Jo Martin is an inspiration to any mum who dreams of setting up a creative business. Her wallpapers and personalised prints are completely beautiful and she manages to produce them while while her youngest son is at nursery and in the evenings after her children are in bed.
She’s even found time for a quick interview with us:
What inspired you to start Little Letter Studio?
My kids! I’ve always been creative and studied sculpture at art school. After having my first son, I really enjoyed the freedom of designing and painting images for him. It was a lot of fun.
I still applied the same creative and aesthetic rules that I’d learned at art school, but I relaxed about why I was making them (unlike when I was making art at art school).
Can you tell us a bit about it?
When friends saw the paintings that I’d made for my son, they asked me to create personalised paintings for their children, nieces and nephews. These commissions gave me the confidence to consider self-publishing my artwork as prints. Prior to having children, I’d worked in Art Publishing in London so I had experience of making giclée and fine art prints.
How difficult was it to launch your own business?
The most difficult thing for me was lack of time and accepting that it would take much longer to make things happen when working around my children’s schedules (I’ve only ever worked during nap times, evenings after bedtime, and now during nursery hours). I would set myself goals with realistic “working-around-a-baby” timescales and then just chip away at it.
What would you say is your USP?
Creating beautifully coloured children’s wallpapers and prints, with bags of fun details to fire up young imaginations.
How do you manage to fit it in with being a mum?
I work every morning while my youngest son is at nursery and during the evenings after bedtimes. School and nursery holidays are tricky. Trying to work while the children are around is impossible! It can be frustrating, but as my kids grow it’s getting a little more manageable.
Describe your nursery…
We’re redecorating our flat and my boys are moving into separate bedrooms, which gives me a blank canvas to work with.
I’m thinking feature walls using my Awesome Alphabet and Woodland Tales wallpapers and playing around with painting their existing furniture using the colours in the wallpapers. I’ll also hang picture ledges to display favourite prints and books. I’ve always wanted to install these but not had the space before.
I love that their book and picture displays will change and evolve as they discover new favourites and as I design new prints for them!
Have you come across any amazing baby kit on your travels that we should know about?
I absolutely love Wimmelbuchs, which I discovered while living in Switzerland.
They’re incredibly detailed picture books with few words. Each page has a scene with many different characters, all going about their daily activities.
When my sons were toddlers, we would spend a lot of time looking at Wimmelbuchs, playing “can you find…” or following the characters’ stories throughout the book. My favourite Wimmelbuch illustrator is Rotraut Susanne Berner.
What would be your advice to someone giving birth now?
Talk to friends who’ve already given birth so you hear first-hand experience of what to expect.
I gave birth to my boys in Switzerland and I wasn’t fluent in the local languages. Chatting to friends about what may happen (good and bad) really prepared me.
When I gave birth in the local hospital, I didn’t fully understand what the midwives were saying, but I generally knew what to expect!
Also, pack your hospital bag six weeks before your due date! My first son came three weeks early and after my contractions started, we were scrambling around in the attic at 4am looking for a suitcase!
Who is your inspiration?
Women who have an idea and chip away at it, no matter how long, until they realise their goal.
I read an interview with Judith Kerr, author of The Tiger who Came to Tea, and she described how long it had taken her to write and illustrate the images for it. She made up the story when her daughter was almost three but only started to turn it into a book when her children were at school, when she could work from 9-3.
Hearing this was hugely liberating for me and took the pressure off trying to do everything “now”.