MEET: James Ward of Jimbob Art

Today, UK Handmade catches up with talented, London-based, freelance illustrator, James Ward, aka Jimbob Art. If you have attended fabulous events such as We Make London fairs, then you will no doubt have noticed James' eye-catching hand-drawn ceramics which effortlessly combine beauty, humour and practicality.

Sleeping Cat Serving Plate

Please tell us about yourself and how you got started?
I’ve always drawn animals, but it’s only in the last year that I’ve been selling my art in markets, online and in shops. I was inspired by a trip to Stockholm, seeing some great ceramic designs, which coincided with wanting to produce work that wasn't going to be too expensive to start up. I couldn't afford to get t-shirts printed or screen prints, but I could buy cheap plates from charity shops and Tescos. So, I went to a local art shop and found Porcelain pens, then off to the nearest Craft Market.

What is the story behind Jimbobart?
My dad used to call me Jimbo, so I would have prefered the name jimbo art but, when I left University, I checked online and there was another Illustrator called Jimbo so I went for Jimbob instead! It does lead to some confusion; I often get called Mr Jim Bobart.

Wolf Serving Plate

What kind of formal education, training or experience do you have that applies to what you do? 
I studied Illustration at Westminster University where they often pushed you to experiment and try out new things.

What inspired you to set up your own business (as opposed to work for someone else) and what did you find most helpful in doing this
After Graduating I spent two years working on my Illustration portfolio but not really concentrating on applications for the artwork. I moved into a more expensive flat in London and needed to start selling more artwork so I could afford the rent. This was after I’d just come back from Sweden where I was inspired by the surface design on all sorts of products. So  - I started to experiment drawing on different materials, selling at craft markets and via Etsy mainly and the business grew from there.

Badger - "Eat My Cake In My Pants" Side Plate

What do you love most about what you do and what do you find the most frustrating?
I love the freedom in choosing what I want to do day to day, in being able to draw new designs every day and no tube travel. The thing I find most frustrating is the posting! I always feel anxious when I am waiting for plates to be received, experiencing delays with Royal Mail etc!

What is your favourite illustration you have ever drawn?
I don't really have a favourite, but I like the project I am working on at the moment – a six foot bear playing a ukulele in the woods with a band of animals around him. It’s a pencil drawing on paper which I’ve been working on – on and off – for over a year.

Hungry Bear Side Plate

Can you tell us a bit about where you create your beautiful illustrated ceramic ware, can we take a sneaky peak at your workshop/studio/office?
I have just moved into a new studio in Angel, it's a bit of a mess still, lots of shelves to put up! I share with three other illustrators and we’re just settling into the space. I’m really lucky to have use of an oven upstairs to fire my work, and a really enthusiastic, easygoing landlord.

Running your own business is extremely hard work, how do you balance your work and home life and what do you do to wind down?
My main problem has been shutting off. For the first year, I was working from my bedroom, with a desk and all my equipment, so it never felt like I could relax. Having been in the new studio for a week now, I’ve already noticed I’m a lot more relaxed at home. Work should stay at the studio!

Who or what inspires you most in your work?
Looking at the work of other Illustrators, from John Tenniel, Ralph Steadman, Alan Lee to Street Artist like Blu and Ericailcane.

Sandwich Defender Side Plate

How do you get the word out about your business?
I spend a bit of time emailing Bloggers and Magazine Editors, I have Facebook, Twitter and blog pages. I also think that doing craft markets is great for talking to customers and other Crafters, getting feedback and finding out about new opportunities.

If you had the time to learn one new skill what would it be?

Wood carving, I could spend my time off from drawing plates whittling!

Where can we buy your work?