Jo Waterhouse is an illustrator and textile designer based in the town of Hitchin in East England. Jo studied at the Dartington College of Arts and originally worked in antiques before starting her illustrative practice. During this time she learnt about historic materials and designs - elements that have greatly influenced her work.
Jo Waterhouse’s pieces draw heavily on her surroundings and British folk traditions. Her characterful illustrative are lush with patterns, textures and surprising details.
Jo Waterhouse is an illustrator and textile designer based in the town of Hitchin, Hertfordshire. Jo studied at the Dartington College of Arts and originally worked in antiques before starting her illustrative practice. During this time she learnt about historic materials and designs - elements that have greatly influenced her work. Jo Waterhouse’s pieces draw heavily on her surroundings and British folk traditions. Her characterful illustrations are lush with patterns, textures and surprising details.
Jo Waterhouse applies a variety of techniques within her work, from traditional printmaking and block-printing to hand collaging with antique marble papers, to produce pieces that are refreshingly free from digital interventions. She finds repetition of pattern, quilts and block printed textiles particularly fascinating. As a former antiques dealer, Jo has an extensive network of paper and collage material suppliers, and often unearths treasures at carboot sales.
1. What motivates you to make?
I just have an urge to make, I think it’s a way of communicating with myself, of figuring things out. Even when I’ve finished a piece, my mind is always further ahead thinking about the next thing to do. Making collages is like scratching an itch for me, it satisfies a very primal part of my brain that becomes restless if I don’t make something for too long. It isn’t always an easy process, but it feels necessary.
I have a very short attention span and live quite a chaotic life as a result, but seeing my artwork laid out gives me a feeling of togetherness and control that I find quite intoxicating. At least briefly, until my mind wanders off to the next thing!
2. What and/or who are you most inspired or influenced by?
I’m always on the lookout for antique paper cuts and ephemera. Finding something at a car boot sale or market that has been handmade, in a purposeful or characterful way, might set off a whole string of ideas. Sometimes it will be the tiniest thing, like a new way of shaping a leaf or folding paper. I always enjoy incorporating these details into my work. I like everyday paper products too, things that get used and mass produced but are also intriguing and attract people.
I also find folk art completely absorbing, and I’m inspired by the feeling of power that some artworks can radiate – a sort of confidence. I also love the seriousness of a lot of Children's drawings and the boldness of line.
3. What is your unique approach to your craft, and how have you honed your skills?
My work has a few aspects that make it unique. One is the sourcing of the materials – I used to be an antiques dealer and have a network of excellent paper and collage material suppliers. I’m inspired by pattern and the mesmeric effect of repetition, quilts and block printed textiles particularly fascinate me, and sometimes I use the act of making a printed, folded or cut pattern to force a pause in my working process.
4. What is your defining or proudest moment as a maker so far?
I feel proud to have made a career for myself that allows me to work flexibly enough to spend lots of time with my children and support our household.
I was invited to make illustrations for a book for Scottish Travellers last year; and seeing my work so beautifully presented by Kit Kemp (of Firmdale Hotels) was a lovely moment. Alongside my art practice, my greeting card company is doing really well. I have some employees now and am able to focus a little more on designing. It feels good to be contributing to a cultural canon that I find so inspiring... Maybe in the future, an artist will buy some of my designs in a bundle of old correspondence and be inspired.
5. What is your dream project?
I would like to find a way of collaging together all the little narratives of my images into a bigger narrative, maybe across multiple pages in a book or rooms in a house. Honestly though, I’m happiest when I’m working with someone who really understands the process of making a piece and is willing to go on a creative journey with me.
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