Monday, 7 May 2012

Tell us a little about your creative life {interview} with Jo Olive

 Tell us a little about your creative life.

My creative life is full! It is all consuming and it is joyous. I get to be a creative parent, I get to collaborate with amazing people, I get to surround myself with paper and ink and  thread and I get to make books all day long. My creative life extends to my garden, the landscape that surrounds me and my community.

Where do you live and why?

I live in a divine rolly green land just past Uki in Northern NSW.  We moved here from inner city Melbourne 10 years ago and although we sometimes miss the energy of the city we have surely created a home here. We are nestled amongst world heritage rainforests in this area and love the freedom that comes from living here. We love the wildlife, the flora and the solitude. And we love the people.

What is it you make?

I make many things but my greatest love is making handmade books. I print also and fold paper and set up movable type for my letterpress andI take copious amounts of photos. My books are made in small-runs, limited editions and one-offs. They’re made from up-cycled, foraged and found materials plus fine printmaking and drawing papers.

Where did you learn these skills?

My first strong memories are of painting and drawing. Throughout my life, I’ve always been involved with some form of creating. My formal education includes a degree in Fine Art History from Melbourne Uni with a brief stint studying in New York. I went on to study Printmaking at Southern Cross Uni for a short time before I began teaching Visual Arts in the Riverina. But the best teachers have been the artists and makers that I surround myself with. As far as bookmaking is concerned I’m largely self-taught, although books are a natural progression for many printmakers. I am constantly learning by observing those who participate in the workshops I run with my friend and fellow artist Heather Matthew and I am routinely awestruck by watching my children at play.

Where do you find your inspiration?

Inspiration is endless. I’m never at a loss for what to create next. I find really small, fleeting things inspiring, a cloud, a bird call, a stone, lichen on a branch, fungi, a shadow or a word. Music and poetry and writing are constant sources of interest and ideas or philosophy have always been a part of my image making process. I’m inspired by the land, the colours I find there, the stories and the history. Memory is another theme that I always come back to. But when making books it may be as simple as responding to a found material and asking it what it wants to become.

What is your fondest childhood memory of making something?

One of my most vivid memories is of decorating envelopes with pressed flowers, glitter and paper collage and then sitting on the footpath outside my house trying to sell them. I sold two!

Do you find time to be creative every day?

I’m so fortunate to be able to dedicate a lot of time to making. Most days I do create and on those days that I can’t I try to be creative in other ways, through food, or in the garden or with the kids. Being creative keeps me sane so it’s in my interest to find the time!

When did you know you wanted to pursue a creative career?

I’ve always known I wanted to pursue a creative career. I’ve gone off on many tangents but have always come back to true north. After becoming a Mum I felt that it was time to commit to making but it has only been recently that I have had the time to pursue my           practice on a full-time basis.

Who is your creative hero?

I have so many. Shepherd Fairey, Swoon, bookmakers Jim Croft and Shanna Leino, Mike Parr, Eva Hesse, Kurt Schwitters, Joseph Cornell, Frida Kahlo, Albert Durer, Isamu Noguchi, Barbara Hepworth, Louise Bourgeois….and on it goes.

What would you love to learn to do within the next year or so? What creative skill / talent?

I really want to build up my repertoire of bookbinding techniques and I’m super keen to brush up on my very rusty screen-printing skills. But the big project is to master my Heidelberg Windmill Platen Letterpress. If there’s time I’m up for some upholstery lessons, playing with natural dyes and learning how to navigate InDesign.

Please share some of your favourite web wanderings.

Lately I’m loving:

The Hungry Workshop  a super Australian letterpress studio, check out the “Flannie” cards.

Photojojo for photography gadget geeks

New York Centre for Book Arts  awesome resource for bookmaking

Kate Benazi  bright and punchy Aussie printmaker

Shanna Leino books to die for.

Ms Browns Lounge the Lismore arts space run by the uber talented Joanna Kambourian and Darren Bryant.


  1. I love this so much Jo. Beautiful beautiful images. And good to learn a bit more about you.....

  2. ah - just found your comments ellie! really should check these more often. Thank you and yes, I'm also loving knowing more and more about our Hey Maker! ladies as we all go onwards xoxo jo