Hey there, pull up a seat, we’re so glad you’re here. We love meeting our customers at in-person events (please come say hello), but in the meantime, here’s a little about our family-run business.
Willow Ship was started in 2011 by me, Blake Kahan, a new mom at the time, working as an Art Director in San Francisco. Looking for more life flexibility and tempted by the roller coaster of entrepreneurship, I left the commuting-downtown life and started a textile studio to explore hand-crafting with my favorite fabric, linen. Think: lots of hands-on printmaking exploration, rooted in my background in colors, shapes and textures.
Sketch books started to fill with ideas of unique, pattern-driven homewares that would celebrate slow meals and sustainability. Much on-the-job learning and experimentation proceeded, and a small collection of hand-printed, 100% linen homewares — mostly napkins and pillows — emerged. Early on, a sweet write-up by the influential blog Design*Sponge happened, and it seemed that people were into what they were seeing. A wholesale business started to unfold, which is a favorite side of the business here. After a couple more kids — and some much-needed breaks from the business to care for them — our family-operated business is now based in Portland, Oregon.
Inspired by Scandinavia, Japan, landscapes and mid-century abstraction, our designs feature repeating abstract patterns, immersed in color and rhythm. My ideation technique is rooted in quick, spontaneous, cut-paper experimentation, always striving for a wabi-sabi lack of perfection. The ideal outcome is a design that creates an impact while still revealing the quirks of the human hand.
Willow Ship products are printed either in our Portland-based studio or with a trusted US-based partner, who specializes in artisanal, hand-printed continuous yardage. The sewing of our goods is handled in Portland either in-house or by a local woman-owned short-run sewing factory.
In 2018, my husband, Toby Tupper, joined the Willow Ship team, bringing his expertise in Marketing, Logistics and Product Development. Which means that, yes, most business decisions are made in the kitchen, while chopping parsley. We live with our three kids in Southeast Portland, where we’re (very) slowly fixing up a 1912 Craftsman home.