27th April 2016 Shannon Kovacs

A Cup of Tea With…Drawberry Jam!

In case you missed it, this weekend the brilliant Jenna Thompson from Drawberry Jam took over our Instagram page for our #thortfulTakeover and shared snippets of her creative and personal life.

Whilst we cooed over her pretty cat and admired her illustrations, we wanted to delve further into Jenna’s creative mind and ask her a selection of pressing questions about her career.

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What’s the best thing about being an illustrator? 

You get paid… for drawing things. It’s amazing – I can’t believe I get away with it really. I think it’s so ingrained that most people don’t necessarily enjoy their jobs, and I’ve always felt that’s such a terrible shame because we spend such a huge amount of our time – our one life – doing them.
One of my favourite things is working with couples on their wedding stationery. It’s such a big deal for people because it’s their big day, so creating something special and beautiful is really important. I absolutely love coming up with bespoke illustrations that are really personal and unique to the couple, and hearing their reactions to the finished pieces is always lovely too.
Also, since becoming an illustrator I get to hang out with my cats pretty much all of the time.
Describe the hardest challenge you’ve faced in your illustrating career so far…
I’ve been freelance for six months, and I’d say the hardest challenge has been the insecurity of going from something with a regular steady income to something that constantly fluctuates. It’s a real lesson in getting yourself organised, as well as in so many other things – marketing yourself, finding work, doing your own accounts, the list goes on! But it was definitely the right decision. I feel much more self-disciplined.
How do you switch off?
Mostly by watching comedy, listening to music or going out for walks. I also spend quite a lot of time reading in the bath – I love Caitlin Moran’s books and I read most of her latest book ‘Moranifesto’ from the bathtub – book in one hand, wine in the other. Very rock’n’roll!
If you could’ve told your younger self one thing – what would it have been?

It would have been, ‘there’s no rush to go to university’. At 18 I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. After a year out I went to study English with creative writing – and for the most part I spent my lectures doodling all over the handouts. In the end I dropped out and went my own way, getting a job at a creative agency, but who knows what would have happened if I’d waited and chosen to study later. I think I’d be a much better student now.
Also – chill. Things will be fine.
Tell us one thing people would be surprised to know about you…

My favourite hobby is samba drumming! I play in a choreographed Brazilian samba-reggae troupe called Ilu Axé — it’s very loud and dangerously funky.
What’s the best tip you can give to aspiring illustrators?
Just believe you can do it. Honestly, I put off taking illustration seriously as an option for such a long time, I was so afraid of failing. I would always think ‘yes, that’s what I would like to do, really’, but I hugely doubted my ability to make a living from it. And it’s a career still very much in its formative stages, but it’s a great feeling to be working on projects I love and choose for myself.
Finally, what’s the best thing you can do in under 60 seconds? 
I was quite literally tested on this the other day when I was playing a game called Telestrations. It’s a ‘sketch, pass and guess’ game, a bit like Chinese whispers but with drawing, and for each sketch you only get 60 seconds. I think I managed a rather convincing drawing of ‘Gangs of New York’ with a gang in the foreground and the Statue of Liberty, skyscrapers, etc. in the background. Though saying that, I think the guess ended up being ‘Ninjas in New York’. Which is a film I would pay to see.
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Check out more of Drawberry Jam’s designs here.