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A Certain Identity: Meet Danielle Wilmore and Wade Papin at Pyrrha

December 16, 2009

In Ingrid Hill’s book “Ursula Under” she takes a moment to describe the titular character’s great-great grand- mother in Finland in the early twentieth century, sitting serenely on a hill. She eloquently writes “…we will look at this snapshot only, which is regardless only in our imaginations, the only cameras anyone had before our own era. The caption of this picture would likely be ‘Innocence’. It would be a romantic oversimplification – hence falsification – like most of the tales in our family history.”

While I was speaking to Danielle Wilmore and Wade Papin, head designers and owner of Pyrrha jewellry, my mind kept coming back to this book. The necklaces molded from old seals has a remarkable sincerity, and an undiluted truthfulness that is almost non-existent in recorded history. Favouring emblematic expressions of the peasantry over the complicated opulence of the family seals of the aristocracy, their jewelry is a totemic expression of the wearer.

(Danielle and Wade photographed by Alexa Kirsten Stroth)

I too am an owner of their jewellry, I wear the “Eagle of Virtue” as it represents the poise and virtuousness I wish to possess. To me it symbolizes personal recitude and the ability to express myself with proper etiquette. Even though this is a bit of projection on my part, it has become an iconic personal expression for me. So it was quite lovely to be able to speak with the owners of Pyrrha who have given me an object that I use to express myself.

When I arrived at Wade and Danielle’s studio, it reminded me of the line itself: Raw, weathered, textured, and something of the English dandy about it. Truly I see a masculinity in the pair’s aesthetic lended from the proper gentleman of past decades, which we see more today in men’s dress. Moss –green walls, crown mold- ings in high-gloss black, with the objects sparse but of elaborate value. The space being a beautiful frame to the important pieces of organization and creation.

(Pyrrha’s workspcae photographed by CASTE Projects)

How did the two of you meet?

Danielle – Here in Vancouver, a month after I had moved here, and into Wade’s brother’s building actually. We met in the hallway, and it was pretty easy. That was it.

How did Pyrrah get started?

D – About six months after we met. A year after- wards we were able to quit our jobs and work with Pyrrha full time. From there we were working out of our house for about three to four years before getting our first studio. It was a slow and steady incline.

What inspires the pieces, and Pyrrha’s personal aesthetic?

Wade – Originally Pyrrha was very modern and minimal. However, around five years ago people had really turned away from frivolity, and turned towards fashion with mean- ing. The line is still modern, but in a different way. We had become more interested in the artist’s hand, and the tactile quality of the seals. We sought to highlight the cracks in- stead of erasing history. The line now is a far truer reflection of who we are.

Do each of you have a favourite piece? Why?

Danielle points to the necklace she’s currently wearing. A small pendant called Omnivanitas. Which, translated means “all is vanity” displaying on the seal, a skull for mortality and wings for protection.

– I like it because it’s kind of dark. I like the dark things.

Wade points to his giant Bucaneer-type ring. I immeadiately think of the costumes of the film Gangs of New York.

– The seal is untitled, and belonged to a Duke of Luxem- bourg in the 18th century, it has lots of eerie knights.

Any interesting discoveries through your work?

W – We’ve really learned a lot about family heraldry, and the many mutations of symbolism. A single seal can have 5 different meanings and say so much.

Do you find yourself drawn to the history of the pieces?

D – Yes, especially the ones that are expressions of sentiment, and not a family crest, The ones outside of ge- neaology fell more personal. They’re just a simple symbol or motto, and more individual. They allow you to express a strong sentiment, something you hope to be that day, or you can tell a story through several. Like these two are a dagger and a butterfly. It states, I need courage, but I’m a bit of a girl.

In fact at a store in Seattle, a woman came across one of our necklaces, with a Cherub and an Anchor, underneath in french it declares “Courage even in fear”. She apparently burst into tears as it spoke to her so much. She had recently survived cancer, and this necklace was emblematic of who she was, and where she had been. Moreso, on some level, everyone is weathering a storm.

Tell me more about working in this house.

W – This space is so perfect, we never wanted to be a factory. We wanted to feel more like a family We hire people less for their skill (because we train) but more for their energy. Also, the house is definetly haunted.

So, I hear you two have a new shop in LA opening in March. How did that come about?

W – We like our retailers, and we didn’t want to canni- balize our sales here by opening a store. LA is so huge it’s very destination. Everything there is driven by the Stylists, Costume Designers, and Celebrities. It’s a great oppurtunity to re-iterate our brand and show the vision we have of our store.

Any future plans for Pyrrha?

D – We’ve never been a company to conquer. If an oppurtunity comes our way, we take it. If you’re always planning, you become inflexible, so you end up missing out on things. Like this studio we were so lucky to find. We had an upcoming trip to Paris, and the day before we left, our friend called mentioning this listing. It then happened so fast, we came and had a viewing immeadiately, and the previous owner sold it to us.

Interview and Words by Jon Yurechko


Find your favourite here and create your own story.

The force behind the Pyrrha Design, the designers Wade and Danielle take their company name from the myth of Pyrrha and Deucalion, a story of two young lovers who are the sole survivors of a catastrophic flood. (more info here.) The pair met in Vancouver BC, Canada in 1993, and have remained solidly connected to their Vancouver base. They’re firmly committed to local production in the city that they love, and will continue to support.

Do you have Pyrrha? Which one is your favourite? Please tell us your story.

One Comment leave one →
  1. December 16, 2009 4:44 pm

    Such a nice little story!

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