First published February 2, 2023
Meet Jess, a Bristol-based freelance illustrator and creative facilitator. We first came across Jess’ work on Instagram where she was chatting all things food as part of her ‘What’s Cooking’ Live series. Clearly, she’s a foodie… just check out her mouth watering illustrations below, but in this chat she delves deeper into her passions: health and well-being, stemming from difficult personal experience, enabling others to find ‘the confidence to create for themselves’, and helping early-career creatives to break into design, providing that much needed bridge between study and the industry. We’ve been blown away by Jess’ ability to craft a career that is completely unique to her and can’t wait to see where her path leads her this year, and beyond. Read on to discover how the pandemic impacted her, why she loved her time at Camberwell College of Art (no shade Central Saint Martins), and what she’s looking forward to. If you need us, we’ll be making ourselves a Bloody Mary using Jess’ deliciously illustrated recipe…
Photo credit: Bryony Jade Photography
Jess, what’s your creative occupation?
I’m a freelance illustrator and creative facilitator.
Where have you been?
I studied BA Illustration at Camberwell College of Art. Falling under the umbrella of University of the Arts London, Camberwell is understated compared to its prestigious sister Central Saint Martins, but it’s definitely more fun! With a focus on traditional craft, technology and social responsibility, from the moment I arrived I felt the ethos aligned with my own. I graduated in 2016 with a first degree, and after that, I worked a few different P/T jobs, travelled and freelanced for a number of years.
When I first moved to Bristol, I had figured out that I had an interest in hands-on creativity, public health and wellness, and sustainability. I was just beginning to understand how all these things played into each other, but there didn’t seem to be a role out there that combined all of them. My contract ended at my employed job just as the pandemic hit in early April 2020, and I was let go. I think this was the push I needed to try and give freelancing a go full-time.
Studying Illustration taught me practical design skills and theory but didn’t prepare me for the realities of running a creative business. JESS ON SUPPORTING EARLY-CAREER CREATIVES
Where are you now?
I grew up in Essex, but I have been living in the South-West for four years: first Somerset and now Bristol. My mission is to connect people through a unique illustration style and ideas. I commonly work for brands and organisations in the nutrition, health, wellness, social and environmental sectors. I was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition in my early 20s and lost a close family member to cancer in the same year. These experiences are where my interest in our health and overall well-being began. This interest has now extended to my personal and professional illustration practice.
I currently work from a space called Jamaica Street Studios in the heart of the city. I normally use mixed media – paints, pens, pastels, collage and design software to create textural illustrations and murals in a unique style. Separately to my independent illustration work, I also facilitate creative workshops, teaching illustration techniques that give people the confidence to create for themselves without any pressure.
Where are you going?
When I was growing up, I never knew anyone who worked in the creative industry. Studying Illustration taught me practical design skills and theory but didn’t prepare me for the realities of running a creative business. I felt there needed to be another step for young people who are entering the industry. Since 2020, I’ve been on the organisation team for the Werkhouse project; a yearly weekend studio experience for early-career creatives, to help them network and break into design.
This year, I’m on the hunt for exciting illustration projects to get my teeth into. I’d love to work on more spot illustrations, infographics and murals.
Finally, what’s occupying your thoughts today?
Today, I’m feeling grateful for the winter sunshine, and I’m looking forward to a trip abroad with my best friend in early March. We haven’t been on holiday just us two for nearly 10 years! I just handed in the finals for a project and it’s Friday so I’m winding down the week with a class this afternoon. As a facilitator, I find it really relaxing and interesting to try other people’s experiences in my spare time.