An important part of Littlegreenshed, I feel, is to support small independent businesses. Artisans, designers, makers, small shops etc… all doing what they do so well. One such person is Jo Waterhouse. I have been a fan of Jo’s work for a long time now, falling in love with her fish (above) and more recently her glove cushion. Those of you who follow me on Instagram may have seen this beautiful cushion in my home. After having lots of you enquire about it, I thought I’d share more about Jo and her work here… over to you Jo!
Please can you introduce yourself and tell us a little about what you do?
Hello, my name is Jo, I’m a printmaker and also a treasure hunter. I’m a real home-bird, I like to make and find things for homes: mine mostly and yours too if you want. My stuff often gets described a described as quirky, which bugged me at first but I’ve made peace with it now – it’s probably a pretty good description of what I do.
Can you talk us through the processes behind one of you pieces?
Yes, the fish is a lovely thing: it was one of the very first things I made and has become a bit of a mascot, so much so that sometimes people refer to me as ‘the fish lady’. Which is nice. The idea for the fish came when I was sat behind my antiques stall with my friend Karen: we sit and talk all day, it’s a very nice time. I carved the shape of the fish from lino – I didn’t sketch it first or anything because I thought it would be nice and wonky but as it turns out it was pretty neat. Then I printed it on to tracing paper and exposed it on to a screen for printing on to fabric. I tried printing on to fabric direct from the block but the colours were never deep enough for me. So I’ve had that screen for a while, and from time to time I bring it down to print a fresh batch of fish. Once they’re printed I cut and sew them together and stuff them, usually whilst watching telly.
You are an avid collector of ‘toot’, I am too! Can you tell us where you go, and what are you looking out for?
Yessss. Toot is the best. I go to lots of places – car boots and markets. And because I’m at carboots so often spending money I sometimes get invited to peoples houses/sheds to buy; that part can be a ruddy dream! It can also be very disappointing. I’m always looking for things with the right feel: that look handmade or well designed. Sometimes really badly made is nice too. I’m also looking for stories: I’m a real sucker for the romance of a loved item with a story. It is amazing what sort of things can turn up and also a bit depressing the amount of stuff there is out there and most of it is completely useless.
You have just opened a pop up shop, can you tell us a little about it?
It’s a shop-in-a-shop on Exmouth Market, at a shop called Family Tree. The owner of the shop Takako invited me in for the Christmas period and I’m so grateful because it can be really cold on those markets. I will still do some markets over the festive period but I’ll have time to thaw in between times too. We’re open everyday in December up until Christmas eve, from 11am-6pm so there’s not much of an excuse not to pop in. It’s at 53 Exmouth Market (EC1R 4QL).
What is your inspiration behind opening the shop?
I’m always looking for that perfect space for sharing with people and to realise easily those ideas I have in the shower or whilst I’m cycling about. A shop is a really nice space because it is a place where people can interact, or not interact: people are comfortable in shops and receptive to creativity in a way they wouldn’t be in other places. Sometimes I want to make things that are more fine-art-ish than retail-ish but I would still put them in the shop because I can present them in the way I want.
What is a typical working day for you?
I have a couple of working day formats . . . The ‘up at 3am, sell, sell, sell . . . crash’ market day. The ‘sleep late and play at being arty’ day the ‘up at 8 and try to be productive before shop time’ day And endless variations in between.
What do you love most about what you do?
I love the fact that I don’t have to do it if I don’t want to. I can be quite free and say yes (or no) to projects, which is really nice because I can make time for learning and – those are my favourite things to do.
You have a love of plants, can you tell us which is your favourite at home?
Well – I love Pileas: those little characterful ones that look like saucers on sticks. I have lots of those, and I sell their babies in the shop (gosh that sounds barbaric). But I have a real fondness for my old gammy plants – I have one called Licky Tongue and one called Fingers, who are lopsided cactus friends. I also have a new friend on the cactus shelf which Rosalie (Schweiker) planted up – it’s a single sausagey cactus of around 6 inches and she’s planted two small round succulents at the base of it . . . geddit. So that’s pretty damn hilarious.
If you could collaborate with any other artist / maker, who would it be and why?
Hmmm. I’d like to work with some people with real, concrete skills: maybe letterpress people, bookbinders or someone who makes amazing websites. I’m probably over thinking this but collaborating with someone amazing and creative would be so grim. It’s like the old ‘who would you invite to your dream dinner party?’ question – good in principal but imagine if you actually did have Gandhi and Marilyn Monroe in your living room it’d be awful: I’d spin out. So I guess the really truthful answer is: no-one, because I am afraid of being in a room with people I don’t know for too long. I already collaborate a lot with my friend Rosalie and it’s really nice, and next year I’m going to make a book with my friend Hannah so I’m not entirely antisocial.
If you were stranded in the wilds what item would you want with you to survive?
A knife? That would be handy right? I reckon I’d be really good at surviving in the wilds. I think this because I’ve watched some telly programmes about it, so I hope my faith never gets tested. But then again I didn’t ever learn printmaking properly, I just saw people doing it and went for the ‘look confident’ approach at my print room. So, yeah, I’ll be fine. See you out there.
Where would you like to be in ten years?
I’d love to have some books under my belt by then – a children’s book for sure. I also have endless written bits that I’m pulling together into small books at the moment but it takes real guts to show them to people. I’ll have some kids by then I hope, so that’ll keep me busy If I do achieve those things it’ll just be straight on to the next plan: I’m no good at taking stock. Where we’ll be geographically I just don’t know: the world is our oyster. A lot of people are leaving London now, it’s quite exciting, seeing so many people I really admire making amazing lives and businesses in different places. I reckon we’ll follow suit pretty soon, as a bargain hunter (stingy person) it seems ridiculous to live in a place where living costs are so out of whack. Your place looks nice: maybe we could come live with you?
Thank you Jo! Yeah, I have a small room you could squeeze into, more the merrier!!
Jo has kindly offered one Littlegreenshed reader a chance to win her lush cuddly fish toy. Perfect Christmas gift for your child, a child you know or for yourself!! (I want it). Just complete the widget below. Winners will be announced on Friday 28th November. Good luck!