If you look up the word origin for the word ‘jewellery’ on Wikipedia, here’s what you’ll find:
derived from the word jewel, which was anglicized from the Old French “jouel“, and beyond that, to the Latin word “jocale“, meaning “plaything”
“Plaything” perfectly encapsulates the spirit of Pecas, a local jewellery brand started by Chimp's visual designer Jen Cook. She made her first Pecas necklaces about two years ago out of a desire to play with shapes and colours in a tactile way — and to create something that is not “pixel perfect”, but full of personality.
“I wanted to create something that’s a bit raw and off, but loveable,” she says and Pecas products are just that: handmade, unique and most definitely loveable. They are also sometimes inspired by canine noses, but more about that later…
On top of being the perfect statement piece for any outfit, Pecas products are “playthings” with purpose: Jen donates ten percent of all proceeds to local charities. Downtown Eastside’s Wish Vancouver is her latest charity of choice, providing services for women involved in Vancouver’s sex trade.
A CONVERSATION WITH JEN
While completing her latest batch of necklaces, Jen shared her thoughts on Pecas, design and philanthropy.
WHAT DOES PECAS MEAN?
Pecas means freckles in Spanish, which is something my boyfriend Garzita has said to me in the past. What I really liked about it is that it has a dual meaning. It means freckles, but in Spanish it also refers to sins — the idea that you have freckles on your soul. I thought that was adorable, so I just went with it.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START PECAS?
I like playing around with colour and shape in a very tactile way. A big part of why I started Pecas is that I wanted to make something with my hands as opposed to being online all the time. As a graphic designer, playing around with shapes and colour in a physical way like that is really good exercise.
WHAT KIND OF MATERIALS ARE YOU USING?
I’m using polymer clay: your basic Fimo or Sculpey. The stuff you worked with as a kid. You bake it in the oven and once it’s baked it’s a plastic. I use leather for the cord, and I recently started using these copper piping pieces. That’s pretty much it…. oh, right, and acrylic paint, and varnish to seal the paint.
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HOW DID YOU DECIDE ON WHICH MATERIALS TO USE?
I started developing severe allergies to fake metals and all the cheap jewellery I bought. So, more or less to solve my own problem, I started to look into less expensive alternatives to gold and silver that I could use to make jewellery out of.
I started to make a couple of pieces for myself and tried and experimented and failed, but in the end I came up with a couple of styles I liked. And then I thought ‘Maybe other people will like this, too, and maybe I should start selling this.’
DURING THAT TRIAL AND ERROR PHASE, WHAT DID YOU LEARN?
It did take a while to get the proportions right. It’s kind of rhythmic: big chunky pieces with accents of colour and patterns. So I played around with painting different patterns, and played around with different colour combinations. I had to figure out a way to seal colours and just made a million little mistakes.
Every batch I’ve done since the first one, I learned something and refined the process.
WHAT DEFINES YOUR STYLE?
I’ve realized that I’m drawn to jewellery that makes a bit of a statement and has personality to it. Stuff that you can’t just find anywhere. A lot of design work is very restrained and I’ve been itching lately to break out of this a little bit more.
I also love the imperfection of it. It’s a little off. It’s a little wonky. It has that wabi-sabi feel to it and that’s really attractive to me: making something that’s not perfect, that’s playful.
There’s often this pressure to have things pixel-perfect and sometimes you just want to make a mess, get your hands dirty and make something that’s a bit raw and off and loveable.
WHAT STYLE ARE YOU WORKING ON RIGHT NOW?
Right now I’m working on a few styles with these big black spots on them that are inspired by Cosmos’ nose and his random black spots.
Cosmo is our rescue puppy that we had for about five months. He is a Dogo Argentino and a pretty cool addition to our family. He’s incredibly gentle and sweet and playful and has tons of energy. What else? He’s afraid of cats. He’s absolutely terrified of them. [laughs]
WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT THE PROCESS?
Watching Netflix and turning of my brain a little bit. I’m at a point now where I know what I’m doing, so it’s nice to shut of that analytical part of my brain and just work with my hands. That’s the part I enjoy the most and I enjoy having the finished product. 20 necklaces being done: it gives you a nice sense of accomplishment.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE YOU TO FINISH ONE BATCH?
A batch of 20 necklaces takes around 4-5 hours. Making the individual pieces takes two hours, baking time is 20 minutes and painting and assembling is another two hours.
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WHAT ELSE DO YOU ENJOY ABOUT PECAS?
It’s really nice to not have any parameters set out, other than the ones that I set out for myself. I’m basically just doing this to please myself. When you have a creative day job you don’t always get to do that. You’re working for clients and your goal is to please other people and communicate to an audience that is almost always not you.
Having that space to just explore where the only mandate is to just make me happy — that’s pretty nice.
OTHER THAN ‘MAKING YOU HAPPY’, IS THERE ANY OTHER PURPOSE TO PECAS?
I donate ten percent of all proceeds to charity. It’s a really easy way for me to build social responsibility into my business model and I much prefer giving back using my creativity and skills to help a cause I care about instead of just writing a cheque.
WHICH CHARITY ARE YOU SUPPORTING RIGHT NOW?
Wish Vancouver. I like charities and nonprofits that go beyond a band-aid treatment. It’s really important to support people that have fallen on hard times, but offering services that empower people to take the next step to get out of that situation is just as important.
I also wanted to pick a women’s charity, because it’s jewellery. Making that connection between women who buy the necklaces and women who benefit from the donation made a lot of sense to me.
YOUR JEWELLERY IS IN TWO LOCAL SHOPS RIGHT NOW. ARE YOU PLANNING ON GROWING PECAS BEYOND THAT?
Right now, it’s growing organically — and that’s great. I’m letting the demand drive the growth, while making sure it doesn’t become something that’s taking over my life. I’ve run a couple of online shops in the past, and I know how much work that is, so I really want to keep Pecas offline for now. I’d rather pair up with some awesome local independent shops and keep it in the realm of being a hobby and being fun. That way, I can keep experimenting.
YOU CAN BUY PECAS PRODUCTS AT…
Meadow | 104 Water Street | Vancouver, BC
Neighbourhood | 4301 Main Street | Vancouver, BC
SAY ‘HI’ TO JEN AT…
… OR FOLLOW PECAS ON INSTAGRAM