Homegirl London pays homage to Jeff Josephine Designs. This business is owned by British designer, illustrator and printmaker Sophie Elm who is known for her nature-inspired and strong geometric influenced patterns in bold primary colours. Inspiration is drawn from flora and fauna, folk art, Scandinavian design, hand-lettered type, retro signwriting and historic advertising. Sophie’s subject matter includes winter foliage found in the British countryside to glass house plants at Hidcote Manor Gardens, useful common garden tools and romantic folk flora. Her delightful handmade clay creations include ceramic tableware to ceramic vases, hand-painted mugs and cute fashion brooches along with fabric, hand-printed cushions and eco-friendly stationery. I caught up with Sophie to find out more about her alias Jeff Josephine Designs.
Winter Foliage Cushion
Meet the Owner of Jeff Josephine Designs
Sophie Elm is the business owner and the designer behind the brand. She tells me about her background – “Originally from Yorkshire, I moved to Edinburgh to study Illustration at Edinburgh College of Art. I graduated in 2008 and moved to Gloucestershire because my husband had just got a job there and have remained ever since. I knew I wanted to start my own business, but wasn’t sure exactly how to go about it and I needed to earn a living. So I found a part-time job at the local library and not long after that I managed to get one day a week at a ceramic workshop which was brilliant. I had only just started to experiment with ceramics in my last year at university. This opportunity enabled me to not only learn more about the process but also allowed me to keep developing and producing ceramic pieces as I now had access to a kiln.”
Before starting up her own venture, Sophie found herself illustrating books. She explains – “At the time of moving I had been commissioned to illustrate a children’s book for the small publisher, Serafina Press, based in the Scottish borders. This wasn’t something I had imagined I would ever do, but I was allowed to have a massive creative input into how the book looked and it was a great opportunity to see my work in print and tremendous fun. In the end, I illustrated two books and it took the best part of two years, so it was only after I’d finished these in 2011 that I really started to be able to develop my own business.”
Grid Botanics Brooches
It took a while for Sophie to decide on which direction to take. She elaborates – “I’d always imagined I would have a creative career, but I didn’t know until my final year at university what that would be. I realised quite early on that I didn’t want to just draw illustrations that were solely to be seen on a flat page or computer screen. Even during my life drawing classes, I started to bring in wire and draw in 3D. It was something about having a tangible object that you could hold in your hand, rather than a piece of paper, that I found exciting. I’ve also always been fascinated with patterns, which I think stems from my mum’s passion for ceramics and colourful textiles, which filled my home as a child. Over the years, this has appeared to rub off on me.”
Eco-Friendly Stationery Notebooks
By the time Sophie had reached her final year of studies, her career path started to click into place. She reveals – “I decided to combine these elements and turned my degree show into a tea party, including hand-painted ceramics, printed fabric items, packaging and posters all adorned with colourful patterns and hand-drawn typography (something I was enjoying experimenting with at the time). I realised that I preferred applying illustrations onto objects and that this was what I wanted to do.”
Christmas Greeting Cards
The business has evolved slowly, Sophie explains – “I used some savings for bigger projects and I’ve also had a few part-time jobs to support me. I wasn’t keen on taking out large bank loans, so I’ve taken the tortoise over the hare route and let the business grow organically and at a pace, I can manage. It’s also let me develop my style and enabled me to try out a few different avenues of interest, allowing me to gauge where my strengths lay, what was important for me to do and what I could outsource and what I enjoyed the most. I would say it is still early days, as it is really only in the last year that I have finally been able to drop my part-time job and start to spend more concentrated time on my own work. For now, it is just me doing everything with support from my husband who helps set up my exhibition stands and provides constant encouragement. I’m looking to expand the fabric range in the future so will need help with making cushions or with the admin side.”
Limited Edition Christmas Baubles
Sophie explains the reason for calling her company Jeff Josephine Designs – “This comes from a project at Art College when I made a giant 3D papier-mâché sausage dog. I had been using rather subdued colours and it was suggested that I experiment a bit more with my colour choices. We were given a project which we had free reign, so I decided to make Jeff the sausage dog. He was decorated in primary colours and bold patterns, as well as hand-lettered typography, all things that feature heavily in my work today. I felt that it was thanks to Jeff the dog that I now design the way I do.”
