Grinding The Bar
From Concrete to Canvas to Spine to Wobbly Eyes with Jo Waterhouse
When you meet Jo, or even read her book, you realise that she’s devoted her whole life to art, skateboarding and those who do both. A few years ago when she developed Crohn’s disease, she had to give up her day job and unfortunately her boarding. However, she was determined to do something which kept her mentally active and she set about establishing a website which combined the two passions.
“I basically did all the content for it – tracked down artists, did interviews, did reviews and ‘what not’ on those two subjects: skateboarding and art. It was from there that I was looking at other books and thought, ‘wouldn’t it be really good if there was one book about artists who were skateboarders?’ I had a contact with Laurence King whose books I was reviewing anyway. They said ‘Do some sample spreads, summary of content etc.’ Also, I had work on the website which backed-up that I knew what I was talking about.”
Laurence King gave the green light and Concrete To Canvas came out to muted reviews from the skate industry – but had a sensational reaction from the general public.
“The majority who have picked up the book have liked what they’ve seen. It was in Amazon’s 1000 best sellers list at Christmas, which was amazing!”
It’s gone so well in fact that Laurence King are falling over themselves to get Jo to write other books. She’s stuck to what she knows, and next Autumn Concrete To Canvas 2, hits the streets.
“They asked me if I wanted a bigger format or more expensive paper but I want to keep it the same. The book was aimed at a really wide audience which included students and artists. Some design books can be about £25-£30, it was just £12.95.”
After the writing deadline for the book is out of the way this December, she and her boyfriend (Chris Bourke from The Outcrowd) will launch Ours – housed in Chris’s skate shop, Spine in
“It’s a nice way of getting your own doodles and designs out there. We’ll do T-shirts, badges, stickers, little bags – whatever we think of really. The tagline: ‘It’s not much but it’s ours’ is about us carving out something for ourselves. We also want to do the catalogue as a zine and include artists. Coupled with that, we’re doing a wall of Chris’s shop; which is going to be the world’s smallest independent gallery!”
If you look around Spine, you’ll also notice that everything from the PIN machine to the holes in the walls, has wobbly eyes above them. I ask Jo about them and her own eyes light up…
“I’ve just got into the habit of sticking eyes above holes for my own amusement. Loads of people were telling me it was funny and then some artist friends suggested I do something with it. I’ve sent an e-mail to artists across the world and I’m getting them to send in photographs. I was thinking of doing an exhibition and calling it ‘objects are people too!’ I mentioned it to Laurence King and they just went ‘What?’ I’m just going to collect the photos and see what happens.”
Jo Waterhouse is a true artist of modern times; promoting and pushing other artists but also living life as an artist herself. As I leave, she hands me some wobbly eyes. I take them with me and as I’m writing this I put them on my jukebox in my lounge. I hope she uses it in her exhibition…