The Jewel Box
Q:Let’s go back in time to when you first started. Can you give us a snapshot on how this journey began?
A:Soon after Danielle and I met we started designing jewelry. We spent all of our time experimenting, learning from books and shadowing local masters until we found our footing and founded Pyrrha. We were at it for a very short time before we decided to quit our jobs and either sink or swim.
Q:Where does the word Pyrrha come from?
A:Inspired by the idea of metamorphosis, we took the name Pyrrha from the Greek myth of Pyrrha & Deucalion who were the last two people left on earth after a great flood. To repopulate they threw stones over their shoulders onto the earth and the stones that Pyrrha threw became women, while the stones that Deucalion threw became men. The name describes not only a physical change - transforming reclaimed metals into jewelry - but also represents a positive transformation of character and inspiration for the wearer.
Q:What are your favourite things to do when you’re in Vancouver?
A:Despite our love of travel, we’re always happy to come home to Vancouver. We realize it really is like no other place in the world. We love to spend time in nature…either walking through Pacific Spirit Park (where we got married amongst the trees) or hanging out at one of the quieter beaches like Locarno. Night time is always about eating as that’s how we usually see our friends. Some of our favorite restaurants in town are The Farmer’s Apprentice, Vij’s and The Arbor.
Q:How long does it take to cast a talisman?
A:Making a talisman requires many steps, and the steps can’t really be done back to back. For instance, we use the lost wax method of casting, so after a day of creating the original waxes, they have to set overnight and the metal is melted and poured the next day. Once a piece is cast, the metal needs to be cleaned, ground, soldered, oxidized, and polished...all in, it takes many hours and many talented hands in our studio to create a single talisman.
Q:Other than jewellery, what are your creative outlets?
W:Until I became a jewelry designer, I always thought that I’d be a writer. I use writing as a way to get out of my head and let my imagination run free.
D:Our daughter Hazel is very creative so I've rediscovered my love of visual art by introducing her to different materials and techniques: printmaking, watercolors, collage… experimenting alongside a child is a great way for me to stay in the present and relax.
Q:What kind of research goes into finding the history and meaning of your seals?
A:A lot! We’ve both become extremely well-versed in both sigillography (the study of seals) and heraldry. We have quite a number of texts that we’ve collected over the years, some dating as far back as the 16th century. The British Museum in London recently contacted us to ask us to design a line inspired by pieces in their collection, so now we have full access to all of their archives and also to their staff, which is amazing.
Q:What can we expect from Pyrrha in the future?
A:We’ve recently expanded our 14 karat gold collection, and with that is coming more precious styles, more stones, bridal jewelry and high end one of a kind pieces designed for red carpet. We’re also building a new studio in Vancouver which will allow us to experiment more and to explore other categories.
Q:Early riser or night owl?
A:We’re both night owls by nature, but having a child 5 years ago put a stop to that. We still rarely get to bed before midnight so 6 hours sleep is often the norm.
Q:If you could only wear one seal for the rest of your life, which would it be?
W:Courage Sans Peur (Courage Without Fear) because it reminds me to continue to take risks. I think that it’s largely that sentiment that has gotten us to where we are.
D:Love Conquers All. It was one of our first styles and I love both the look and the meaning.
Q:Congratulations on over two decades of business. What are some insider tips on maintaining a successful partnership in both business and life.
A:For a lot of people it’s either a business or a relationship, and never the twain shall meet, but we’ve managed to circumvent a lot of the problems inherent in living and working together. It took us many years to realize that as a couple running a business you need to set aside time together every day that’s strictly personal and that’s been the key to our success. It’s so easy to live and breathe Pyrrha since we’re always together and the temptation is so great, but sometimes we just have to say, “it can wait”.
Q:How did you come up with the name Wolf Circus?
A:Wolf Circus is as much about the jewelry as it is about the team behind it. The name came to me organically after I started the business in university… we are a pac of intelligent, driven and unique individuals and I believe the name Wolf Circus reflects that in a playful way.
Q:How did Wolf Circus begin and how has it evolved over the last 6 years?
A:During university I sensed a gap in the market for attainable luxury jewelry that didn’t fall into the fast fashion category. I wanted quality accessories that were progressive yet still on trend. Being an entrepreneur by nature I immediately knew I wanted to seize this opportunity and thus, Wolf Circus was born. Initially I thought I would create a small line share with my friends; I never anticipated it to evolve into the brand it is today.
Q:Where do you get your inspiration from?
A:I am inspired by my grandma’s old jewelry, street style, my friends, confident women, painters, sculptors, architects. I’m feeling inspired by all sorts of external influences weather they be as large as a Miro painting or as abstract as the way the sun reflects off the window across my office – The Mira studs are an example of how those two ideas came together.
Q:What are the top 3 things on your bucket list?
1:Camp out in one of Oregon’s tree forts
2:Surf a barrel
3:Live in London for a year
Q:You are such a young talented designer. Did you ever imagine owning your own company at this age?
A:Not exactly but I subconsciously always knew I would be my own boss.
Q:Describe a day in the life of Fiona Morrison?
A:I almost always start my day in at Tight Club or at my friend Brooke’s rides class at Ride Cycle Club. I’ll then pick up a coffee on my way to the studio, touch base with my general manager Michelle - 9 times out of 10 we end our meetings with a snapchat dance - and then away we go with our goals and schedule for that day.
Q:What learning lessons can you share with aspiring designers starting their own careers?
A:Always do your personal best and the rest will (nearly always) fall into place.
Q:What do you love most about your career?
A:The flexibility and creative freedom.
Q:Sneakers or heals?
Q:Who’s your role model?
