skies and vast, wind-beaten valleys have been luring
creatives to north Wales
for centuries, but for artist and designer Jess Wheeler, it was the
intricacies of nature that really drew her to this corner of
Britain. Having hotfooted it up to the foothills of Snowdonia
during the pandemic – when lockdown stole all chances of her usual
work as a London-based set designer – Jess began to draw
inspiration from the delicacy of the leaves and flowers around her.
Watching as the natural world shifted according to the changing
seasons, she began to translate the nostalgia of nature into her
designs, creating delicate brass wall sconces, candlesticks and
chandeliers that have since garnered her a reputation as one to
watch in the metalworking world.
Here, Wheeler talks us through her perfect day in her new
hometown, shows us her favourite spots for homeware finds and lets
us in on where to go for a truly Welsh brunch.
Frosty mornings, antique shops and the best secluded strolls:
this is north Wales with maker Jess Wheeler
Describe the vibe of north Wales in three words…
Big skies, peaceful and unspoilt.
Where do you go for creative inspiration?
I try to walk every day. Most of my work has some kind of
botanical influence, so getting to know a small area of countryside
really intimately and watching it shift through the changing
seasons is probably my most valuable source of inspiration.
We’re very lucky to live near a lot of other creatives. All of
us do our own thing, but we often collaborate and share ideas, too.
I think the slower pace of life in north Wales gives people the
space they need to be more creative, so it’s a breeding ground for
lots of inspirational characters.
When’s the best time to visit?
Any time is perfect in my opinion, but I particularly love to be
here in winter, when frosty mornings and roaring fires are a daily
Describe a perfect day in north Wales.
We try to host friends for the weekend as much as possible. My
ideal Sundays are spent waking up to frosty clouds that gather at
the bottom of the valley, slow-cooking something for lunch, then
heading up the mountain that lies behind our house for a brisk walk
while lunch cooks. The views from the top are incredible and
dramatic. Once we’ve all worked up an appetite and enjoyed a big
lunch and a few bottles of wine, we usually end up snoozing by the
fire for the rest of the afternoon.
What are the best independent shops to visit?
Antiques and Old Lace in Welshpool. It’s a real treasure trove,
and Diana, the owner, has such an incredible eye. Plus, she’s
hilarious – I always have such a great time there.
How about your favourite place for homeware finds?
Ian Anderson’s antique shop FE Anderson & Son –
also in Welshpool – is full of beautiful 17th- and 18th-century
furniture and curios. There are also some brilliant furniture
auctions in north Wales. My favourite is Trevanion.
Where should we go for a long, lazy brunch?
Finding a place for brunch is a bit of a challenge around here.
My dream brunch would be to take a loaf of bara brith – a
traditional Welsh tea bread flavoured with dried fruits and spices
– a block of salted Welsh butter and a Thermos up to the top of a
hill. If you get up high early enough, you’ll walk through the
clouds and watch the sunrise from the top of the hill with a sheet
of cloud below you, filling the valley. For me, brunch views don’t
get much better than that.
Where’s your favourite place for a coffee?
Anglesey sits within an AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty),
and its outdoor café really celebrates its views across the Menai
Strait and Snowdonia, which are unparalleled. It’s the perfect
place for a coffee before or after a walk on Newborough Beach. I
recommend the brown butter, chocolate and Halen Môn sea salt
cookies for a real treat.
How about dinner on a Friday night?
Covino in Chester has a
delicious daily-changing menu of seasonal small plates guided by
provenance and quality. The restaurant always has a great energy,
and there’s a brilliantly long wine menu.
There’s also Ynyshir, a
Michelin-starred restaurant near the coast, next to Machynlleth.
It’s headed up by Gareth Ward and the food is addictive, memorable
and always groundbreaking. It’s completely informal, with great
vibes and fun background beats, which is rare for a restaurant with
a Michelin star.
Tell us about a secret spot only locals know about.
Llangadwaladr Church, a 12th-century church in the middle of
nowhere, surrounded by ancient yew trees. It’s the perfect starting
point for plenty of wonderful walks.
What’s one thing we shouldn’t miss while we’re in town?
The Ruthin Craft
Centre, a space hosting events, workshops and residencies led
by artists, musicians and craftspeople living and working around
Any suggestions for day trips?
My dream day trip would be to set off for the sea early in the
morning. I’d take a slightly longer scenic route, via the Horseshoe
Pass, a beautiful mountainous road that runs through Snowdonia,
then I’d make a beeline to Bodnant Garden, a National Trust
property overlooking Conwy Valley. The rhododendrons here are
extraordinary in spring, and the spectacular Laburnum Arch – a
gorgeous avenue of golden flowers created by Henry Pochin, the
garden’s founder – is a real spectacle in late May and early
Finally, where should we wake up?
The Bear Inn,
Hodnet, is just across the border in Shropshire. It’s recently
been beautifully renovated and serves delicious local food and
ales. For big groups,
Carregfelen House is a dreamy 14th-century house available to
rent. It’s close to the coast on the Llyn Peninsula and sleeps
To keep up to date with Jess and her work, follow @jesswheeler.design