Sunday 19 November 2023

2023 Topic 12: Designer Focus on Jo Firth-Young

Hi everyone,

Today we are back with a designer focus, this time featuring the wonderful Jo Firth-Young, AKA JoFY!

Crafty History

Question: How and when did you come to crafting? Were you always into papercrafts and mixed media or did you also experiment with other substrates?

The first craft I fell in love with was counted cross stitch embroidery. I enjoyed sewing detailed pictures by following a grid pattern - I think the 'puzzle' of following the designs appealed to me. The biggest embroidery I completed was around 3x2ft.

I didn't study art at school but I did study embroidery to exam level - & I still enjoy sewing whether its hand embroidery or machine sewing which often finds its way on to my paper projects. 

I started studying creative subjects at my local Adult Community College - I really enjoyed learning as an adult and still do... I like how it focuses the mind on a particular goal or subject.

In the UK we have the vocational education program 'City and Guilds' and I found this a really great way to learn. I took several courses including Interior Design Techniques & Paper Crafts and these really help in what I do now - the courses require you to create and evaluate your work, & explore the possibilities. The curriculum often covered colour theory which has come in very useful.

I don't think formal training is necessary but it certainly helps.

I think inspiration can be found everywhere. I live close to London so visiting the many museums and galleries the city has to offer is something I like to do - there's always something interesting to see.  I also LOVE to go to the theatre - London offers some of the best plays and musicals in the world and I find them very inspiring - the set design, the colours and costumes. 
Inspiration is everywhere.

Question: Do you think your art has changed much over the years? Are there things that always remain constant? 

I think my art has changed over the years but there are elements that I still use - book text, kraft card stock and the occasional tag!  My projects are still on the smaller side, and I still like to upcycle - make items better, nicer & giving them a new lease of life.

Question: Looking back, what would you consider as milestones in your crafty journey? is there one moment that you are particularly proud of, or perhaps a piece you made that to this day you can't let go of for some special reason?

The stationery I designed and made for my wedding was featured on the front cover of Somerset Wedding - that was certainly a 'pinch me' moment!

And of course seeing my first set of stamps produced was fantastic! I had no idea where that first (headless) snowman stamp would lead - 11 years & 131 stamps sets later I'm still designing and loving it!

Creative Philosophy 

Question: How would you describe your general philosophy in creating art? How would you sum it up in 3 words?

Start making something!... anything, and that something will hopefully lead somewhere.

Question: Why do you craft? Do you feel creating and crafting are necessary for your personal balance? What is your aim when creating? Is it personal expression or do you aim to also impact on the observer?

I craft because I want to do something creative - it might not always be craft based... sometimes it might be gardening, furniture upcycling or building lego (a new 'hobby' to me) - they are all creative outlets.  And also, as one of my stamps says, - I just want to make pretty things! lol
My crafting is mainly for personal expression - but I also enjoy creating projects for the workshops I teach with my JOFY products so others can express their creativity.

Question: Do you evaluate your own art and your progress or try to measure your success? 

Yes, I'm always evaluating - I think that is a result of studying art/craft - I look at pieces I've created & wonder if its finished, what could I change, could it be better? 

Question: What is the best compliment somebody could give you?

"you inspired me ...."

 Artistic Practice

Question: Where does your inspiration come from?

Everywhere! Literally everywhere and anywhere! I recently went through revolving doors at a hotel and noticed verdigris on the metal detail on the doors - I had to circle through the doors a second time to take a picture! lol

I always have my camera handy to take photos of things that inspire me.

Question: Are you a 'one project at a time' creator or a 'everything all at once' one?

Oh I, like lots of other people (I hope), always seem to have several projects on the go at once - several UFOs - Un Finished Objects! They all get finished eventually!

Question: Do you experience 'blocks' when creating? Do you have tricks to get past them? 

To get past a block I walk away from the project and do something else.  Sometimes clearing my desk helps - clearing the desk clears my mind, gets rid of the of the physical and mental clutter.

Question: Do you use different products now than when you first started on your creative path? If you were stuck on a deserted island, what are the main supplies you would need to have with you?

Oooh stuck on a deserted island! I'd definitely need a pair of scissors and a pencil... and fresco paints!!

Product Designer

Question: How did you first start designing for PaperArtsy? Can you share a bit of how that process evolved for you, and do you have any advice for your younger self or other creatives now that you are more aware of this process ?

A friend from one of the City & Guilds courses I mentioned earlier went to a monthly craft club - a club run by Leandra! I joined and when the first PaperArtsy designs were introduced to the group I bought several and loved the stamps! They were so different to those available at the time. I was invited onto the design team and a few years later asked if I'd like to design stamps! Yes please!!
I'm not sure I can give advice to others about designing stamps/products, but if I did it I would say be brave and embrace opportunities (I would give the same advice to my younger (and current!) self).

Question: You now have more than 131 stamps sets, as well as minis and stencils! Is designing still exciting to you? How do you challenge yourself and find the inspiration for your designs?

Having my own designs is something I don't take for granted, and it is still exciting for me! I love the challenge and process of designing new images and imagining how will work with previous (and future) collections. 
When I'm using my stamps and realise I 'need' a certain size of letters, leaves or other motifs its great that I can design them and hopefully turn them into stamps. Thats fun!

Question: How do you go about designing your products? Do you have a set process? Has that changed other time?

The process for designing my stamps hasn't really changed much since the first set - I still hand-draw all the images. They all start with a doodle or a sketch.

Question: Is there a product you love to use that you wish you had designed?

The stamping platform!! You don't realise how invaluable it is until you've used it!! Every stamper should have one!

Question: What does it feel like when other people use your products and share with you what they have made? Do you learn or get inspired by seeing other people using your stuff?

I love seeing what people make with my designs (and I sometimes wonder 'why didn't I think of that!' lol), its inspiring and rewarding to see their creations.

Future Projects

Question: Do you have any new skills (craft related or not) that you want to learn in the near future?

I'm always happy to learn new skills - and improve the skills I have.  I'm enjoying taking more sewing classes as I know from experience that sewing and stamping/stenciling make a great combination.

Question: You are the queen of Christmas stamps. Where does your love for the season come from and how do you make it special in your own life?

I don't know why I like christmas so much - maybe its to do with the magic of the season, the decorations, and that I can unashamedly (and liberally) use glitter/sparkles - the more the merrier! (& how many christmas trees is too many?)

Over the next few weeks our blogging team will be showcasing all things 'JoFY' in some very interesting ways! 
Keep an eye on the PaperArtsy blogPaperArtsy's Instagram and PaperArtsy People to keep in the loop with everything new!

If you want to create along with us we would love to see what you get up to! 


Anonymous said...

Lovely article Jo, 😄

Jo Bestwick said...

Great blog! Looking forward to 16th December!