Behind the scenes with Jo Bird

Wed 25 Mar 2015

Jo Bird loves scribbling and scrawling, especially with a variety of black pens. She is best known for her intriguing wall murals, and has worked with the likes of Visa, Hyundai, Oxfam, French Connection, Chanel, Rankin, Sipsmith and Harrod’s.

Jo recently produced some gorgeous illustrations for Mother’s Day in Covent Garden, and below is her take on the stunning macaroon towers at Ladureé. You can see the rest of the images here.

We thought it was about time we went behind the scenes with Jo to find out what the most challenging part of being an illustrator is, who her favourite clients are, and what she likes to listen to whilst she’s working.


Hey Caz! So, firstly, shall we explain to our lovely readers why I just called you Caz?
Yes, I think so! Jo Bird is actually a nom de plume that belongs to Caroline Swanne - which is me. Jo exists on paper only, and is best described as a scratchy black pen-line and bright colours in a watercolour application.

Another little known fact, is that you were once an agent here at jelly! What made you switch to full-time illustration?  
In a nutshell, I was a terrible sales rep, and made a much better illustrator. I wanted the chance to draw and paint all day, rather than sit behind a computer screen... Although, now I'm working more digitally, I sometimes feel like I'm melded to this computer chair! 

What’s a typical day like for you in the jelly studio?
No such thing as a typical day in the creative world! Every day, and every brief is different. The few constants that remain are: at least one game of table tennis, an argument over which playlist to put on, and me being in a grumpy mood until at least 11am! 

What do you love most about your job? (After 11am)
That I get to be boss! I also promised myself from a young age that I'd try not to work in an office based, 9-5 role, and I've sort of stuck to that.

What is the most challenging part of your day?
Getting out of bed! *laughs* If work is going well, the challenges are making art that everyone is happy with. Other days, feeling like you are hopeless, and out of touch with the outside world, is the challenge.


You’ve got an impressive portfolio. What’s it like to work with such great clients?
Thank you. It’s pretty astounding when I look back on it, but then I remember I've been working for more years than I care to admit. All clients are pretty fab to work with on the whole, and each one is different. Big names such as Rankin and Chanel daunted me at first, but they are such creatively organised, slick operations that any nerves I had soon disappeared when the jobs got underway. (That, and Rankin's studio offer the most beautifully catered lunch that I got to eat for three days in a row! Yum.)

With such a big portfolio, it must be tricky to pick a favourite. Which pieces stand out to you as the most special?
Well, the FCUK campaign I did in 2013 kick started an interest in fashion illustration for me, which I am very grateful for. I also got to collaborate with jelly Kitchen on that project, which was fun, and they did an amazing job. Equally, I get a buzz out of wandering into Tesco's and buying soup with my illustrations on. There’s also the idents I did for Surf, which ran before the show TOWIE… I know a lot of my mates got a kick out of seeing and sharing that news!

French Connection #SketchtoStore Campaign from jelly london on Vimeo.

What would be your perfect brief or dream client?
Trick question! No such thing as a perfect brief, as sometimes, the briefs that demand a lot of changes, can occasionally produce your best results. In contrast, when an image is changed unnecessarily it can kind of kill your original vision. In terms of dream clients, I’m a foodie and a fashionista, so I'm going to write a letter to the universe and put my client wish list in its hands!



What’s your favourite snack whilst working?
Cashew nuts, because as my friend said once -'You never see a fat squirrel, right....?'

We like that! What’s your favourite music to work to? 

Folk music, and definitely not hip-hop or soft rock.

Describe yourself in 3 words.
Table Tennis Champion

Tell us one strange fact about you.

I have a stuffed duckling at home that my friend gave me. 

Say no more! Thanks for your time :)

For more of Jo Bird’s awesome portfolio, click here.

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