly & I paint in separate studios right now, I know exactly what her answer will be to this. We start out our workdays similarly which cements my knowledge that I found the right work wife.

My workday always starts with tea. That ritual puts me in the right headspace to begin the day. I am not a morning person. Tea helps. I put milk and honey in that bad-boy and I am good to go. After that I consult my list. I am a nutty list maker. It is the only way I stay sane and finish everything on time. I typically like to get the busy stuff out of the way. I email and pack orders, etc. all morning. Then my afternoon/evening is spent creating: painting and drawing into the wee hours. I have always been a night owl. I work until 1am at the earliest and far too often watch the sun rise.

 

KB: I start almost every studio day with a cup of treat — tea (black tea, cream, honey)​.​ ​I crank up my disco (yes, I did indeed say disco) and work out my ideas by​ sketch​ing​ in colored pencil to figure out composition and palette. Once I’m happy with that, I move ​my work to​ the nice paper. I mark out my pieces​ with non-photo blue pencil and ​then dive into​​ ​my favorite part:​ ​PAINTING! I​ am a big fan of painting ​while​ listening to podcasts, news, or sometimes even watching ​aka listening to ​shows — usually Seinfeld​, a classic​. At the end of my day, I like to go for a walk or take a dip to get out of my head and stretch out the ol’ gams.

What subject matter interests you both? Any current influences or obsessions?

TG: I have always been interested in the layering of visual language, history of patterns, shapes and letters. The blurring of era through visual language cues is really my jam right now. I am currently deeply in love with Julia Sarda’s illustrations in her book, The Liszts, a story about a family who spends their days making lists of different kinds. A friend snapped a picture of the cover and texted it to me months ago and I immediately went out and bought it. The storyline speaks to the list maker in my soul. But more than that Julia nails that fine balanced line between overly detailed and simple, blurring era and location through subtle pattern work. I could talk that book up all day. I am in awe of that work.

KB: I love painting portraits of those who inspire me. I’m surrounded by an amazing group of creatives that influence me daily. I especially appreciate opportunities to use my work to support my community!

 What’s next for Pilgrim Paper Co.?

TG: We really dug into our local community this year. We are now carried in many of our favorite neighborhoods by stores we truly value and respect. We participated in our first trade show and will be manning our booth at Seattle’s Renegade Craft Fair. We recently became members of the fabulous collection of local makers- JOIN Design and have had the opportunity to give back to the community and organizations we feel are truly important and in need right now. This winter we donated a big chunk of our holiday sales to Planned Parenthood and the Sierra Group. It was one of my favorite things we have done to date. We are both really proud of our local involvement. I would love to foster that and watch it grow with more local collaborations.

Beyond that we are setting our eyes beyond Seattle this next year and taking steps to grow nationally. Hopefully you will see our cards cross state lines this next year.

KB: We’re hoping to expand our distribution nationwide and get the Pilgrim name out in that stationery game!

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