October 16, 2012
Today we’re happy to present a British company in every sense… the cultural heritage, the beliefs, the creativity and the entrepreneurship. White Dove & Wonder has all of these qualities – how else would vintage 1930s wooden shoe lasts be given this kind of new lease on life? Susan and Jimmy are the wife and husband behind the brand, and with their opposite skills set, they buy the raw material, they design, they reclaim and remake, they sale, they are PRs and they market.
We invite you to meet the entirely creative and committed duo, with a conversation about their company, the Best of Britannia, British heritage and their future…
When and how did White Dove & Wonder?
White Dove and Wonder was started around 2 years ago when I was out sourcing stock for my fledging art and antiques business. I happened to be back in Northampton and came across a pile of old shoe lasts which led me to buy a thousand pairs, Once they were delivered, I realised I needed to think of something to do with them.
What were the biggest challenges?
Working out how to remove the mechanism within them and then how to re-purpose them in a commercial way.
Tell us about the studio, how you work, basically, take us through a day in WD&W.
Jimmy and I sit down at the kitchen table and work together on the designs, he sketches the rough drawings and then takes them to the workshop he shares in New Cross, where he begins the process of cleaning and restoring the lasts before removing the mechanism within them. He works very methodically and has various processes for each last. Jimmy likes to work alone which is just as well as I am hopeless at all things practical, however, my role encompasses buying the raw materials, sales, marketing, PR, social media and POS. Finally, Jimmy does all the photography for the website. Jimmy and I work as a team, as we have polar opposite skill sets so the division of jobs is very clear and natural, when things get very busy, we shamelessly pull in help from our children, friends and, as you can see on the website, even our dogs!
Who is buying White Dove & Wonder?
Everyone! We sell directly through our website, we have just sold both to the trade and public at BOB and I have a strong client base throughout the south of England into home/garden/lifestyle retailers.
Who are your references for designing with shoe lasts?
None! As our product is totally unique, the design comes straight from either me or my very creative ex-photographer husband, Jimmy. However, we do admire the work of all the artisan carpenters within Woodindesign (based in North America and Canada).
How bespoke are you? We mean, could a client tell you their idea for you to make it?
Absolutely! Jimmy is open to everything and given time can work most things out.
Is this a good period in Britain to launch an original although risky product such as this one?
Um… Yes and no. Obviously economically this is not the perfect time but we’re also noticing an ever-growing movement towards reclaiming, remaking and upcycling. We are seeing an increasing number of people passionate about British craft and industry, in fact a number of us who exhibited at BOB are joining up, feeling stronger together, to go on the road with our individual unique products.
Tell us what you think of events like Best of Britannia for British commerce?
Just brilliant! It’s more than a commercial endeavour, it’s a movement and people like Antony are passionate and committed to supporting and endorsing British craft and industry.
Can you name some of the highlights in Best of Britannia for you and for the people around you?
The sense of collaboration and unity and a real excitement about all things British. It was just wonderful to showcase the diversity and creativity within our country, from speedboats to baby’s bibs and everything in between.
What are your plans to expand WD&W, in terms of business and designs in the future?
Well, we take each day at a time, we’re not looking for mass production or sales, we want to grow organically making beautiful things, expanding our collection and dealing with people both in this country and abroad who appreciate what we do and understand this is more than just a business to us, we are trying to preserve an important part of our cultural and industrial heritage.
Photos by White Dove & Wonder