A:The strong independent woman who surround my everyday. S/o to my mother.
Q:Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background
A:I live in Vancouver with my husband and my dog Luca. I work a lot, and try to travel as much as I can- even though it's most-often business related. Most days you'll find me at our studio in Gastown. I'm very hands-on with all aspects of my business, from designing to sales to marketing… it never stops!
Q:Have you always wanted to design jewelry, or was there an alternative career path you wanted to take?
A:I was making jewelry long before I considered it as a career path… I've had a lot of jobs in my day… As for career path, I used to want to be a marine biologist, and then I went to school for Fashion and saw myself working at a magazine. I developed a healthy obsession with large turquoise stones and went on a mission to source them to make a necklace and it started from there.
Q:Can you walk us through a bit of your design process for a new jewellery collection and how you decide on the names for individual styles?
A:I usually have some color inspiration with specific gems in mind to start. I love hiving piles of gems on my desk so that I can play around with combinations of stone shapes and colors. It's so much easier for us to have a name for each piece rather than a numbered sku. Sometimes a new design will just scream it's new name, and other times it will be random. I studied French and Spanish so I love looking at other languages for inspiration as well.
Q:As a layering connoisseur what advice would you give to someone trying to achieve the perfect look?
A:Have some every day staples and then add things into the rotation. For example currently I always have a few Sydney cuffs on in gold and rose gold, and then I'll add a Social and/or Liberty bracelets. I love that layered mix of all-gold pieces with all-gemstone pieces. I wear the Sydney choker every day, and then layer down from there. A lot of our necklaces are different lengths intended to be layered with each other.
Q:You have a distinct aesthetic when it comes to your jewellery design, photography and styling…where do you source inspiration from?
A:I get a lot of inspiration from the gemstones themselves, and when I travel to source the gems. Without sounding too kooky I like to think they "speak to me" haha, like "make this with me!!" I've been working on my photography for as long as I've had my business- I do my own product shots and the majority of my social media images. I love browsing Pinterest and Tumblr for photo inspiration, and I'm always striving to improve my photo skills, I really enjoy it!
Q:If you had a one way ticket to anywhere, where would it be?
A:I feel like going somewhere that has not only beautiful beaches and water- but also culture and amazing food. I'd say Vietnam fits that ticket! If I was able to take a month off I would go now…
Q:Which famous person would you absolutely fan-girl if you saw them wearing one of your pieces?
Q:Describe an ideal weekend in Vancouver, what are your favourite spots to shop, eat & explore?
A:My weekends seem to revolve around eating… Farmer's Apprentice and Ask For Luigi are my favourites for going out for brunch. I also love having the time at home on a Sunday morning to make something tasty- my go-to recipe is Ina Garten's herbed baked eggs- look it up online! You can often find me at the Farmer's Market or shopping at Hills Dry Goods on 4th! We got paddle boards this summer so we spent a lot of weekend time out on the ocean. For dinner I love Cuchillo, Nuba, Ahn+Chi, Nook, or one of Vancouver's many sushi spots! Burgoo is great for cold rainy nights.
Q:We’ve heard that you were once a Blue Ruby Gem…what store did you work at?
A:I sure was! I worked at the Robson Street location. The experience I gained there was very useful to several aspects in my business now, for example observing and understanding the thought process when a customer is purchasing jewelry for themselves or for a gift. It helped my jewellery merchandising skills as well which I use all the time¬!
Q:Seeing a successful, female entrepreneur is inspiring! What are some tips you can offer to someone who is starting their own business?
A:Be obsessed and be prepared to be consumed by it for a while- but it shouldn’t feel like as much work as it really is when you're passionate about what you're building! Seek out a mentor with applicable experience. Identify your own weaknesses so you can seek help for those areas.
Q:You pull inspiration from across the globe for your jewellery. What countries/cultures are you most inspired by currently?
A:Not one specific country or culture influences me. I pick up inspiration wherever I go, whether it is a 12 hour flight away, or a walk down the street. Seeing a beautiful flower could become the motif for a new collection. I recently went to a folk art market in Santa Fe where artisans from over 150 countries came to showcase their work. I was so inspired by the variety of work and craftsmanship happening around the world.
Q:You’re originally from Vietnam, how has it influenced you as a designer/entrepreneur?
A:Growing up, my family had a few businesses, so at an early age I had a great business sense. I was also surrounded by many artisans in Vietnam. The combination of being comfortable with both business and the arts really helped me become an ambitious and successful designer.
Q:Do you have a favourite piece in your personal collection?
A:My 1st silver wrap bracelet on brown leather – it’s classic!
Q:What jewellery item would you say is essential for festival season?
A:Definitely stacking lots of single wraps in bright colours. Turquoise is usually the most popular colour for festival season. For necklaces, I would say a leather lariat or fringe necklace.
Q:How did your signature wrap bracelet design come to be?
A:The wrap bracelet was a style I really believed in! It is so versatile and perfect for anyone from the age of 8 - 88. Once the trend started to catch on, many celebrities and models like Rihanna, Lady Gaga, and Bar Refaeli had the bracelets wrapped around their wrists.
Q:What tips can you share for layering the perfect “arm party”?
A:For me, the perfect “arm party” is a mix of textures and materials. I love picking up friendship bracelets from craft markets from around the world and mixing them with a wrap bracelet. Then I have my staple diamond bracelets that I never take off. A mix of fine, contemporary and bright friendship bracelets would be the perfect “arm party” for me.
Q:What jewellery trend(s) are you most excited about for FW15?
A:I love designing with organic shaped pearls, metal and charms by mixing them in a cool, edgy way.
Q:And lastly, what is your greatest indulgence?