Like recycled fabrics and pre-loved material? Love having something unique and handmade? Fix your retinas on Hummingpea — a vibrant, colourful, vintage-feel jewellery business based in Adelaide, Australia. Owned and run by Pennie Wilcox, Hummingpea wares are 100% hand embroidered and each piece is a one-of-a-kind beauty. It’s one of those brands that you look at, and it just makes you feel good, you know? I mean, look at those necklaces—don’t you feel all warm inside? Yep, do you.
“One of my most vivid memories comes from my junior primary classes, where we spent what seemed to be a ridiculous amount of time tracing and colouring in. I often think back to that now, and am very grateful for the love of colour and shapes and lines and creating that it somehow instilled in me. I have loved tracing ever since—and now I do it everyday in my work!”
Art is more than just an income and passionate hobby for Pennie—her creativity has helped her through some trying times. At 18, Pennie become sick with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and had to stop working. It took her a long time to recover, and her art helped her endure.
“Creating became vital to my survival. Mentally and emotionally, I needed the physical aspects of it to help give my days some kind of meaning.”
It was during this period that Pennie started making jewellery, and people were totally into what she was creating. Ten years later, after more recovery time, having two children and dabbling in many creative forms, Pennie made the decision to try and make Hummingpea work. She set aside two days per week to focus on her new jewellery business and taught herself how to use social media as a form of marketing. She also gave her Etsy shop a huge upgrade, and things went crazy from there.
“That was two and a half years ago now, and I am still blown away by the journey I’ve been on, and how I am able to make and create as a source of income!”
Like many creative types, Pennie finds it hard to pinpoint her source of inspiration.
“It might sound cliché, but life greatly inspires me. The ups and downs of my situations and emotions, and all that I can learn from living day to day. I take a lot of inspiration from the survival of everyday realities.”
How cool it that? I’m all too quick to mope and trudge around when things get tough, and here Pennie is using her bad times as inspo!
“I am also inspired daily by my two gorgeous girls and their enthusiastic love, determination, and ability to find intense interest in almost anything. I also spent a lot of time watching my Gran do tapestries, embroideries, and general sewing. She taught me a lot, and lives on in my work—I still use a lot of her old equipment and materials.”
Although her Hummingpea journey so far has been a smashing success, Pennie says there have been a lot of challenges.
“I’m not sure if I have overcome too many of them yet! For me it has definitely been the paperwork, and the pricing that has been the biggest hurdle. I have a lot to learn still in regards to organising, recording things properly, and pricing my pieces appropriately.”
Finding the time to do everything is another challenge. For Pennie, it is vital to factor in time for herself and her family.
“The success of any business depends on the sanity of the person running it, and so when I am running solo, I have learnt (often the hard way) that taking time out is actually just as important as getting everything done.”
Did everyone write that down? I wrote that down—that’s some quality advice right there.
Every struggle has its rewards, and for Pennie, her favourite moments are the ones where she sees how much her work has positively impacted someone. Finding opportunities to offer someone meaningful encouragement is something she strives for.
“One specific time, I had been struggling for months with the whole ‘meaning of life artist crisis’ that is unfortunately all too common. I wanted to give people something more meaningful, and it was from there that my cards and hoops with little phrases and poems were born. I remember the very first one I made, I showed it to a friend and she stared at it for a few seconds, and then said, I need it, now, for my Auntie. So, I finished it off and she gave it to her Auntie, who was going through a hard time. The words spoke to her in a way that moved her to tears, and I felt like my life was complete! Seeing people encouraged, moved, inspired, empowered, brought joy from my work is the very best reward.”
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