Pattern Players: Josh Williams and Eric Prum of W&P on the Intersection of Food and Design
If there's one thing we're (almost) as passionate about as pattern, it's food—the way it looks, the way it smells, and of course, the way it tastes. That's just one of the many reasons why we love W&P—a brand that lives "at the intersection of food and design." Ranging from kitchen goods to bar tools, cocktail kits to cookbooks, and everything in between, W&P's finely crafted, thoughtfully considered, and highly functional (yet not without a touch of whimsy!) products encourage people to play with their food—and that's a sentiment we can totally get behind!
We caught up with W&P co-founders Josh Williams and Eric Prum to learn more about their mission, how food and design go hand-in-hand, and—of course!— their Pineapple Co. collection (keep scrolling for a stunning pineapple and pattern pairing!).
Hygge & West: Tell us a bit about how you two met, what W&P is all about, and how it came to be.
Josh Williams: We first met as undergraduates at UVA after being paired as random first-year roommates. We hit it off immediately and were roommates all four years of college. Our first business together was a catering company we started while still in school. Josh had just returned from a culinary school program in Italy and we combined our shared passion for cooking and food in that first venture. After cooking for a few dozen parties, it became clear that we worked well together as business partners and that we'd eventually like to start another business in the food sector.
Eric Prum: In 2012, we decided to return to that idea, get back into business together, and start a food and beverage design company. Inspired by our experience with Mason jars in college, we ended up funding our first product, the Mason Shaker, through Kickstarter, and from there grew W&P. Fast forward to today and we are now a fully integrated food and beverage design and manufacturing company based in Brooklyn, making over 250 products in the food and beverage space.
H&W: Why do you think food and design go hand-in-hand? What is it that so intricately ties the two together, and why do you think appreciation for one enhances the enjoyment of the other?
JW: We all know the expression to "eat with your eyes." We also know that eating and drinking is even more pleasurable in a well-designed restaurant or bar. The same goes for the experience of cooking or bartending—but very often, we're working in beautiful spaces with less-than-desirable tools. There's a reason that people covet brands like Le Creuset—the craftsmanship isn't just about function, but also about the visual appeal of the object.
H&W: Your mission is to create products that "make your everyday encounters with food and drinks more approachable, more functional and, most importantly, more fun" (sounds so hygge!). What is your design process like and how does that mission influence every aspect of product creation?
EP: Our design process isn't purely aesthetic. Often we are answering a question or solving a problem that no one else has thought to solve. For example, with our Carry On Cocktail Kits, people had all these makeshift ways of bringing special salt or mixers onto planes. So we simplified that process and packaged it nicely. The same applies to all our products. We won't produce anything that isn't bringing something new to the table, and it has to be something we would personally use. And while some of our products are for very specific circumstances (travel, etc.), we're also interested in making products you would use day-to-day—like our knife collection, which includes a bartender's knife, a picnic knife, and a cheese knife.
H&W: Pineapples are the focus of one of your collections, aptly named The Pineapple Co. What is it about this humble fruit that inspired an entire collection?
JW: In the 16th and 17th centuries, pineapples were a rare luxury that you would really only buy when you were having guests over that you wanted to impress. For that reason, they have long had the nickname "the hospitality fruit." Inspired by our own enthusiasm for hosting—and a recent resurgence of interest in tiki cocktail style—we wanted to make a line of pineapple barware that was not just eye-catching, but also highly functional. It's continued to be one of our best selling lines since the day that we launched!
H&W: What product and pattern pairing did you choose and why? What is it about this particular product and the pattern you've chosen that makes them work so well together?
JW: We chose to pair our copper Pineapple Cocktail Shaker with the Andanza (Green) wallpaper. In design, texture and finish are such a big part of what makes people connect with a product. Without actually depicting leaves, the wallpaper evokes a tropical landscapes, but it also has the refinement that you'd frequently see in southern style—like something you might find in Charleston. We like to
think our Pineapple Co. products also balance those two factors—a certain sense of escapism, but also a practical style that would fit into the everyday decor of your home.
H&W: Hygge is all about finding pleasure and comfort in life's simple moments and small rituals. How do you find or create hygge in your life?
EP: As you might imagine, we spend a good amount of time on the road, meeting with suppliers, manufacturers, and brand teams for collaborations and partnerships. I think a big part of our sense of "hygge," no matter where we are, comes from the fact that we met when we were so young. Josh and I know the pre-W&P versions of each other, so there's no pretension between us—which makes it easier to also be our authentic selves when we meet with our brand partners. Comfort comes, first and foremost, from being yourself, no matter where you go. And if, at the end of the day, you can enjoy a great cocktail... well, we're pretty okay with that too.