It was one of those ‘furnace’ hot days with nature’s humidifier blowing at 120%, but I barely noticed it as I sipped on ice tea and chatted away with Jo Hoban from Jo Hoban.com.au on her zen green balcony.
Jo is a professional, freelance copywriter and editor with a particular interest in art, design and learning to live more sustainably. Her words have appeared in various print and online publications including The Design Files, Home Beautiful, The Planthunter, and Green Magazine. She is also a budding ceramics designer, studying ceramics part-time and experimenting with making functional wares. The focus of our chat was mostly on her designing.
We chatted about motherhood, creativity and making sense of life’s journey then we retreated into her pottery studio (as I hoped we would) to chat about her designs, inspirations, how it started and how well she’s wearing all her hats.
Before I dive into the ‘details’ of our coffee chat, here are a few of her amazing creations
If you could hang out with someone who inspires you, who would it be and what would the day look like?
I would like to hang out with Australian Ceramic Artist – Gwyn Hanssen Pigott (sadly she passed away in 2013). She was a real master and I would have loved to spend time with her while she was making some of her vessels. It would be amazing to get some insight into her process. I am fascinated by process, rather than finished product. So while the outcome is important, I learn more by understanding the journey.
I would also love to meet up with Shannon Garson who is a wonderful contemporary potter who lives not too far away in Maleny – the way she paints and decorates the surface of her pots is beautifully detailed and inspired by the beauty in her surrounding natural environment. I’d love to watch her at work. Hopefully one day soon!
What has drawn you to clay?
I like that it is tactile, and not related to the computer. I like that I’m using my hands and I can be lost in my thoughts, listening to something, or even talking to someone while I’m working.
How has your art changed your life?
I’m always hoping to have more time, to explore the possibilities of what I can make. It excites me because I feel that ever so slowly I’m learning more about pottery, and my practice is evolving. I’m learning to be more patient and focused. It’s fulfilling to be growing and it makes me happy.
What was your biggest achievement last year?
Putting together an exhibition with my classmates from the Brisbane Institute of Art. We hired a gallery and hosted an exhibition in September. We called it Connectivity as there was eight artists and we each displayed about 10 – 30 pieces each. Having different artists with their own individual styles poses a risk that all the pieces might not appear visually connected to viewers, but it all came together really well and it was deeply satisfying.
How do you make time for this passion as a mom and copywriter with competing priorities?
It is helpful to have the commitment of scheduled classes on a dedicated morning during the week, then I make time to work in my studio in the evenings when the kids have gone to bed. Our TV broke a while ago and we haven’t replaced it, so that also helps! Once I started to enjoy pottery and create my own pieces, I became hungry to do more. I also invested in some basic equipment so I was keen to start using it.
What future do you see for your designing?
I want to keep making. I currently have my first consignment stocked at a beautifully curated little store in Graceville called One Girl Studio, which is inspiring. Also I’m starting to receive more feedback from customers and friends, and that’s helping me to feel motivated to do more. I see myself growing as a ceramics designer.
What is your style?
Lately it’s been pared back, earthy with clean finishes. But when I first started I was super keen on playing with colour!
How do you get inspiration for new pieces & how do you keep yourself inspired?
I like seeing what people respond to. For example, people seem to love the egg carton designs and I think it is because more people are getting chooks in their own backyard and they like the imperfect, rustic feel of the egg carton pieces. I also like functional wares that you can also use to decorate. In our kitchen, we have wood panels between our kitchen and lounge room and we display some of my pieces there, but we use them as well. I feel that we shouldn’t be too scared to use beautiful pieces because we only live once.
I feel inspired a lot – I have way too many ideas and not enough time to see them through. Little things throughout the day inspire me – colours, textures, things my kids and husband do and say, our rituals, and our garden. I also LOVE reading about all sorts of creative folks, and enjoy the diverse imagery in social media like Instagram and Pinterest.
What obstacles did you face when you wanted to start pottery?
I was conscious that I was over 30 and did not have a formal qualification in fine art, so I was wondering if it was indulgent to have a vocation in the arts. However, I had a powerful pull towards ceramics in particular, so I had to give myself permission to try it.
How do you like being a Mom?
I love that kids take so much joy in the little things that we have become complacent about. They laugh so much, and all the giggles and cuddles – physical connection with my kids is really lovely. They pull me in all directions, bringing out my best and worst within a space of five minutes, but I love how they make me selfless and this is really empowering. I let go of so many things that I would have worried about. There is no time for self-consciousness when you’re taking care of kids, and that is really refreshing.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your life and how did you get through it?
It’s hard to note one challenge as the biggest. I do sometimes wonder how resilient I am, or could be. When times have been emotionally challenging, I focus back inwards and rely on my core family and friends for love and support. Overall, I feel lucky and try to be grateful for what I have, as you never know when things might change. Having said that, one thing that I think is a huge challenge for all of us is learning how to live more harmoniously with nature in the face of climate change and environmental imbalance. The importance of taking small steps every day to lessen our negative impact on the environment is an ongoing challenge for me.
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Your go-to recipe?
I am currently loving roasting veggies in olive oil, salt and balsamic vinegar. Then once they’ve cooled down a bit, I mix them with quinoa, currants, chopped up fresh greens (like parsley and coriander), and add ground cumin and coriander for flavour. A final dash of olive oil and lemon juice, and it’s done! The kids don’t really like it though. They love Ravioli, so that would be my go-to for the kids. However, we work not to breed fussiness, so I try to get them to eat what I make for the family. I’m lucky because they love raw vegetables.
How do you approach meal planning?
We are not vegetarian, but I don’t like eating too much meat. I love eating fish, so we buy bulk from the Markets and I try to buy lots of greens. We are also trying to grow herbs. I buy my main usual ingredients – lots of greens and other vegetables, chicken, fish and herbs and then I work my recipes out of these. I don’t strictly meal plan but I have a repertoire of recipes that I turn over.
What makes you feel beautiful?
I don’t need to feel stereotypically ‘beautiful’ but I like to feel good. I am also trying to raise my daughter this way and I restrict her access to mainstream media because of its pressure on young ones to measure up to its definition of beauty. I prefer the holistic kind of beauty where I feel healthy and good within myself and I achieve this when I have done my Yoga in the morning, when I’m eating well, meditating and exercising.
If you could do anything what would it be?
I like the idea of setting up a co-working art space, with a focus on ceramics so that we could share all of the expensive equipment! And maybe it would have a small community garden attached. And an awesome coffee machine and cold-pressed juicer! I love the current movement for co-working spaces for freelancers who work largely on their own.
What would be your advice for people who are interested in trying pottery?
There are a number of places in Brisbane and new ones popping up in response to demand. There’s the Brisbane Institute of Art in Windsor, Clay School in West End, Oxide Clay Art in Indooroopilly, Stephanie Outridge Field in Clayfield, Creative Clay in Kenmore. There’s a big shop called Pottery Supplies Online in Milton that has everything you need to get started, and can also keep you posted regarding various class and workshop info.