Tell us a bit about Helen Penny and how it all started
I’m Helen Penny and I create illustrated textile products that are (mostly) devoted to dogs. I draw and design all of the fabrics before I sew them.
When I adopted Wima I was young and enthusiastic in my role as a new dog mum, so I wanted to consume anything and everything dog related. However, I found that a lot of the dog merch at the time was low in quality and bad in taste, so I wanted to create a range that was fun, but ultimately stylish and design-led.
It’s important to me that each design is created in small batches with great thought and consideration – I try to be a conscious maker and hope my products are treasured!
The life of the pet pillow began back when I was drawing a pet portrait for a girl whose dog had recently died. I thought she might prefer something that was more tactile and interactive to comfort her. With that in mind, I set out to create something a little bit more huggable. I had some velvety fun and her portrait came to life.
Tell us about Wilma and how she came into your life.
My friend worked with her previous owner. He had many ‘desirable’ dogs lined up in crates in his flat to breed from. When his partner left, he couldn’t cope with the amount of dogs he had so I jumped at the chance and asked if I could adopt her. She was kept on the cold crate floor without any bedding, so it’s safe to say she now gets a prime position on my memory foam mattress.
When she came into my life I was only 23 and could barely take care of myself. The responsibility taught me a lot and it shaped the trajectory of my life. My career, my house shares and a lot of my friendships have been influenced by having her.
How does Wilma fit into your general working day?
At the moment we get up early to go for a nice cool walk. She doesn’t really do mornings so I often have to carry her up the hill to get her going.
After that, we share a smoothie and she heads back to bed for the day. I work from home and she refuses to sleep anywhere other than on top of my desk. I’m pretty immune to any degree of snoring now and actually find it quite comforting! She is such good company and can also jump in to help out with any modelling jobs.
When you’re not working where do you like to head out to with the dog?
She’s not much of a walker now she’s older, but we do like a stroll to Brockwell park, Herne Hill farmers market or potter out to Dulwich for coffee.
We’re a regular on London’s public transport circuit. She is more than happy to be carried around in her bag and comes with me most places, all over London. We like to have meetings in the dog-friendly Hoxton and enjoy spending an evening in Vagabond wines, or in-and-around Peckham.
What essentials do you always have on you when heading out for a dog walk, and what do you carry them in?
Before a walk there’s always a mad scramble for any poo bags I can find in the bottom of every bag and/or pocket I own. If we’re going far, I take her carry bag and one of those amazing water bottle/bowl hybrids – they’re great for travelling
What adventures do you have planned with Wilma for later this year?
We’re off to the Cotswolds in a couple of weeks to spend a weekend with her sausage dog friends. After that we may be able to get a few days in Cornwall – she absolutely loves running on the beach – we used to live a 10 minute walk from one and miss it dearly!