SPREADTHEGIRLPOWER is my new interview series in which I chat to creative girls I've recently discovered on instagram, who either run small businesses or are just starting out in the creative industries. I've gained so many amazing contacts through instagram and been given some brilliant opportunities, so I'm doing my bit to help others gain new contacts and find out about creatives they might not have come across yet.
This month I chatted to Jen of jewellery and accessories company Wren and Wilson. I first found Jen when I saw a photo of one of her plant pot necklaces, which are like mini shelves you can hang around your neck, so it was really cool to find out her inspiration for creating these.
Find out more about Jen and her work below...
When did Wren & Wilson start life and where does the name come from? Am I right in thinking Wilson is your cat?
Wren & Wilson officially started life in February 2016 but I had been dabbling with the idea for a few years before this. I realised that I wanted to make a proper go of starting my own business whilst I was travelling, I had all these ideas buzzing around in my head and would sit on beaches and long train journeys sketching designs. I couldn’t bear the thought of returning to the UK and festering away in an office somewhere, I wanted to be able to create fun designs that would bring people joy!
Yes Wilson is my cat! She lives with my Dad now though so I don’t get to see her much anymore. It makes my heart sad as we were so close! She used to play tag with me and every time I sang in the house she would come running to me! She was like the cat version of myself. She was named after the volley ball in Cast Away! The Wren part of the name comes from my grandparents; they called me Jenny Wren as I was growing up so I have always liked the name, also wren the birds are really cute and as I was starting my business images of birds featured quite heavily in my designs. I like the way the two names sound together and it makes me happy that my business reminds me of people (and cat people) that I love.
The product of yours that first caught my eye was your plant pot necklace. Was that the first official W&W product and what inspired it?
Ooh thank you! The plant pot necklaces are one of my favourite things that I make because they are so unique. They weren’t the first product though, Wren & Wilson actually started out as a paper cut business! I would make paper cut-outs of birds for weddings and things but it was so time consuming that it became a chore, so I branched out into what I do now! So I guess the Plant Pot necklaces weren’t the first official product but they were the first complete design I was happy with and thought YES this is what I want to be doing! I can see a direction now!
The inspiration behind it comes from an amalgamation of things. I think the idea struck whilst I was in George Town in Malaysia and all the old buildings were decorated with house plants. The colours and textures of the buildings against the plants were beautiful. I really like it when people decorate their homes with house plants, like an urban jungle. I really enjoy looking at photographs of people’s bohemian homes filled with pattern and plants and I wanted to try and recreate this in a piece of jewellery.
Can you talk us through the process of making each one? It must be quite labour intensive!
Ah yes it is SO labour intensive, but I get so much satisfaction out of the finished pieces that I don’t mind! It also means that I don’t update them that often as I have to be in the right head space, otherwise it can feel like a chore. And I want them to feel special and happy.
I start by making the shelf using reclaimed wood which I get from a recycling centre in Leicester (it's a very cool place in there, I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to wood and I’m always on the lookout in skips for anything that looks good!). I try to be as eco-friendly as possible, so using reclaimed wood is important to me! I then cut the wood by hand and spend a lot of time sanding them down to make them super smooth so they will be comfortable to wear. I then make the little pots. I use air drying clay for these and make a big batch of lots of different shapes and sizes. Then I decide how to paint them judging on the shape they are, I paint each one individually by hand. Then I make them little tiny handmade leaves and they come to life! I spend ages choosing which pots look good together and once I'm happy I fix all the bits together.
You did Fine Art at university right? How was your uni experience and how do you think it's inspired your current working life?
Yes I did, thanks for asking. I specialised in sculpture and I LOVED it! Doing the course enabled me to find my style and my voice and to feel happy in expressing myself in the way I wanted to. Growing up I always thought I was crap at drawing and that I wasn’t particularly good at art. But then I realised that not all art has to look perfect and photo realistic and actually people like my quirky style. This opened a door for me and felt extremely freeing in being able to make things that felt natural to me.
Uni was quite hands-off, you were very much left to your own devices and it was up to you whether you were were success or not. I worked super hard and got a first class degree and that showed me hard work does pay off. I think this work ethic has definitely come through with me to Wren & Wilson because I know I am the only one who can make it a success so I have to put the hard work in.
Many of your products are inspired by pop culture, particularly TV programmes (such as Twin Peaks and FOTC), have you got any new designs up your sleeve that you're happy to share and what are your current favourite things to watch?
I have a plan to do a Wes Anderson collection! It has been in my head ever since I started Wren & Wilson and I have been waiting for the right time! I am hand drawing iconic images from several scenes from Wes Anderson movies and making them into necklaces and brooches, including a large scale Grand Budapest Hotel necklace!
My current favourite things to watch! That’s an exciting question to answer! Um okay, well I have recently watched the OA on Netflix which is pretty good (especially as I was missing Stranger Things) and the first season of Fortitude is great! I know I am late to the game but I’ve only just started watching Parks and Recreation and I LOVE it! (I can’t believe I waited for so long, I’ve been binge watching it and now up to series 5). And recently I’ve been re-watching old classics and I would 100% recommend these if you haven’t seen them: The West Wing, Arrested Development, Sopranos and Buffy (I refused to watch Buffy for years and realise now how wrong I was, it is amazing).
I've really enjoyed following your progress at your pottery class on instagram. Will we be seeing any ceramics in your shop soon?!
Ooh thank you! I love my pottery class! It’s honestly one of my favourite things that I do, I’m so happy that I joined. It’s so relaxing and lovely and always makes me feel good! Yes hopefully I will be selling my ceramics soon (I am happy you like them). I wanted to sell some this Christmas but I need to figure out a way of making them quicker so I don’t have to charge a million pounds for them! I have some cat planters and cat food bowls that I am making at the moment which I would like to put in my shop soon.
Who are some of your favourite creative ladies to follow and chat to on instagram?
I find Instagram so inspiring! It’s so nice to see so many other artistic people living creative lives, getting a glimpse into their world and seeing their creations. It feels very important to me, like you guys are my work colleagues! Especially when working from home, Instagram makes me feel part of a community. Some of my favourite people to follow are: saozen_plush (1), tinyscenic (2), threadfamous (3), lauracallaghanillustration (4), lorienstern (5) and theofficialsadghostclub (6)! They are all awesome!
What does Girl Power mean to you?
Girl power means girls coming together to support and encourage each other. I remember very vividly when I was at primary school wanting to play football at break and this boy in my class practically screamed at me that I wasn’t allowed to play because I wasn’t a boy. From then on, I have always challenged sexist views and fought for the respect and equality of women and girls. Girl power is what I felt as I was growing up, a rage inside me that I didn’t want to be patronised or pushed out. I feel so lucky to live in a country where my body is my own and I have the right to an education and the choice of what I want to do with my life. Other girls are not as lucky as me, which is why charities such as the Malala Fund, Goods for Girls and ‘because I am a girl’ (Plan international) are so amazing and important. And that is the bigger picture of girl power, being in a worldwide girl gang, standing up for all of our rights and fighting for the injustices of girls across the world.
I can relate to SO much of Jen's answers and I can't wait to see more of her creations (especially that Wes Anderson collection!). Keep up with what Jen's doing on instagram and support her by buying something from her Etsy shop.
If you want to spread the Girl Power yourself you can still buy one of my Girl Power pins on Etsy! Throughout March I'm donating 10% of each sale to charities which help women.