We have a chat to Julie-Anne, the Saturday superstar shop girl about her time at Central Saint Martins, her inspiration for decorating our hives and how honey is a multi sensory experience.
Julie-Anne, what do you do at London Honey Co?
When a position for the shop came up through my best friend George who is a beekeeper at London Honey Company I jumped at the opportunity. I have been working in the Saturday shop in Spa Terminus for the past 3 years. I do honey tastings in all sorts of places from little neighbourhood delis to high-end food shops. It’s amazing the number of people you can meet in one morning but what I love most about the shop is all the little honey fans. A visit to the honey shop became a regular Saturday morning outing for some families.
Tell us a bit about your past and where you are now.
I studied Communication design at Central Saint Martins, following in the footsteps of Vivienne Westwood, that I for a very long time had admired the rebellious streak of. I found myself heading down the engineering route while studying. And I also found a home in the wood work shops but equally at my desk late at night putting together exploded diagrams of ideas, planning the manufacturing processes all the way down to the surface finish.
In my second year studying Communication design I specialised in Experience and Environment. This allowed me to apply my research and message to mediums that were slightly more unconventional than the traditional graphic designers preferred mediums. A favourite piece was a stairway installation I made for an exhibition at Two Temple Places about jazz music in Britain, which forced visitors to quite literally walk all over my work. I've also built sets for London Fashion Week, last summer I spent my time working in festival set design and this summer I am working more locally on commission based pieces.
When I’m not working, I’m usually exploring London through eating out, window shopping and visiting galleries. Whilst studying at Central Saint Martins, I realised a lot of my peers who I had studied in Shrewsbury where I’m from, didn’t always get the same opportunities to see the exhibitions open in the city. For a long time I made it my goal to visit as many as possible and archive the experience.
You designed some hives for us, can you talk us through the design/illustration you chose?
I grew up in a flower shop in Shrewsbury. I would sit down and draw out line drawings of flowers to photocopy for all my little school friends in reception to colour in while the teacher did the register. I seem to remember being quite hard working whilst I was in primary school, packing flowers with my dad for the grand sum of 50p after school. I was just happy to be able to buy my own sweets. (I’ve always had a sweet tooth, hence the honey)
The flowers in the designs came naturally, and it's the patterns that have started to develop more recently as a result of my graduate project "Break the Pattern." Being a young designer comes with a lot of pressure to find your "style" and it's not until you look at the bigger picture that you can see the pieces falling into place. Some spend years perfecting a style and others never stop developing.
Funnily enough bees were the inspiration. They are such logical, rhythmical animals. Last summer I read 'The Bees’ but Laline Paull which really changed the way I imagined the tiny, yet significant gestures of communication they use within the hive. Everything they do from building the cells to cleaning the comb is done with such care and attention to detail. I wanted to express how much routine and hard work goes into making honey for the bees and the beekeeper on the outside. In total I designed 58 patterned hexagons and then adorned flowers over the top.
Another inspiration was the chalk drawings that appeared on walls and pavements across the country during lock down. I am, however, a sketch-booker. I think a pen and paper would be the item of choice I’d take to a deserted island. Before every project I spend a lot of time mapping out, practicing and experimenting with colour combinations and references. It’s true that the more love you put into a surface the more you’ll get out. Never underestimate the time it takes to wash, sand and prime.. and then sand again.. and then paint… and then sand. Oh, and paint again.
Lastly, what’s your favourite honey?
What a question?! There is a perceptual phenomenon called Synesthesia, it’s a neurological condition in which information meant to stimulate one of your senses stimulates several of your senses. I learnt about it during a critique, when a girl in the year above me had made a telephone out of jelly as her final piece. It mixes over the senses, many creatives have it and the theory of it is what I apply to honey tasting.
Tasting real honey is an incredible moment. You can taste the notes in each jar. Experiencing landscapes and weather endured by thousands of bees. For example, the Kent Honey is a great one. Sometimes it’s a sunny September day as the morning dew glistens in the warm rays - it is sweet and light but crisp and autumnal. And sometimes it reminds me of a rebellious 12 year old on his way to school, kicking up the leaves as he goes wishing he could spend the day climbing trees and building dams rather than sitting at a desk. The Oxfordshire Honey, when it’s slightly darker, was the first honey that made me go ‘oooo’ at the end - it’s very unsuspecting. To customers in the shop, the only way I know to describe it is as ‘the girl that got away’ because you quite simply don’t know what you’ve got until it's gone.