Interview with Jenni Hampshire of Sparklewren

This interview has taken me a while to post and I apologise for that. But all of you in the corset community can understand that I was legitimately awestruck with joy paralysis upon receiving a reply from the founder of Sparklewren, one of the most awe-inspiring corset brands in the corset world right now. As far as my humble opinion goes, visually her creations make her pretty much the Mr. Pearl of this generation. Her corsetry literally looks like it’s fallen straight out of another world, baffles the mind and continues to captivate long after its arrival into the real world, leaving shimmering magic dust in its wake and an enchanted sparkle in the eye of every beholder…

MEET THE CORSETIERES

Name: Jenni Hampshire
Corset Brand: Sparklewren
Role: Owner/Designer

Country where you’re based: England, UK

PHOTOGRAPHS

Photos of you as a corset reviewer / wearer /corsetiere?
I don’t really have any! Tend to avoid photographs of myself whenever possible…
(Sorry Jenni! You’re so incredible that I just had to snuffle around for these lovely photographs of you.)

Any photos/info from previous Oxford Conference of Corsetry?
I attended the first two OCOCs as helper/teacher, which was a joy. There was an extra element of fun the second year too, as I had taken up photography by that point. So I got to enjoy taking some gorgeous photos of fellow helper PopAntique (modelling name, Victoria Dagger). One of my favourites was taken in the chapel… (black and white photo below)
Sparklewren_Jesus_grain_bw

How and when did you become interested in corsets?
Unsure really. I used to draw gown designs and such as a kid, but didn’t think about it seriously. Then during university I was interested in costume, but didn’t have the confidence or means to pursue it very far. Corsetry, in particular, seemed impossibly hard, some sort of magic.

What was your first memory of corsets?
No idea I’m afraid!

What was your first experience wearing a corset?
I had a few bustiers as a teenager, but my first “proper” corsets were ones I’d made myself.

What was your first/favourite corset like?
My favourite designs are generally whatever new ones I’m working on at any given time. So at the moment I am utterly in love with our Falling Blossoms style. Following on from the first version (shown below) we are now working on a couple of bespoke versions in different colours and hope to do a few as studio samples too. I want to do them in every colour of the rainbow!
Photo credits: Helen Teiman by Jenni Hampshire, 2015.
Hair and Makeup Sarah Stonehouse-Robinson. Hair vine by Eva Marie Accessories.

How are your corset tastes different now to what they were then?
When I first began I was all about rich green/gold dupioni silks with decorative details. These days I still love gold and still love high embellishment (though I bit more intense and refined these days, I hope), but I prefer duchess to dupioni.
Do you still wear corsets?
I actually haven’t worn one in a fair few months now! Though just the other day I was wondering where I’d put my broche underbust… That particular piece never got its binding added, but I wore it a lot. That’s the thing for me, it’s far more motivating and rewarding making things for other people than for myself. And I love making fantasy pieces, not items that I would have much cause to wear since I don’t like being the centre of attention.
Do you have any tips for putting on your corset? 
Just go slow. No need to rush.
What kind/shape/era of corsets do you prefer?
I personally prefer both the fit and look of a conical rib with rounded or well sprung hip.
 Do you have any other preferences in your corsets?
Lots of boning! Usually spiral steel, but sometimes artificial whalebone. But really the nuts and bolts of how they’re made interest me less and less as time goes on. I can make corsets in any number of ways, but what I want to really get good at is making the construction as simple and clean as possible to let the overall design and surface decoration shine. I think I’m almost there now.
What tips would you give to corset newbies?
I suppose just to have an open mind and be trusting. There are many approaches to corsetry, it’s not about “right and wrong” or “best and worst”. Trust the corsetmakers you work with (they only want to please you, truly) and trust your own judgement if learning to make your own.
Do you have any favourite fellow corsetieres?
A few! Most of whom are friends… and if I start listing them I fear I’ll leave someone out by accident, so I’m afraid I won’t be giving any names. Oh, although I will say Mr Pearl, because that much should be obvious. The McQueen “Dante” corset is my absolute favourite example of contemporary corset design.
And now for the random Q’s! 🙂
Any pets? What’s their silliest quirk if so?
Yes, we have one cat. He has a name (Hercule) but we actually mostly call him CatFace or Chris. He’s very affectionate, but otherwise a standard cat. Expects the world to bend to his whim and doesn’t understand why it won’t.

Favourite quotes? Books? Movies?
My favourite quote is currently from a poem, “From Blossoms” by Li-Young Lee. It’s less a quote and more the whole final section…
“There are days we live as if death were nowhere in the background; from joy to joy to joy, from wing to wing, from blossom to blossom to impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.”

I also adore The Last Unicorn (favourite childhood film, and I love the book too). Another childhood book I love is a collection of four little stories, called “Fairytales of Gold” by Alan Garner. I tend to love the slightly melancholy though I consider myself a very happy person… But this is perhaps why I love “From Blossoms”. It is melancholy (it has “death” in the final paragraph, after all!), but more than that it’s incredibly joyous. It savours joy, impossible heart-bursting happiness.
Other passions or hobbies?
Horses! I’m extremely happy to have them back in my life following pretty much a ten year break (a break which I deeply regret). Isn’t it silly when you convince yourself you shouldn’t have the things that make you happy?
Favourite things right now?
Swimming. Being covered in horse poo. Velvet noses. Fresh air. Crunchy gold-thread lace. My friends. My partner. Reading whilst curled up in my boat (I live on a narrowboat these days which is a real treat).
OTHER INFO :
Name: Jenni Hampshire
Instagram: sparklewren
facebook: sparklewren
etsy / other online store: sparklewren

RG Raven blog signature
Fabulously eccentric actress, TV host, curvaceous model and founder of Hong Kong ’s first luxury corset brand, Pearls & Arsenic.
 I love sharing my passion for all things elegant, beautiful & inspiring. My Dearest Beloved and I live with a fluffy Angora rabbit named Lord Pemberly III, who is a ridiculous snob, and his dwarf-lop bunny brother, The Earl of Tillington.  Find me on IG @RavenTao or FB : Raven Tao ❤

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