Clara Jonas is part of a rising crop of creatives coming out of Cornwall.
Her illustrations first caught our eye during a phone scrolling session a few years back, and we’ve been fans of her work ever since. Like many of the south west’s talented designers and illustrators, her work draws heavily on the elements and activities that see so many fellow creatives settling here, and those that have convinced Clara to stay.
We dig her work so much in fact, that we recently collaborated with her on some WLCR t-shirt designs, which you can peruse and purchase here.
We recently caught up with her to find out more about her background, her creative process and her plans for the future.
Tell me a bit about yourself and where you grew up?
I was born in Dorset, but my Mum took me and my other siblings down to Cornwall when I was eleven, where we settled in Boscastle. North Cornwall was definitely a change of pace, and has shaped a lot of my attitudes I think, I’m still not quite sure how yet. Ours was a bit of a creative household, and my Mum encouraged us all in our pursuits.
As a child there was a lot of emphasis on encouraging curiosity and questioning, with lots of outdoor time and a healthy disrespect for the status quo. We had no TV for years, and I think small things like that have had an impact on me and my outlook today. At the moment I seem to be studying graphic design at Falmouth University, which hopefully will put me in good stead for the world of design and industry. I will let you know how that goes.
People outside of Cornwall still think it’s a bit of a dead zone for art, design and culture, are they right?
I wouldn’t be able to give a totally rounded opinion since I have never lived out of the South West, but there is no way it is a dead zone down here. Although there is maybe not as much variety within the art and design scene as elsewhere, Cornwall definitely has its own genre of creativity, which I think is probably quite different to a lot of places. It seems like every other week there is a new shop or business opening up with an Instagram-friendly interior and a creative individual at the helm, armed with some ideals of lifestyle and community.
I feel people set up their new ventures in Cornwall because they want that slower lifestyle beyond work, and a more communal environment, which is pretty tight down here, especially among the seafaring surfer folk; everyone seems to have a friend who knows a friend. Although obviously the links with elsewhere are pretty important down here to keep things vibrant and changing. I still feel Cornwall is scratching a mark out for itself on the creative map.
Obviously a lot of the art, design, culture etc is centred around the environment we find ourselves in, which isn’t an urban, hectic landscape at all, so I would say that a lot of the projects people are pursuing do resonate with the outdoors, and a slower, less materially motivated way of life. Dare I say it, I maybe think that’s the way life in general should be going. However, I’m writing this on a train to London, to get my cultural fix.
Are you planning to stay after uni?
I love it down here- however suffocating it can sometimes be-the lifestyle is good, the place is beautiful, and the majority of people are pretty nice. However, I am definitely getting itchy feet for elsewhere, and I need to broaden my horizons massively, or I think there is always the danger of small pond mentality.
I need to see some bigger places, and get some different ideas from different people, instead of existing in a comfortable sphere. I’m still not quite sure where, what or why I have that in mind, but I am hoping that some opportunities will present themselves that feel like the right thing to do.
I think challenging yourself and your creativity is the only way to develop your work, and I’ve got a long way to go. But I guess that is part of the fun, and I’ve got time to fill.
Tell me about your creative process?
A lot of my work starts as a reaction to a witty or poetic phrase or lyric, and perhaps is a visual manifestation of that. I initially explored illustration in terms of graphic design, hence the presence of typography or lettering in a lot of my images. Balance is something I feel very drawn to, and I love the freedom of digital editing to make use of white space and see how elements interact with each other; again very graphical principles.
Lifestyle and cliches are things I like to explore and convey, and things usually start with a central figure surrounded by ‘props’ which together (hopefully), create an ambiance or evoke a sense of place or character. However, I’m very aware that a lot of the stuff I do is pretty cryptic but also aesthetically shallow, devoid of purpose, which I guess I kind of like.
I guess on one level I’m kind of working with quite a sarcastic and cynical tone, but I’m probably giving meaning here where this isn’t much to be honest. How post-modern of me. If something looks cool I like it.
Who inspires your work?
I think my love affair with design and illustration probably started with being shown a video of Gemma O’Brien, an incredible Australian typographer, letterer and illustrator, and just how cool, collected and creative she was.
It really struck a chord, and I spent ages trying to refine my lettering skills and create work that looked half as good as hers. I love how much character and confidence expressive calligraphy can give combined with a clever phrase and that is something I’ve tried to express a lot.
On top of that, contemporary and minimal tattoo design has always been a big inspiration, particularly in the balancing of black and white, and the counter-cultural roots that run parallel with the style.
What have you been working on recently?
Well, I recently did a range of t-shirt designs for you guys at Wavelength, which are now available in your online shop! Aside from that I have been quite inundated at uni with work. I must admit it’s been a massive stress juggling the paid-for stuff with the ‘to tick the boxes’ stuff. The chance to play around and create some new work has been given by becoming involved with and represented by ‘North Coast Asylum’.
They are a new online gallery dedicated to promoting contemporary art and photography, and will also have a physical premises opening in Newquay, so the support there to create new work, with no limits has been amazing.
I hope to have lots more prints with them soon! I’ve also been doing some editorial illustration work which has been enjoyable, and there are a couple of other exciting collaborations in the pipeline with some inspiring brands, but I could just be saying that to sound interesting.
Check out our collaborative clothing range, featuring some of Clara’s beautiful designs, here.
Click the images to enlarge and scroll.
Check out more of Clara’s work on her instagram @claramjonas
This article originally appeared in Wavelength 253, grab a copy here or subscribe to never miss an issue.
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