Studio Visit: Wolfum
We have a confession. We've been crushing on Los Angeles based homeware studio WOLFUM for quite some time now...it all started with tracking down a southwest inspired tray/coaster combo and were instantly hooked! When we finally mustered up the guts to ask for a studio visit we were beyond pleased to not only rub against their full line of punchy textiles and wooden goods in person...but to discover that owner/designer Annabel is not only an absolute doll... but one butt kicking hard working fashionable woman to boot!
There's no question why these spunky color splash goods are on the top of everyone's must have list. Colorful and pattern playful, Wolfum is a lifestyle look we wouldn't mind wrapping ourselves up in completely - and with everything from napkins and glassware to tee-pees and backgammon boards we suppose that wouldn't be too difficult to pull off.
We take a moment to learn more about where these fashion-forward ideas come to life and what keeps the creative momentum going inside of this little workshop packed with a spectrum of style.
Name: Annabel Inganni, WOLFUM
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Tell us a little about where the name Wolfum came from and what prompted you to turn this brand into a full time business.
I had had wanted to do a collection of table linens for a few years and had been working on that idea under another name. Simultaneously I started to experiment with different print techniques and materials. When I saw how beautiful the graphics looked on the wood, I realized I was on to something and wanted to go deeper into the product line idea (not just table top). The name I was woking under didn't seem to suit this new energy and focus, so I stumbled around a bit, but kept coming back to Wolfum (this was a nick name for my beautiful cat Wolf). It was quirky, memorable and somehow encapsulated the energy of the prints and products I was working on.
I was pregnant at the time, which was an excellent deadline (I am the ultimate procrastinator) and submitted some photos to Design Sponge, who to my excitement wrote about the line before I even had a real website. We committed to the New York Gift fair (now, NYNOW) and hit the ground running. We were fortunate enough to keep the orders going that we grew in a responsible way. Although it was a ton os hard work (especially with a newborn) I never felt we were over-extending ourselves financially, so it was safe. Since I have access to a woodshop (and free labor from a very hard working husband) we were able to keep our overhead low and commit to full-time business fairly quickly.
You were previously working in the accessory and apparel industry - how did that experience benefit you while refocusing design into a line of home goods? What lessons have you kept from those fashion days that keep your own business moving forward and expanding?
My experience in the apparel design industry was invaluable. I am completely self taught. Although I've always been artistic, I did not go to school to study design, so I had to learn everything myself, very hands on. Starting off as an assistant, I had to schlep from suppliers to contractors to vendors. I had to pack boxes. A lot of boxes. I learned Photoshop and Illustrator over shoulders and navigated trade shows, linesheets and charge backs. I worked very hard and took every opportunity that was given to me.
I am so thankful to know every aspect of the industry-materials, patterning, sewing, selling. In my last few years in the industry I was given a ton of freedom, my choices were trusted, thus I developed my own design voice. I had free run of a completely vertical factory, so I played a lot. I keep that mentality today. I don't want to lose touch with the material, the process. I believe it is vital to know every aspect of your industry, so that you can truly speak to it. Besides fighting my way up, I feel the biggest lessons I hold on to from fashion is the time line. (Maybe somewhat foolishly) I create two new collections a year- Holiday and Spring- with 9-13 new prints and a seasonal color story. Although I aim to keep Wolfum timeless, I do pull inspiration from fashion trends and always review the collections. Why not have home goods be as fashionable as our clothing?
How do you stay inspired or where do you look for inspiration? Any particular playlist or caffeinated bevvy also needed to keep the work coming out of the studio fresh?
As I mentioned, I do look a lot to fashion. Not just current fashion, however, as I am very referential. I love books- I have a large library reflecting my interest in design, textiles, products, photography, these serve as a constant inspiration and can be so stimulating over and over, as I see new things each time, depending on my head space. I love vintage clothing, the LA Public Library downtown, old family photos. I do tend to work best in the morning- I wake with a lot of energy (coffee helps) and enjoy the rush of getting a lot done. I must admit, at almost four years in I am finding it challenging at times to constantly come up with new ideas, but I just remind myself how lucky I am to have this opportunity and I push through it. A good glass of wine, getting out of the shop, conversations with friends and travel, always help to loosen the cogs a bit and open my perspective.
above images: wolfum instagram
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned launching your own creative business? What advice would you give to other makers on how to promote and get their craft out there?
Trust in self. I am still learning it. Every day I feel doubt- whether it is a design slump, or a business challenge, or money woes- they leave room for doubt. And no one else can make you feel better. It is so important to love your ideas, believe it them, so that you can engage others. I also have to remind myself that this too will pass. Like everything in life, there are highs and lows. And although I may love Wolfum like my baby, it is, at the end of the day, a business and I must be abel to think that way. It is so challenging to be both the creative and the business, but I have learned to separate the two and have some days be all business, while others all creative.
As far as advice, I say learn to wear many hats. Its been my experience that in order to properly self promote, you have to be designer, CEO, photographer, sales agent, writer, graphic artist and more. Or at the very least, know how to find those people to add to your team. There are so many creative outlets to sell these days, so I fully take advantage of as many as possible. It's not just the traditional routes anymore. Do the local shows, meet the people who buy your product. Develop relationships with your stores, get feedback and take action. Be actively involved in your brand, care as much about the smallest aspect as you do the largest. That said, always think each decision through and don't be afraid to say no. There is power in saying no and choosing how to best guide your brand. Not every sale is worth it if it does not make sense to you at the end of the day. Quality of life is integral to business longevity.
You've partnered with so many large brands, What’s next!? Any dream projects or collaborations you'd love to take on?
It has always been my vision for Wolfum to be a full lifestyle brand- tabletop, bath, bedding, children's, and perhaps making my way back into apparel. I have had to pull back a bit in the last few seasons in an effort to streamline production, but it is my goal to take Wolfum to that level. Companies like Design Research, Alexander Girard, Marimekko all excelled at multi-disciplinary product development, and I hope to see Wolfum as that one day. I am currently branching out into wallpaper and rugs, which are completely new worlds for me, so that is scary and exciting. I have some licensing opportunities I want to explore, which also stretches my design muscles. I will be participating in Parachute Market in Los Angeles and West Coast Craft in San Francisco in June, and am working on a line of furniture with my husband that will incorporate my prints.
There's no question that our own private WOLFUM collection will grow as they expand into more home goods. That wallpaper, good grief! Swoon baby swoon, we can't wait to see what they come up with next!