View the Jeff Josephine Designs Collections
Sophie designs and makes hand-painted ceramics (plates, bowls, mugs, cake stands, decorative tiles, doorknobs, vases, brooches and Christmas baubles), cotton fabric, screen printed cushions and eco-friendly stationery (limited edition art prints, stationery notebooks and greeting cards). She tells me about her design style – “It is a playful mix of natural imagery, combined with geometric forms. My use of bright colours combined with these elements creates bold, highly patterned designs. Although I draw on inspiration from different places for my products, my love of pattern and primary colours are probably the one unifying factor over all my areas of work. I want to design pieces that although are aimed towards adults, bring out the fun childish side in us all. It is important to me that as many of my products as possible are produced within the UK, with certain items being made completely by hand.” Sophie talks me through her collections …
Home Sweet Home Art Print
Winter Foliage: “This is my brand new range of hand silkscreen printed cushions. The design uses natural leaf and seed forms that can be found in the countryside in the winter months around Great Britain. It started out life as a lino-cut, which I then digitally manipulated into a repeat pattern. Its original use was not for a fabric pattern but it seemed to lend itself well to being repeated. I decided to use a heavy-duty cotton canvas for the cushions as it has a wonderful natural fleck in the fabric. The cushions were printed at a local print studio using water-based inks. I decided to print the pattern in three colourways, petrol blue, dove grey and mustard yellow. A slightly more muted range for me, but one which I felt lent itself well to the design.”
Winter Foliage Cushions
Grid Botanics: “This is a ceramics range which was also new this year and was in fact my first hand-built range. It comprises a selection of hand made brooches and hand-built vases. The idea for the designs came from a trip I’d had to Hidcote Manor Gardens, where I’d spent some time sketching in the glasshouse. I liked the mixture of the geometric grid-like panes of glass with the natural plant shapes in front of them. From a few quick sketches the designs developed and I used a bright vibrant colour palette for a cohesive feel which made a bold modern-looking collection. I decided that I would hand build the vases that I put these designs onto. I kept the shape of the vase simple and geometric, to echo the grid element of the pattern but the imperfections that come with the hand-building technique harmonises with the natural leaf forms in the design.
Grid Botanics Vases
Common Garden Tools: “This is a recent linocut print that draws on my love of old advertising and typography and features garden tools from brooms to rakes, shovels and pitchforks. I hand cut and print the lino blocks myself. I actually handprint, or burnish, the prints using a wooden spoon. It is quite a time-consuming way of printing, but it means I don’t have to have a big press to do it.”
Common Garden Tools Art Print
Folk Flora: “This is one of my larger ceramic items. It was inspired by a bizarre mixture of a trip to the V&A where I spent some time looking at decorated French glassware, an interest in decorative ironwork and barge painting. I liked the idea of keeping the colour palette simple for this one allowing the design to be more complex. Each bowl is hand-painted and numbered.”
Folk Flora Bowl
Sophie draws inspiration from many places, she reveals – “The majority of my pattern designs are based upon natural forms and my research for this is purely going out into the garden or countryside and drawing. My ceramics are often influenced by folk art and Scandinavian design. My love of hand-lettered type draws me to old fashioned advertisements and sign writing on buildings. The Bloomsbury group’s use of pattern and hand-painted decoration throughout the home I find inspiring. I also greatly admire Enid Marx, she designed many great patterns for fabrics as well as producing beautiful illustrations. Another big inspiration has been St Jude’s. Upon leaving university and realising that I wished to pursue a career down a textiles and ceramics based route, I wondered if perhaps I had done the wrong degree. But seeing how the St Jude’s founders, Simon and Angie Lewin, actively seek illustrators and printmakers to collaborate with to design fabric and wallpapers, made me realise that it was possible to apply illustration to other disciplines. I also liked the fact that they used traditional methods (all their fabric being screen printed) and all produced in the UK.
Buy Jeff Josephine Designs Products
If you love these designs you can buy them from www.jeffjosephinedesigns.co.uk. Products can be shipped overseas. Price points for reference are: hand-printed cushions £45 (without pad), hand-built and hand-painted vases range from £20-85, hand-painted statement plates and bowls £30-100, small ceramics brooches £12, limited edition prints £35-175, stationery notebooks £4.50 and greeting cards are £2.50. Sophie can also organise commissioned items ranging from ceramic tea sets to wedding stationery. She also produces limited edition hand-painted ceramic baubles every year so keep an eye out for those.
Author: Homegirl London. Photographs: JJD. Thanks: Sophie Elm.