Homegirl London pays homage to HAM. This company celebrates farm yard animals – a pig, horse and rabbit all enjoying unexpected pursuits. You’ll see the pig on a scooter, mowing the lawn, having fun on a rocking horse and enjoying a party. There’s also a horse seen watering a plant and a rabbit bouncing on a trampoline and diving into the sea. It’s the genius home accessories collection by Jo Robinson, a farmer’s daughter from the Shires. She makes aprons, tea towels, cards and prints, on crisp white backgrounds with a bold silhouette. Jo is now based in London and launched HAM in 2011 after training at The Ruskin School of Drawing as an artist. She’s a keen supporter of British industry – using UK suppliers to help craft her products. For example, the fine bone china mugs are created in Stoke-on-Trent, the fabric pieces are made in Lincolnshire, the cards by printers in Worcestershire and screen prints in Jo’s East London studio. I caught up with Jo to ask a few questions …
Q: What did you enjoy most about growing up on a farm?
A: Having the countryside as a playground. I was forever making dens, sketching down by the stream and scaling hay bales. There was always something to do even when the sun wasn’t shining.
Q: Do you think you’ll return to live in the country at some point?
A: I think that’s definitely on the cards although not for a couple of years. The when is a really tough call – I love the serenity of the countryside but know I would miss the hubbub of London life. My parents still have the farm in Shropshire and so I go back when I can.
Q: Did you have any pets when you were growing up?
A: Ham Farm was a menagerie of dogs, cats, rabbits, cows, donkeys and sheep. The pigs, Poppy and Primrose, were a pair of inseparable Gloucester Old Spots. I always remember taking them out for a walk on my own when they were little – madness but it seemed to make sense to an 8 year old at the time – not surprisingly they took off out the yard and careered straight through my father’s well groomed flowerbeds! Needless to say I didn’t take them out again on my own.
Q: How did you arrive at the decision to use farmyard animals in your designs?
A: As a youngster I was constantly drawing the characters and landscapes that surrounded me. Naturally living on a farm meant animals were often a subject. This interest stuck … and not surprisingly with the name Jo Ham pigs became a particular focus. At art school I started to play with scale and miniatures, building surreal scenarios using children’s toys and familiar settings. I also worked on capturing expression and personality with the simplest combination of lines and marks – a concept that now underpins HAM’s silhouette style.
Q: Why is it important to you that your products are made in Britain?
A: Growing up on a farm in the 90s I saw first-hand what happens when local industry and economies aren’t support. Thankfully attitudes towards British meat righted themselves after consumer confidence was knocked during the BSE and foot and mouth crisis with many rallying around to promote locally sourced food and champion its great quality. A movement began. There are huge parallels in manufacturing, and like food, I believe it’s really important to buy UK made because it supports British livelihoods as well as the traditional skills and processes that are such an important part of Britain’s history and cultural make-up.
Q: What are your 3 favourite things to do in East London?
A: I love going out in and around Spitalfields, there is a huge range of restaurants and bars. La Chappelle, Rosa’s and Poppies are a few faves. East London is brimming with artists, studios and galleries making it very easy to get a creative fix. The Wapping Project’s partnership with the Jerwood Foundation makes it a great arts space and they have an amazing restaurant. There is a great network of canals in London, all lined with historic architecture, beautiful house boats and kooky places to stop for a beer. I’m a particular fan of the stretch between Limehouse and King’s Cross.
Q: Which is your most popular design
A: Definitely Bouncing Rabbit. He’s rather aloof and so focused on what he’s doing. And you have to respect his trampolining skills.
Q: Do you have any new products or designs planned?
A: I’ve just launched my first collection of hand pulled screen prints along with three brand new designs; Cake Baking Pig, Diving Rabbit and Partying Pig. New mugs and teas towels will be added soon.
See below for a selection of HAM products which you can buy from www.hammade.com. To give you an idea of price points; Aprons £18, Tea Towels £9, Cards £2.75 each and Prints £28. Credits: Homegirl London, images courtesy of HAM, special thanks to Jo Robinson