Wonderful Women Interview with Artist & Illustrator Jo Ham
It’s an honour to share the work of artist and founder of HAM, Jo Ham in the latest instalment of Wonderful Women!
HAM follows the contented life of Rabbit – capturing his daily adventures, sporting escapades and social outings in silhouette form on a range of thoughtfully crafted wares.
Established in 2011, HAM’s minimal aesthetic seeks to add a serious edge to its playful subject matter. Childhood nostalgia and a fascination with the everyday are key themes that continue to inform HAM’s growing range of animal motifs, all of which have been created by London-based designer Jo Ham and brought to life by talented makers in the UK.
HAM’s debut homeware collection of ceramics, fabrics and paper goods were first picked up by Liberty and have since been exhibited in London, New York and Paris, featured on the pages of international magazines and can be found on the shelves of leading retailers including Colette, Topshop and West Elm.
HAM is the brainchild of artist and illustrator Jo Ham who graduated from The Ruskin School of Art, Oxford University where she gained a degree in Fine Art with a specialism in anatomy. She formed her eponymous studio in 2011 and has since exhibited with Liberty, Designjunction, Mother, Billy Name, Topshop and Colette.
Jo’s work seeks to celebrate the everyday. Informed by her studies and early career as a brand strategist, she has always been fascinated by popular culture and zeitgeist, in particular life’s simple pleasures and how we interact with one another through work and play.
Jo founded HAM to further explore a series of animal motifs she had developed whilst at university – creating a world where the characters offer social commentary by immortalizing our daily rituals, likes and hobbies for all to enjoy.
Jo also works in collaboration – HAM has created gold leaf artwork for Print Club London, a giant mural for kids design shop Molly Meg, store windows for retailer West Elm and limited edition art prints for the cancer charity Maggie’s.
Aside from HAM, Jo is also a freelance visual artist. Using photograms and digital imaging she blurs the lines between drawing and photography, fashion and fine art.
Recent commissions include artwork for Nike, The Berkeley Hotel and Eurostar. You can find out more at joannaham.com.
Describe a typical day for you?
Our two year old Kit typically wakes us up pretty early and then it’s a tag team effort to get everyone fed, watered, walked (Ted the dog) and out the door by 8.30am.
My studio is very near home so Ted and I are at my desk within 5 mins. I try and spend my first hour catching up on emails and making a daily list of to dos. I live by the lists! Often by mid morning I’m out visiting HAM suppliers, meeting with retailers, checking in with our orders team or joining in on a product shoot.
More recently I’ve been away a lot at overseas shows, which shifts all the daily admin into the evenings and inevitable results in late nights!
When I’m not travelling I aim to ring-fence time each week to design… although finding a couple of hours to get in the right mindset is tricky and so I now try and hide for a week once a quarter to really get lost in new product development.
By 6pm I’m normally running out the door to get Kit from nursery but when work gets in the way we’re incredibly lucky to have my mum nearby to help out with childcare. Stew makes it home for Kit’s bath time, which we all do together. Dinner follows, always late. And then we collapse in a heap on the sofa, Netflix on the telly and my work emails close to hand. Bed by midnight although I’d rather it was 10pm!
What do you feel are your biggest achievements?
Last year I got to produce artwork for three brands I greatly admire: Colette, Nike and West Elm. All took me out my comfort zone but were hugely rewarding on so many levels. Closer to home, I’d say having and raising a little human and still being able to be hands on with the business is something that was a huge challenge but one I am really proud of.
What’s in your handbag/ satchel?
I pretty much always carry my laptop, iPhone and notebook around with me… which makes for a very heavy handbag! I like to know that if I do suddenly have a burst of inspiration I can act on it! And it frees me up to work wherever I am … which is incredibly useful when juggling the many hats of a small business and only having part time childcare. Speaking of which there’s probably a Thomas the Tank train, some old dummies and Sudocream pot floating around there too!
What are your ambitions in life?
On a personal level, I’d love to be able to build a business that can sustain our family and allow my husband and I to work flexibly from or close to home. Just like my parents did. Although I really do want the business to succeed I’m trying hard not to let it dominate my life (which is really tough!) and have finally accepted that the day to day is not just about living to work… I love spending time with my family and friends and although we haven’t done much of it recently I’m hoping to nail the work-life balance sometime soon!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
I hope HAM will have continued to grow its presence around the world – we’re really working on expanding beyond Europe at the mo and it would be great to see Rabbit in the far-flung corners of the globe. I also hope that many of the ideas we’re currently developing will have been realized… we’re are in talks with a book publisher, collaborating on our first set of animations and exploring the idea of a kids clothing collection.
What advice would you give a budding business owner?
Be prepared to work your butt off. Starting and then growing a business is one of the hardest things I’ve done. It is incredibly tough. I often refer to HAM as my first born as it really has been like having a baby… you love it, nurture it, make sacrifices and often don’t get much sleep! But the reward is huge. I’ve also found my support network to be crucial… whether its family, friends or a mentor, having a sounding board is an invaluable tool.
Finally, happiness is…
For us, it’s the everyday. The simple things that can too easily be taken for granted, like going to the park with Kit, nipping to the gym for a yoga class, cooking dinner and hanging out on the sofa with a box set.