Artist of the Month: Joanna Ham

Both studio founder and freelance visual artist, we are delighted to introduce talented artist and illustrator, Joanna Ham as April’s Artist of the Month.

Joanna graduated from The Ruskin School of Art, Oxford University where she gained a degree in Fine Art with a specialism in anatomy. She formed her eponymous studio HAM in 2011 and has since exhibited with Liberty, Designjunction, Mother, Billy Name, Topshop and Colette. In addition she has created bespoke artwork for The Body Shop, Eurostar and Nike.

Jo’s work seeks to celebrate the everyday. Informed by her studies and early career as a brand strategist, she has always been fascinated by popular culture and zeitgeist, in particular life’s simple pleasures and how we interact with one another through work and play.

Jo founded HAM to further explore a series of animal motifs she had developed whilst at university – creating a world where the characters offer social commentary by immortalizing our daily rituals, likes and hobbies for all to enjoy.

Jo also works in collaboration – HAM has created bespoke Rabbits and packaging for The Body Shop’s Forever Against Animal Testing Campaign, gold leaf artwork for Print Club London, a giant mural for kids design shop Molly Meg, store windows for retailer West Elm and limited edition art prints for the cancer charity Maggie’s.

Aside from HAM, Jo is also a freelance visual artist. Using photograms and digital imaging she blurs the lines between drawing and photography, fashion and fine art. Recent commissions include artwork for Nike, The Berkeley Hotel and Eurostar.

We sat down with Joanna to find out more about her work, ideas and process. Read the interview in full below and catch her hopping over to our ARTIQ Instagram page for a very special artist takeover Monday 23rd – Friday 27th April! Follow @ARTIQgram here.

How do you see your art as a part of our society?
Both HAM and Joanna Ham are built on the same ideals – I focus on social commentary, celebrating the everyday and the joy of the overlooked. I’ve always been fascinated by popular culture and often turn to life’s simple pleasures and those around me for inspiration. I hope the characters I create are seen as a snapshot of current times.

Tell us about your dream project.
I’d love to really scale my work, both the Rabbit and Women illustrations. It would be great to make my female figures life size and install them in an environment where they become part of the audience as well as the object being viewed.

The HAM Rabbits have already enjoyed being made bigger; we did a twelve-metre mural recently in Kings Cross, which allowed me to really push the idea behind HAM. I think public art is so important – it’s something I’d definitely like to do more of.

What is the one thing you cannot live without?
My MacBook is my business and my easel. It’s my connection with the world, and inside lives my sketches, designs, mood boards, accountant, marketing … it’s a mobile studio that fits into a bag, which for an artist means the liberation of being able to work when and where you want to.

What art do you, or would you, collect?
I think the contemporary print scene in London is incredible at the moment. Work I’m obsessing over right now includes Stephen Smith’s riotous abstract prints, Kate Gibb’s monochrome geometric pieces, Claire Halifax’s intricate line drawings, Bonnie and Clyde’s pop art collages and Charlotte Taylor’s fictional postmodern interiors. Most of the work I have at home has been swapped or gifted by my friends and I love that there is a personal connection to the pieces hanging on my wall.

What is the most memorable piece of art you have produced?
For HAM, my most iconic design is the Superhero Rabbit. It embodies such spirit and is a piece I hope many can relate to irrespective of age, culture or language.

For Joanna Ham, it would have to be my recent collaboration with Nike. It was an amazing brief … to work live with bloggers modelling the brand’s latest collection in a pop-up studio in Paris. It really pushed my creative process – which typically is very time consuming and darkroom based – and has had a real impact on how I now make art going forward.

What advice would you give a younger you?
Don’t be afraid to stay true to what you believe in and the kind of work you want to make. Always strive to do different.