We hope everyone had a lovely weekend!
This week, once again we are bringing you an insight into one of our most loyal and favourite brands in store! It all began in an office for Art Star founder and creator Jo Hill. An old box of broken Christmas decorations didn't leave much room for celebration - she felt there had to be a better and more sustainable way to create decorations for your home and so Art Star was born. Creating beautifully hand-crafted decorations for your home, all Art Star products are made from responsibly sourced trees and Jo's background as a graphic designer helped her create stunning designs that always catch your eye when browsing the store. We have had so many of you ask about Art Star recently that we wanted to really chat to Jo and dig deeper into the ethos and humble beginnings of Art Star in lockdown. We also couldn't wait to know more about her work with the Food Aid network, and the work that Art Star does to support this amazing cause.
Hi Jo, so great to chat to you! How did you get started with Art Star and what were your first inspirations?
Starting the business was a bit of a happy accident really! I’ve always made stuff since I was very young and was fortunate enough to have parents who loved art and encouraged me to be creative and explore different crafts, but any of that pure creative stuff was always a hobby for me and I saw it as being more about pleasure than a possibility for a business. Over the years I’ve dabbled in photography, collage, textiles, surface pattern design, printmaking and ceramics, but I didn’t seriously start exploring paper until the first lockdown last year. I was working as a freelance graphic designer at the time and the work dried up just as the pandemic hit. I found myself with lots of free time on my hands and began to properly explore papercraft for the first time....the next thing I knew I'd set up a business!
One of the things I really love about papercraft is that you need very few tools, and the materials are either cheap or free - so it's very accessible as a craft activity.
How important to you is it that all your products are sustainably sourced?
It was one of the key reasons for starting my business! I was so depressed by a box of broken plastic Christmas decorations I was handed in an office job that I decided to find a better solution. Creating paper decorations and kits was a way of making sustainable decorations that are also fun to put together!
One of the things I’m most excited about at the moment is working with materials that already exist in the world to avoid this cycle of bringing endless new things into circulation. My Hack Pack craft kits are made using leftover paper from the printing industry and I find it really wonderful to be creating beautiful things out of waste paper. I’m really lucky to work with a great printer in SE London who is very enthusiastic about saving and reusing all their excess and waste paper.
We love your designs! Could you tell us your favourite and why?
Thank you so much! My favourite is definitely my brand new Christmas star kit. I've called her Shuko. Artist collaborations are such an exciting part of what I do and when I came across Natascha Maksimovic on instagram (@natmaks) last year I knew I wanted to collaborate with her. She works with the ancient Japanese art of Suminagashi or 'floating ink' and I just love the beautiful, dreamy marbled patterns she creates. Nat sent me a selection of her artworks and I chose one that I felt would work for a star kit and I'm absolutely delighted with how it turned out. My customers are loving them and it's always so gratifying to see a project like that come to life and be enjoyed by people.
How does your history as a graphic designer aid you when designing Art Star products?
It helps more than I had perhaps realised it ever would. My training as a designer means that I can visualise how things are going to work on paper really effortlessly, but it also means that I was able to create my own branding and design all my packaging and other bits and pieces myself. I have loved that side of running the business and the confidence it's given me to be the one making all the creative decisions.
I also never realised how much I would enjoy styling and photographing my work. It's such an important way of communicating ideas with my customers and I find it hugely satisfying to put the images together. I actually studied Architecture for four years before I moved from Australia to London and I think the ability to think in 3 dimensions has definitely fed into the experiments I've been doing with form using my Hack Packs.
We love that 10% of your profits go to Food Aid Networks! - how did this partnership come about?
My partner volunteered in a local food bank kitchen before lockdown, and hearing about that project gave me a real desire to try to contribute in some way. It's such a basic thing to assume that everyone in a country like the UK should be confident they'll have enough food to eat each day, and tragically that just isn't the case at all. IFAN is a a network of independent, grassroots food aid providers and they are really well placed to distribute donations within the UK.
I also think it's a great, and potentially very powerful thing, to give consumers the opportunity to make a difference simply by choosing who they purchase from and how they spend their money. Every time someone buys a Hack Pack, I donate one to a kids' art club - so just by buying gifts from an independent business, you're often effortlessly helping to make bigger changes...which seems like a huge win to me!!
We couldn't agree more. We can't wait to see what you do next! What are your future plans for Art Star?
I have so many plans!! I'm running some free local workshops leading up to Christmas, showing people how to make decorations using any leftover paper they might have lying around...and I would love to create a little book sometime around that idea...maybe in time for the following Christmas!
I've started designing surface patterns again which is something I explored a few years back, I'm working with handprinted textures and mainly organic forms and am loving just seeing where it goes for now. I also have another product in development, which I hope to launch next year, using leftover paper for a kit that focusses more on decorating and embellishing the paper. Watch this space!
with us this week, we loved finding out more about the beginnings of Art Star, your collaborations and exciting plans for the future! You call follow Art Star on Instagram (@art_star_london) and head over to our website to purchase any of the products discussed in the chat with Jo this week. Including the brand new collaboration with Natascha Maksimovic (@natmaks) - which we now have available in store! These really are the perfect gift as we head towards those winter months! Wether its to brighten up a dark space or to get into the festivities early!