Interview: Jo Want

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Jo Want runs her own business called Hello Sunshine. Her shop is full of gorgeous designs, prints and pins. I was lucky enough to interview Jo about her shop and work.

Hello! Thank you so much for letting me interview you. How are you?

Thank you so much for having me! I’m very well thank you, the sun is shining here and I have a brew so it’s the perfect start to the day!

Tell us a little bit about your background.

From drawing the Saturday morning cartoons from TV to getting messy with paint, fimo and papier mache, mini Jo was ALWAYS creative and big Jo (let’s face it I’m not grown up, just bigger) hasn’t changed a bit. Throughout school, college and university, I always followed the art & design route (my happy place!) but it wasn’t until I had been travelling and then had to experience the working world in an office that I decided that I needed to make my dream of earning a living from being creative a reality. After almost 10 years of paint, ink and tears I finally feel like I am actually living that dream! YAY!

I adore your business. What made you decide to set up Hello Sunshine?

Well, since a very young age I have always been creative, whether it was making things I’d seen on Art Attack or illustrating my own stories and drawing pictures for family and friends.  I chose to study art throughout school, college and university and after travelling for nearly a year I decided to try and sell some of my work. To my surprise people actually wanted to buy my work and asked me to create things for them – it was the best feeling ever and from there Hello Sunshine started to develop.

Why did you call your shop Hello Sunshine?

It was born from a combination of my love for the sunshine, really enjoying hearing the greeting/phrase/song ‘Hello Sunshine’ and having always been referred to as a sunny person. It feels weird thinking back as I don’t think it ever made that much sense at the time, it just felt right for me and has done ever since!

How has your creative process changed since the start?

Overall I’d say my processes have remained quite consistent, with all design work and ideas starting as scribbles in sketchbooks then moving into digital versions before becoming prints, jewellery, enamel pins or patches. I’ve learnt a lot about technology, tools and software as I’ve gone along, which has definitely helped refine my style and products. I guess I’ve come a long way since I was scribbling on walls at home when I was little!

How did you manage to learn and hone your craft?

With everything starting as drawings, that’s a skill I was lucky enough to realise I had when I was very young but without practice and determination I may not have carried it on so far in life, especially making a career from it! Choosing art and design routes throughout education allowed me to continue exploring and playing so I could discover what elements I enjoyed the most too.

Have you always been into design and illustration?

YES! I’m not naturally good at design - especially graphic design but I have loved drawing since I could hold a pencil and have many memories of sitting in front of childhood cartoons and films drawing the characters, or creating story books and drawing pictures for others.

If there were no resource restraints, what would be your dream project?

I love painting and drawing my Sunshine portraits so I guess if time, energy and the weather were all on my side I’d happily sit out in the sunshine somewhere drawing people (and their pets!) all day!

What equipment do you use for your work?

My ‘traditional’ essentials include pencils, sketchbooks, ink pens, watercolour paints and plenty of notebooks to make lists in while technology-wise I rely on my iMac, Macbook & iPhone, Adobe Creative Suite and a lot of social media platforms and apps.

What tools or materials could you not live without?

TEA, my pencils, sketchbooks/notebooks and cuddles from the cats! Realistically I think my business would also struggle without my iPhone/social media too as that’s how most people find/discover Hello Sunshine.

Why has social media been an important platform for you to use?

It’s been a valuable way for me to share my work, I started using Facebook and social media in more of a personal way at first (food and cat photos!) but as I grew more confident in my work I realised people enjoyed seeing what I made and also shared my love of all things yellow and positive. So, I tried to tailor my social media more towards Hello Sunshine over the years - it seems to work well and I enjoy using it. Also, as I mentioned previously, without social media a lot less people would stumble across my work. 

Who inspires your work?

Eeek! There are so many people in my life that I am grateful to for constantly inspiring me, from family and friends to creative phone friends and everyone in this crazy, wonderful, online community. A BIG shout out must go to my parents though, who have just started their own business (@workbenchshop) creating custom displays for the creative community. After years of them helping me build craft stall displays it’s a pure joy to see them helping a lot of other creative small business owners now too! They have always inspired and encourage me to chase my arty farty dreams and I couldn’t be more proud of them.

Do you have any favourite pieces of work that you adore at the moment from your shop?

I will always love my cat pieces (because they are based on my own two tinkers) but at the moment I’m a little bit in love with my brand new ‘You are my Sunshine’ pin. It’s based on a song and phrase very close to my heart and I’m so happy with the way the gold and white finish turned out. I’ve had some lovely feedback from people who also love it and have personal connection to the song, which always means a lot to me.

What do we hope to see in this up and coming year for your Facebook page, Instagram and your work?

With Christmas around the corner you can expect to see the return of some festive jumpers and favourite pin designs with a new twist as well as some limited edition pieces. I’m also booked in to do some more live portrait events so expect to see plenty of images and updates being shared as they come around too!

What are you currently working on?

The big C-word! It’s been Christmas for a few months here at Sunshine Towers and it’ll continue into the festive season! I know some folk don’t like hearing about Christmas in Summer or Autumn but I genuinely LOVE IT!

What’s your typical working day?

Days generally start with tea, breakfast and cat cuddles while I write my To Do list - four things that generally make me very happy! I also like to try and get out on my bike or for a run most days as fresh air and exercise certainly help me focus and stay motivated. Work varies depending on the projects I have on so I could be making jewellery one day and drawing pets for a customer the next - I love the variety!

What’s been the biggest struggle in getting your business off the ground?

I went through a very difficult stage when I was in a demanding, part time day job, I had a lot of challenging personal things happening in my life and Hello Sunshine was proving tough to keep on top of. I had to make a choice between focussing on the day job, returning to full time work and taking a break from my business or throwing everything at at Hello Sunshine because if I’d have carried on trying to do it all I would have made myself seriously ill. It was one of the scariest and toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make but I took the leap and worked my bloody socks off to make Hello Sunshine my full time job. It’s a constant struggle running your own business but taking that risk was certainly the hardest part.

Do you have any exciting plans for this year?

Aside from a couple of Winter camping trips and wedding planning, I am very excited about the festive season and some of the events I’ll be attending with my wares or my portraits.

What are your career plans with your online shop?

I wouldn’t say they are career plans as such, but I aim to keep it well stocked, full of beautiful imagery and products and to make it a happy, simple place for customers to visit and shop.

What advice would you give to people looking to define their own style?

Follow your gut, stay true to yourself and passions, and read Austin Kleon's 'Steal Like an Artist' and 'Share Your Work’ - they are brilliant!

Do you have any advice for anyone starting their own online shop?

There’s never a right or wrong time to start an online shop, so work hard and just go for it! Don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice, everyone had to start somewhere and probably shared the same doubts and struggles along the way. There’s a brilliant, supportive community out there and plenty of online workshops, tutorials and lovely folk willing to help.

What’s next for Hello Sunshine?

Oooft! That’s a HUGE question… but the next biggest thing is our wedding! So maybe I should be warning everyone to expect wedmin spam between now and next May….

What's the best piece of creative advice you've ever been given?

Work hard and be nice to people - one of my favourite prints by Anthony Burrill and the perfect advice to live by in my opinion.

You can follow this lovely lady on her website ‘http://hello-sunshine.co.uk/’, Instagram ‘https://www.instagram.com/sunshine_jo/’ and Facebook page ‘https://www.facebook.com/Hello.Sunshine.Jo’. Jo is always posting wonderful content, shop products and inspiration. Photography by Holly Booth. 

Rhiannon BrittenComment