We caught up with surfer, illustrator and designer of our amazing new bag Clara Jonas…
How did you first get into illustration and graphic design?
I guess I come from a pretty creative family, and have always been encouraged by my Mum to question things, be curious, get outside etc. A wider appreciation of creating and art, eventually filtered down through college and uni to become something along the lines of illustration and graphic design.
I discovered a passion for hand lettering in college, which lead to some lettering commissions, and then my illustration kind of sprung out of that. There were a few styles of illustration I really loved, and found a lot of inspiration in the things I love doing, the people I would see, clever lyrics or words. I like to imagine the characters behind these phrases, and the elements that could balance them out for a piece- with a generous handful of cryptic ambiguity (I am not so sure what the pieces are really saying half the time – but that is the fun). I love bringing over design principles such as composition and balance to illustration, and bringing over the freedom and texture of illustration to design.
What were you inspired by for the Surf Sistas bag?
I think the idea of playfulness and elegance were quite strong here. For so many people-women especially-surfing and the scene surrounding it can be pretty intimidating and there is a lot of ego surrounding the pursuit. However I think the approach from groups like Surf Sistas is far more gentle and about enjoyment. Surfing, in particular long boarding, for so many is a really incredible expression of rhythm and unity with something big and blue that isn’t a 9 till 5 grind, or an iPhone screen – I wanted to convey this feeling, and the influence of beautiful surroundings. Of course, I threw a palm tree in there, not very original I’m afraid, but they always go down well. The bird as well I felt resonated with the elegance and femininity of the surfers.
You do a lot of surf-inspired art – what is it about surfing that inspires you?
A lot of what I mentioned above really. I think it’s a great way of bringing balance to 21st century life, which for so many can be stressful, pressured and full of comparison and expectation. We are surrounded by so much external stimulus it feels almost impossible sometimes to switch your mind off. Personally I think this correlates with people having less time outside and ‘connecting’, as cliche as that sounds.
Surfing, if you cultivate a healthy and mindful attitude around it, is an amazing way of grounding yourself, letting your mind switch off while you get into your body and trust what it can do. For me, drawing pictures of people doing funky things on surfboards looking a bit cool, seems to scratch an itch, and if I can make money off it even better!
Also I think, surfing and the sea is a bit of a catalyst for creativity and alternative thinking, with so many wanting to cultivate inspiring and sustainable lives around it. The places it can take you, and the people you can meet expand you and keep you learning more about yourself and the world-which is all pretty cool. Haha, apologies for going a bit guru on you, I tend to go off on tangents!
What first got you into surfing and where did you first learn to surf?
Moving down to North Cornwall from Dorset when I was 11; I had no concept of surfing even being a thing. It ended up with me going along to a surf club with school on a Wednesday evening all through secondary. Surfing was cool, the lifestyle was cool, and I’m still pretty keen – not cool yet though, working on that! Not that I really got any better at surfing over those years, but I hope that’s not the point ha. I ended up working at the surf school in Polzeath that had taught me for a few years which lead to some super fun summers and a permanently sun damaged face (trying to be more careful now!)
Where’s your favourite place to surf now?
When I made the gigantic move all the way from Truro College, Cornwall to Falmouth University, Cornwall, England (definitely didn’t do the whole far away from home uni experience) it did open up heaps more options in terms of places to go. By no means an über hardcore or intrepid surfer, I did manage to explore some different spots and go down a couple of bumpy lanes. For me, when its a nice, clean, shoulder high (if that), with a bit of sunshine and no wind it would probably be Gwithian, West Cornwall, the choice of a lot people actually ahah.
We love the jungle influence in your work, where would you love to travel next?
Haha for all my tropical plant illustrations I haven’t done as much jetting off as I would like to due to being in education for what feels like forever. I did almost lose a leg in Sri Lanka though… but that’s another story. In terms of places I would like to go next I think a big one is Costa Rica! From everyone I have heard such incredible things about the waves, the people and incredible surroundings. Also the country’s dedication to renewable energy I think is amazing and other country’s could learn a lot from.
Who or what else inspires you?
One of my biggest inspirations is Gemma O’Brien, an Australian typographer, calligrapher, illustrator who produces the most beautiful and inspiring work across so many diverse platforms and media. I am such a fan. Surfer wise I love the creative, long boarding lot, unsurprisingly, of which there are too many to name!
Beyond people, a rich source of inspiration for me is mythology and folk culture. I love folk tales, myths, legends, symbolism, gods and goddesses from cultures all across the world, and will often try to find a way to weave an aspect of that in to my work. I think it gives some additional depth, and can really open up a whole spectrum of imagery and inspiration that can make work richer visually, as well as adding a tinge of fantasy or cryptic to quite a modern style.
Beyond that, in nature I love tropical plants and leaves, and almost always you can see a leafy silhouette somewhere in my illustrations. I think they soften things, and provide a balance to the person taking the centre. Inspiration mostly will start with a clever, cryptic or beautiful phrase or lyric that I try to manifest visually in a way that compliments the mood or the phrase.
What’s an average day like for you?
Haha at the moment I am not sure! I’ve just moved to Melbourne, Australia on a study abroad scheme for a few months and am yet to pin down my routine. Previously, at home in Cornwall I would love to say that I surf everyday at the crack of dawn, but life doesn’t quite work out like that. Some fresh air would definitely feature in there somewhere if not a surf be that a walk or a run, just to break up the screen time – of which there can be a lot. I try to work in three hour bursts, broken up with fresh air or decent food. I am still trying to make sure I factor in time for my own work outside freelance, I have so many personal projects I want to pursue and push!
Thanks Clara, where can people see more of your work?
Instagram at the moment is my main platform, it keeps things vibrant and informal – @claramjonas. I’m also knocking around on Facebook at Clara Jonas Lettering & Design. And there is an online portfolio too – albeit a portfolio in need of a serious update!
Love the bag?
Come along on any Surf Sistas trip to get your hands on one!