Photo by Ali Renckens.
Mary Catherine Folmar draws inspiration from her travels in Asia and Europe and life in the South to create her hand-illustrated patterns.
Darius Rucker played over the store’s speakers while Mary Catherine Folmar sat in a bamboo chair and explained how Oriental, European and Southern traditions fuse together to inspire the hand-illustrated fabrics in her Mountain Brook showroom, Cotton + Quill.
As an undergraduate studying industrial design at Auburn University, Folmar spent two semesters abroad: one in Europe, traveling through Ireland, Scotland and England, and another in Taiwan, studying Chinese painting. Now, she visits markets across the country, learning about the latest trends from different designers.
When the Alabama fabric and wallpaper designer started her brand, Cotton + Quill, four years ago, she said she wanted to exhibit styles and trends she gathered from traveling both in and outside the U.S.
“When I opened Cotton + Quill, I wanted to bring to not only Birmingham, but also Alabama in general, something different,” Folmar said. “I wanted to show people what I’ve seen at markets for years and just now seems to be kind of hitting the retail side of things.”
As part of her desire to bring special styles to Birmingham, she collaborates with other designers, many of whom she met at markets. She said she is collaborating with other designers to expand her product line, such as turning her fabric into clothing with the help of a local fashion designer.
“I can only produce so much and do it well, so it makes sense to partner with other people,” she said. “I’ve worked with these people over the past couple of years and feel confident about their product.”
Folmar said she also hosts “Sip and Shop” every third Tuesday of the month to feature different craftsmen and businesses.
For her upcoming fall collection, which will debut in September, the Athens native said she relied more on her Southern roots, opting for patterns that include magnolia, equestrian and plaid elements.
“The new collection was kind of tough,” Folmar said. “I didn’t know if it was venturing too far from Cotton + Quill, but ... I think the color and the hand-illustrated kind of keeps everything tied together.”
Although some products are available online, she said she prefers to sell from her store to keep her products easily customizable.
“I feel like putting them online takes away something special,” Folmar said. “But the website shows you all the fabric patterns, the colors and the different options of what we can do.”
Folmar’s designs can be purchased as fabric and wallpaper by the yard, pillows, drapery, bedding, accessories, stationery, decorative trays and gift wrap. In her store, she also sells jewelry, art, furniture, home accessories, vintage pieces and gift items.
“I’ve had so many people come in here and say, ‘It just makes me happy’ or ‘Thank you for color,’” Folmar said. “You can get something special here … I don’t know what else could happen being here, in Birmingham. We’ll see.”
Cotton + Quill is at 53 Church St. For more information or to shop online, go to cottonandquill.com. Follow Cotton + Quill on Facebook for events and previews.