All creatures great and small: Emma O’Brennan-Pizer from Wilful Ink


The brilliant designer behind vibrant British company Wilful Ink talks to us about her creative processes and how she became the master of all things quirky. Inspired by unusual creatures from the natural world, Emma O’Brennan-Pizer produces ‘beautiful wallpapers, art prints and fabrics with a dark side’.

With Halloween around the corner, there’s no better time to awaken a more dramatic style in your home. We were delighted to discover Emma’s patterns at this year’s 100% Design Show, where we exhibited a custom-made timber orangery complete with a classic roof lantern and hanging Jamb light pendant.

All of Emma’s patterns have been drawn and painted by hand. Her mysterious patterns feature beetles, frogs, crabs and other unique animals; creating an unforgettable talking point in any home. Emma has a library of natural history books and guides to draw from, and she also attends wildlife drawing workshops to expand her artistic skills. We catch up with Emma to find out more… 

Overcoming challenges to achieve childhood dreams:

‘I always enjoyed art but didn’t really get on with formal art courses at school. I failed my Art A-Level and it took me a few years to build my confidence up to try again, so I did an evening course. Again, it didn’t really fit with me, and it wasn’t until a few years ago that I just started drawing at home more regularly for myself. I realised that I had a collection of images I was happy with, so I decided to put together some wallpaper designs as this had been an aspiration of mine since I was a teenager. I got a grant to purchase some rollers for my designs and it all went from there.’

Relying on artistic intuition for inspiration:

‘I only draw things that inspire me. I like to try and find animals and plants that are more unusual and less well known. Creating my designs takes a mixture of intuition and a lot of hard work, as well as a few discarded drafts! I don’t have a method, I just trust my instincts and use a design if it looks right to me.’

A creative process that captures beauty from the natural world:

‘I usually have loads of ideas in my head, the trouble is finding the time to get them all out. I read a lot of natural history books and enjoy museums such as the Booth Museum. I also see lots of plants and flowers in my garden that inspire me, and on the walk to school with my children. There is inspiration everywhere!’

How to incorporate vibrant colours and patterns into your home:

‘Be brave! Trust your instinct and choose things you love. If you want your room to look professional, then I’d suggest picking a small palette with a few complementing colours that you feel confident working with. However, if you just want to be surrounded by things you love in your home, then embrace the maximalist aesthetic and go mad.’

Complete the sentence…

My own personal style… is very maximalist.

My favourite project was… for the 100% Design Show in 2017. I created three new wallpapers that really pushed the boundaries of wall coverings – they were glow in the dark designs, embellished with Swarovski Crystals and magnetic beetles.  

No room should ever be… without a house plant or two.

Things that should never have been invented aremacramé wall hangings.

If I had my own garden room extension… I would use it as a relaxing space to unwind in. I would fill it with carnivorous plants and big bouncy floor cushions. Ah, I can dream!

Feeling inspired? Take a look at more of Emma’s stunning designs on Facebook and Twitter.

Find out more about how to choose the perfect wallpaper with our sister company Westbury Windows and Joinery.