Jo Blaker - Artist Blog
During Holmfirth Artweek, Fair Trader will be hosting, as usual, two local artists' work, which will be on display in the Upper Room throughout July and August. Here, Jo Blaker gives us some background.
Why did you become an artist?
Well, I did try to not become an artist! After graduating I pursued my interests in conservation & education & worked for the RSPB. I wished I’d been better suited for it but the truth is – I quickly become very unhappy if I’m not working with creative & visual ideas. I believe that being an artist is about how you think & engage with life & your world. I think many people just ARE artists – it's the way their brains are wired. For me it isn’t something I am happy pursuing in my spare time. Working as an artist means no 2 days are the same. I enjoy that variety, & the fact that I’m often presented with opportunities to keep learning. I am totally in love with creativity & I hope I can keep sharing mine for a long time to come.
What mediums do you work with and why?
My work has always been drawing based. In recent years I’ve realised I love to work with fluid mediums like ink & watercolour. The way they can be manipulated to create dense silhouettes or translucent layers really appeals to me. I also love the fact that you have to respond to the material, you work with it, you can’t entirely control it. When I’m drawing from observation I love to explore a range of water-soluble materials & use quite a hands on process. Inky hands are a sign of time well spent!
Does living in this area inspire your artwork?
Lots of the imagery in my work is inspired by daily observations of the seasons, the weather & light & we are well positioned to enjoy all these things locally. In my print designs I much prefer to work with imagery of natural forms I’ve observed first hand. I will draw from memory &/or use visual aids for technical detail where I feel it's important. When I returned from London, after studying at the RCA, I could not get enough of the moors. It is still my favourite environment & one I enjoy observing from home everyday.
In a deeper way I think our industrial buildings & natural landscape influenced me as a child. The manufacturing, happening in green valleys & by canals & rivers – that combination of industry & nature has just always excited me & made me want to make things. I love the texture of the stone walls, even the patina caused by industrial revolution-era pollution!
Kate & I bonded over our love for this area (as well as birds) when we first met. Over the years we’ve even collaborated to create a few site specific exhibitions, with friends, responding to our built & natural environment!
Recently I’ve been enjoying drawing more of the built environment in my sketchbook. Holmfirth especially presents a wonderful series of roof-scapes. There are more beautiful buildings in Huddersfield than I could ever hope to get on paper!
What do you like about Fair Trader and why did you choose to exhibit here?
Fair Trade is something I grew up surrounded by as my mother sold & promoted Tear Craft long before I was born & all through my childhood. It is something she is still very passionate about. So awareness around the issues behind & impact of fair trade is something I was aware of (& probably advocating!) from a very young age. Being exposed to the handcrafts she sold no doubt influenced my love of folk art & natural materials.
I love that Fair Trader sources such a diverse range of beautifully made, ethical products. I love the products & the ethos & that combination is perfect! My personal approach around my spending is to invest in quality when buying new, from manufacturers & retailers I trust. Fair Trader don’t just offer all this, they promote these values within the local community too. It ticks all my boxes! The opportunity to show some new work, with one of my closest creative pals in Fair Trader’s beautiful space was just too good to resist!
Jo Blaker, 2021