Getting To Know Jess Gladwish, The Creative Behind Fat Pom Poms
If you’ve wandered past one of our stores recently, you will have spotted an array of pom-poms suspended in the windows. These, however, are no regular pom poms. Designed and created by Margate-based Jess Gladwish, the creative behind Fat Pom Poms, they are generously oversized and uniquely vibrant, instilling merriness in the most playful way possible. A fun hobby that has gradually evolved into her career and passion, she truly raises the bar and innovates the craft. We caught up with Jess last week to discuss her breadth of inspiration, her visions for Fat Pom Poms’ future, and what it was like creating 270 pom poms for Whistles’ Christmas display.
Tell us the story behind Fat Pom Poms; how did you get started?
I was working in a pub kitchen and had just quit my Psychology degree at University after a year of studying. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I wanted to make something with my hands after a year of failing at statistics! I tried nail art but realised I wasn’t extroverted enough to speak to clients every day in a salon – or good enough at nail art. I later watched a Christmas programme featuring Rosy Nicholas making pom poms and felt utterly inspired. I bought my first set of makers the next day and raided my Nans yarn stash… as they say, the rest is history!
Your pieces have such joyful energy to them; how do you want your pom-poms and other creations to make people feel?
I want people to feel like they don’t have to be too serious. I want to inject a bit of fun into someone’s day or add that final touch to an outfit. I have a 3-year-old son, so I usually can’t wear nice clothes without ruining them, so a pom-pom goes a long way to making an outfit your own.
We’d love to know more about your inspiration – who or what inspires your creative practice?
I take inspiration from anything outside my field of work. I try not to follow or take notice of too many people who are doing similar things to me, so instead, I look for random colour palettes. Surprisingly enough, some of the best I’ve found have been on neighbouring garage doors. My one way of always getting inspiration also is just to talk to my friends. I will usually tell them a small idea I have, and we will chat about it. The conversation will morph into something completely different, and then the final idea comes to me.
What about the way you create… Does the change of seasons inform how you chose materials and colours?
I tend to stick with the same bright colours all year round, using them in different ways. However, I usually notice a change in style when I scroll back through my Instagram. Summer can feel light, bright and pastel-ly. The run-up to Christmas will always include heavier tinsel and glitter.
For our Christmas window installations, you made 270 giant pom-poms – how was that? Can you talk us through the process of how you made them and some of the challenges?
I’d never made so many giant pom-poms in a row! They require so much more strength and work than a standard smaller pom-pom, so we needed to find a few tricks along the way to make our lives easier. First, I designed a template for a pom-pom maker, and my partner cut it from 9mm plywood. It took a couple of tweaks to the design, but we created the perfect size in the end. Another challenge was cutting through the cotton, as each pom-pom is filled with at least 800 to 900g of yarn; standard scissors weren’t enough. And the last obstacle we overcame was training up my brother and sister-in-law as quickly as possible, who had never made a pom-pom in their life at the start of the project!
So how long did it take to make 1 of the 270 giant pom-poms...
In total, from weighing out each colour, winding into new balls of yarn with precisely the amount needed, wrapping the yarn, cutting, brushing, trimming and boxing up… I would say around two hours per pom-pom.
What got you through making them? Any songs you had on-repeat or a good TV show for the background noise?
Yes! It was a bit too early for Christmas songs, so we didn’t go that far, but we did get through lots of albums and playlists. Also, when I was alone in the studio working in the evening, I decided to binge a few programmes I’d not had a chance to get round to yet; Succession and Prison Break were the series I binged first.
Your studio is bursting with colour. Do you have a knack for collecting or have any obscure obsessions when it comes to interiors?
My living space is so tiny that I can’t actually fit any of my creations in there, which is sad! I dream of the day I can style up one of my terrazzo trays on a dining room table or have a dressing table with all of my earrings neatly hanging on a rail. Instead, I go for second-hand or handmade pieces as essentials we can fit in our space.
Looking ahead to the festive season, what does a Fat Pom Pom Christmas look like?
Tinsel – lots and lots of it! I’ve been using resin and have streamlined a nearly zero-waste process. I’ve also started using donated or second-hand tinsel that would have ended up in the bin. Over the past few months, people have sent me their unwanted tinsel, glitter or yarn, and I send them hair clips in return.
Lastly, what's next for Fat Pom Poms?
Next year, I’d love to finally brand my DIY Kit boxes so I can get them into shops. It’s a dream I’ve had for a long time, and it finally feels in reach.
This year for our Christmas window display, we collaborated with Fat Pom Poms to create 270 hanging pom-poms to decorate our store windows.
Following our previous collaborations with Goldfinger Factory and Studio Peover, and with a continued focus on sustainability, we wanted to offer decorations that can be enjoyed in-store and then at home this season – and ultimately we wanted to prevent items ending up in landfill.
These handmade hanging decorations are on sale for £20 each from December with all proceeds going to the Trussell Trust – a charity that supports a network of food banks that provide emergency food and advice to people in crisis.
The stocks of our handcrafted pom-poms are subject to availability and we apologise for any disappointment in advance. Ask in store for more details and our retail team will do their best to source one for you.
Registered Charity in England & Wales (1110522) and Scotland (SC044246).