When we set our little shop up we looked for people to advertise their wares in it who, we felt, had the same sort of ethos as we do – a small business with ethical undertones and one of the ones we approached was Cowes based Seagrass Designs owned by designer Jo Thearle. And we love to hear how people got started, why they do what they do and how and so we had a little chat with Jo to find out about her passion for chocolate eclairs, why Basil Brush would be one of her fantasy dinner party guests and her dreams of walking the South West coast path…
I grew up in beautiful South Devon but spent most of my adult life in Bath and here on the Isle of Wight. During a work sabbatical in 1995, I was fortunate to take an incredible trip to the Bahamas where I studied the language and behaviour of Atlantic spotted dolphins. This fuelled a life-long passion for the sea and I learnt to scuba dive in Gozo, Malta, which subsequently lead to running the office at a British owned diving school in Hurghada, Egypt. I moved to the Isle of Wight in 2002 when I married Isle of Wight Photographer Steve Thearle. Steve recognised my talent for photography and encouraged me to convert some of my vast collection of coastal photographs into cards and prints, which I initially sold from my coastal homewares shop in Cowes, The Beach House. In 2013 I started my little business – Seagrass Designs. I initially sold my work as photographic cards and prints, and then taught myself to draw graphic designs on my computer. I work from my dining table at home and my work is sold online and in fabulous shops and galleries, predominantly in coastal areas of the UK. The stunning coastlines of the Isle of Wight, Devon, and Cornwall, have been my greatest inspiration and I’m rarely happier than when I spend time at the beach with family and friends.
Who is your favourite photographer / designer and why? I particularly admire documentary photography as it represents a natural and accurate portrayal of people, places, and events, – noteably the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Doisneau.
If you could have any piece of art what would it be – cost irrelevant? That’s a tricky one, there are so many! I love the coastline canvases painted by Cornish artist Alex Morton. I dream of having one of his vast paintings dominating a wall. One day! I also adore printmaker Angie Lewin’s intricate work, which is inspired by the clifftops and saltmarshes of the North Norfolk coast and Scottish Highlands.
If you could give your younger self some advice what would it be? Follow your own path, and don’t compare yourself to others. It can inhibit confidence, individuality and creativity.
Advice for budding photographers and designers: Don’t be afraid to get down low and up high! Different angles on a subject can be fascinating. Never stop observing, listening, learning and, most importantly, enjoy your creative journey.
And a few randoms…
What I’m reading at the moment: Shamefully, I rarely get stuck into a book. Instead I tend to binge-read poetry before falling asleep, particularly Rupi Kaur, Pablo Neruda, and Mary Oliver. My sister gave me one of her delightful books for Christmas – ‘Dog songs’ (did I mention I love dogs?!).
The book I should have read but didn’t: I’ve been meaning to read the life-affirming ‘The Salt Path’ by Raynor Winn. A true story of Raynor and her terminally ill husband Moth who walk 630 miles of South West coast path. I’m sure it’ll be a harrowing read at times, but I have dreamt of walking the South West coast path for many years. Unlike Raynor and Moth however, I intend to travel with my labradoodle Henry and a cosy campervan rather than bravely sleeping wild with just the bare essentials!
The last film I watched: Penguin Bloom. The true story of how a pet magpie, ‘Penguin’, brought inspiration and hope and joy to a family in the midst of a crisis. Having followed the story on Instagram, I bought the book a few years ago which contains beautiful photography by Cameron Bloom.
Guilty pleasures: Chocolate eclairs!
Music that makes me feel happy: ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’ by Gabriela Bee never fails launch me into a little jig. I first stumbled upon the video while I was in hospital recovering from a horse-riding accident in 2019, and would watch it whenever I felt low. It still makes me smile.
Fantasy dinner party guests: David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg for their environmental passion. Maya Angelou for her poetry and insight. Stephen Fry, Billy Connolly, Bob Mortimer and Basil Brush for their humour. Judi Dench because she seems so genuine and feisty. And finally Mick Jagger and Russell Brand to add an element of controversy. Oh and I’d also need Nigella Lawson for her culinary skills and hilarious innuendos – I’m a hopeless cook!
Four things to take to a desert island: A hammock – a good night’s sleep is imperative. A boat in case I change my mind! – I don’t like to be stuck in situations I can’t escape from. An endless supply of chocolate eclairs, and of course a smartphone (I know.. sorry).
Three wishes for 2021: Just one… For this dreadful pandemic to be over so that we can begin to rebuild our lives, hopefully with a renewed appreciation for life and each other.
You can find me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/seagrassdesigns/
And Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/seagrassdesigns/
My web site is : https://www.seagrassdesigns.co.uk/