Tie dye shirts being custom made in small batches.

Paul Wignall is a tandem sky dive instructor and his wife, Julia, sews parachutes during the day. Together, they live on an airfield outside of Dayton, Ohio in an airplane hangar that they have built into a living space. When they're not doing the sky dive thing, they're sewing and knitting their own small clothing line, Matteblack, featuring mostly US made organic fabrics and alpaca wool.

Julia has a degree in fashion design from FIDM and Paul was a supermodel for several years in the early 2000's. He went from living in a tent in Yosemite to being the face of Gucci and Valentino. Once he hit his peak, he quickly quit and went back to "adventurous living." They have been involved in designing clothing for retail and for themselves for the last 10 years.

Paul and Julia outside their hangar.

Matt:  Tell us a little about the alpaca thing.

Julia: All of my alpaca knits are made from the highest quality fibers that I collected from an alpaca farm in Carpenteria, CA. I then have the fiber spun in a mini mill in New Mexico by my own specifications to ensure the best yarns I can use for my knits. Using alpaca fiber is my specialty, but I love all textiles and the whole process that materials go through in becoming a working product.

Matt: What are you up to lately as far as design?

Julia: Lately we have been experimenting with our version of tie dyeing and have been really excited with what we've been coming up with. I use lots of patterns mixed with a balance of color and natural earth tones to create our original pieces of functional art. The macrame hanging planters are creations from 1970's How To Macrame books that I came across while thrifting in the California mountains this winter. I could not help myself from trying to bring back this hokey craft from the past and transforming it into really cool hanging planters. I'm sure they will be a great addition to anyone's indoor living spaces. So, I myself, as a designer, gather inspiration from nature, the past, and my own interpretation of it.

Some of Julia's Alpaca knit work on the runway.

Matt: Are alpacas sad that you're taking their fur?

Julia: Alpaca fiber is sheared once a year at the beginning of spring to harvest into yarn and many other purposes. The animals are not harmed and are actually happier after losing their fluffy insulation that is 7 times warmer than wool. If the animals aren't sheared their fiber will just keep growing and turn into giant mats that irritate the animals skin. So alpacas are happier when you wear scarves and blankets made out of their far superior fiber. 

Matt: Paul, how did you end up like this?

Paul: I've always been into climbing and I met a lot of guys who were into sky diving. I tried it out and took to it very quickly.  My friend runs one of the biggest drop zones in the country in Ohio and they told me I could work there if I ever needed a job.  Within a year, Julia and I moved out there, got certified as a tandem jumper and started to make pretty good money. The air field is kind of in the middle of nowhere and we could get cheap rent on a hangar, so we decided to build our own house inside one of the hangars.  It's pretty crazy. Everyone around us has airplanes in theirs. Once our place was built, we started filling it up with sewing and knitting machines. We're pretty much constantly working on something.  Lately it's been customizing t-shirts. We're small and totally DIY, so we like to make every piece unique.

Matt: How many jumps do you do in a week?

Paul: during the busy season about 10 a day, 7 days a week. 

Paul and Julia design Matteblack, a small clothing company we are proud to carry at city and sea trading


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Recipes, articles and musings of Judita Wignall. All info is for educational purposes and is not meant to diagnose or treat any medical conditions.