SPOTLIGHT: CAT & JEN FROM BARNEY & WILF
The owners of Barney & Wilf on their mission to combat artwork-cluttered fridges and how they juggle the daily chaos
Catherine Wheeler and Jennifer Schunter are two clever mums (each with two kids), who decided to solve every parent’s dilemma when it came to the mini masterpieces created by our offspring. Basically, we either live with drawers crammed with glitter-splattered paperwork and a fridge covered in drawings of cars, and piles of painted rainbows from nursery and school – or we, er, bin them, and live forever with our guilt, right? Wrong! Cat and Jen decided to turn our little ones’ creations into beautiful bespoke prints, displaying anything from 12 to 88 examples of your children’s artwork. Genius. Hello, again, fridge. It’s no wonder they received a Junior Design Award this year.
We wanted to find out how they balance work with motherhood, what challenges they face on a daily basis, what they love about having their own business, and what keeps their world turning. Because we’re nosey like that. Oh, and there’s a sneaky 10% discount for Fussy Bird readers who fancy a little Barney & Wilf Christmas order! Read on…
I wake up at… Cat: around 7am on a school day and 7.45am at the weekends. Once the kids mastered the point of the GroClock we’ve been sneakily getting lie-ins at weekends! Breakfast is whatever we can grab before bustling them in the car and heading off to school. Usually cereal and fruit, but if I have time I will attempt avocado and eggs. If we’re running late then the boys enjoy a ‘car breakfast’ – a Tupperware containing brioche and banana – while I make the school dash.
Our typical day involves… Jen: After dropping the children at nursery/school, I’ll head into the studio and check on new deliveries of artwork, sort through marketing and admin, and begin photographing the artwork. We digitally edit each image to bring out the colours and details in the picture, which is a labour of love. It can take between one and three hours to edit artwork for one print, depending on the quantity and quality of the creations. I visit our printer and framer en route back from school runs and once the kids are home everything goes on hold until they are tucked up in bed and we can get a bit more done!
We started Barney & Wilf because… Cat: We both had piles of kids artwork in drawers and cluttering up fridges and walls, so Jen had the idea to try and consolidate them into one big piece and actually make them look cool in her home. I loved the simplicity of the idea, so we started doing them for friends and everyone loved the concept and quality so much we started the business and never looked back.
My favourite part of my job… Jen: I love sorting through the piles of artwork for the first time and seeing all the fabulous art each child has done. Their artwork can give an insight into their lives – for example, a picture of a baby in mummy’s tummy or a drawing they did at church, it’s quite a personal thing. You can also sense the pride from the parents and that they love their children’s work so much they want to preserve it forever.
The worst part of the job… Cat: Having a mountain of orders and the kids won’t let you work!
Jen: Navigating the new world of Instagram and Facebook after a previous career in corporate banking in the Middle East. It’s very different to my life before children, but I love the new challenge and the rate the business is growing.
The biggest challenges of combining business with motherhood are… Cat: Time! There isn’t enough of it and you have to have dedicated hours in the week for work when the kids are at nursery. We are often in our studio after bedtime, but it’s worth it to spend time with them after school. Getting great feedback and our Junior Design Award this year makes it all worth it, though. Seeing the photos of our prints hung in pride of place in people’s homes is so satisfying.
Who we admire… Mums (and dads)!! It’s the hardest job.We are all just winging it, but everyone we meet seems to manage to keep their sense of humour. Building a small business as well as being stay-at-home mums has been fascinating. Mum-led blogs and businesses such as Anna Whitehouse (Mother Pukka), Cat Sims (Not So Smug Now) and yourselves at Fussy Bird have been so supportive of us, and it’s been fab to see the rise of parent-led businesses where we can work flexibly and still be home for the school run.
‘It’s been fab to see the rise of parent-led businesses where we can work flexibly and still be home for the school run’
Cat & Jen’s world
FOR ME…Cat: I live in skinny jeans with T-shirts or jumpers and everything in my wardrobe is navy or light grey and usually covered in peanut butter! My most favourite purchase is my tan Chelsea boots from Russell & Bromley. I had wanted them for ages and wear them every day. Oh, and my fave cashmere jumper is from Little Leggies.
Cat: The kids love their bikes when we’re outside and their Schleich animals when we’re at home. Most games involve building a zoo or pirate ship, and they’re very into role-playing at the moment, too. They also love drawing and messy paint. We skipped the superhero phase, but it’s starting to creep in now!
Cat: My children’s rooms look like a page straight from the Great Little Trading Company catalogue! I just love the bright designs and the selection of storage options.
Jen: We are in the middle of a house renovation, so I have my eye on lots of goodies featured on Little Flea, and cool kids bits from The Modern Nursery and Edit58. I love picking up individual pieces. We were ex-pats for many years so we have quite a mix of furniture and rugs from round the world that I have used in the children’s rooms.
At the weekend we…
Both: ‘… Go for bike rides, swimming, lunch with friends and have cosy afternoons at home making dens and watching films.’
What keeps us sane…
Jen: ‘… Friends, wine and running (Cat more than me!)’
**THE IDEAL CHRISTMAS GIFT**
If you’re in need of Christmas gift inspo for Dad, the grandparents or your mum friend, Barney & Wilf now do gift vouchers, too, for any amount. Help Granny clear her fridge door of Junior’s paintings once and for all! ALSO – Fussy Bird readers can enjoy 10% off their order:
GET 10% OFF YOUR BARNEY & WILF PRINT using the code xmas16 when ordering online.