It’s getting to that time of year when everyone’s minds are turning to what they can buy their friends and family to put under the tree. In Leicestershire we’re lucky enough to have some fantastic local independent retailers and crafts people, so you don’t always have to hit the High Street to find that special gift, why not get something a little more different?
One of our favourites is Wren & Wilson which offers a brilliant range of pop culture inspired accessories and jewellery. You can find them online and at the some of Leicester’s Christmas markets this year, so we caught up with the lady behind the designs, Jen Pyrah, to find out more.
Tell us a bit about Wren & Wilson and the products you make?
I make fun and exciting jewellery and accessories inspired by pop culture, nature and cute animals. My designs start life as hand drawn illustrations and are then laser cut onto sustainable wood and individually hand painted to create unique wearable illustrations! I love the planet so do everything as eco-friendly as possible from using recycled packaging and FSC certified paper and wood.
What was the inspiration behind starting the business?
After studying Fine Art at uni I worked full time in an office job to save up enough money to travel the world. During my adventure I knew that I didn’t want to come home to working in an office again for someone else, I didn’t want to waste away at a desk and not be able to use my creativity or art in my job, so I decided to work for myself. My brain was full of ideas and doodles and I wanted to find a way I could use my illustrations in a unique way, which is when I stumbled across laser cutting and thought I could make my illustrations into wearable pieces of art!
What is your favourite product that you make?
It changes all the time! At the moment I like my designs that are slightly unusual and innovative such as my best friend keyring sets. I have two different designs that you can share with your best friend; one is a pair of zombie hands with BFF heart tattoos that can pinkie promise each other and the other is a pair of cute dogs that have a groove in their bottom which fits the shape of the other dog’s nose so they can sniff each other and give each other a friendly greeting!
You do a very Leicester inspired David Attenborough pin badge, is that one of your big sellers?
I do yes! It’s so lovely to meet so many other David Attenborough lovers out there in the world and it fills my heart with joy to see the genuine love people have for him. As my hand painted David badge was so popular I have introduced an enamel pin version which is going down very well. My hand painted versions give 10% of proceeds to the charity Cool Earth which protects endangered rainforests.
Are there any popular icons that you haven’t yet featured in designs but you’d like to?
I was thinking of making a Richard Attenborough badge too to go with David so you can wear them both at the same time! I’m also pretty keen on making a Chris Packham badge but I’m not sure anyone would buy one 😀 Next up in my design head is to create trio pin sets of Harry Potter and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
You can often be found at independent craft fairs, where do you find is your best place to trade in the city?
Yes, I’ve been lucky enough to have a stall at the Clarendon Park Christmas fair for the last few years which is a really lovely market to be part of. The whole street closes down and it is filled with stalls, live music and mulled wine! I’m also super excited to be part of the Realms of Rummage fair this December which is organised by a local designer maker. I find with my types of product I have to pick craft fairs carefully so I know my type of customer will be there, my stuff has quite a niche market!
What other local designers do you really like?
Since opening Wren & Wilson my eyes have been open to amazing designers based in Leicester. Some of my favourites are: Silly Girl Club – An amazing designer who makes super awesome smock dresses and bum bags out of vintage character bedsheets (like Disney and Jurassic park), Thread Famous who makes really cool enamel pins and patches inspired by pop culture and literature and I recently discovered Lesser Than 3 who who is a super talented hand drawn sign writer who makes beautiful bespoke signs and Christmas baubles!
How do you feel Leicester compares now to other cities in terms of independent designers and retailers?
At first when I first started out I thought there wasn’t much happening in terms of small alternative art markets and things happening in the city. But actually there is a lot of cool stuff going on and it’s just that I didn’t notice it before. The city if full of amazing independent designers who work hard and are creating lots of exciting things. The new designer Makers Market has opened in town and I feel like there is more of a buzz about supporting independent events and artists.
There are certain cities which have very enviable opportunities for designer makers such as Afflecks in Manchester, which would be amazing if we had something similar in the city. I hope someone reads this and opens one up!!
What is the plan for Wren & Wilson in the next 12 months?
The plan is to get through Christmas! Once that is over then I am going to spend time building a website so I have a lovely place where people can visit, explore my products and learn more about Wren & Wilson. I’m also going to be branching out into more bricks and mortar shops which is exciting! I also have lots of new ideas that I will start to create in the New Year.