Sustainability in Art with Graphic Jod
Jodie Macpherson (she/her) is a Glasgow based artist who creates vibrant, fun and quirky illustrations via Procreate. She has recently launched her online store where she sells eco-friendly prints of her artwork. I spoke to her about the importance of sustainability in art and how it impacts her own work.
When did you get into art?
I’ve basically always been interested in art, for as long as I can remember. It was always something I did for fun when I was younger and then went on to become more of a passion in Secondary School. It was kind of inevitable for me, from then on, that art was something I wanted to do with my life, for the rest of my life.
However, due to the a lot of the unfortunate negative stigma that surrounds studying a purely creative subject at uni, I ended up going on to study Architecture. And, despite studying at the Glasgow School of Art, there really wasn’t much “art” involved.
It wasn’t until I graduated in the summer (2020) and found myself furloughed from my job, due to the pandemic, with loads of free time in my hands that I really got back into art and drawing, and ended up starting Graphic Jod.
When and why did you start looking into making your artwork more sustainable?
As soon as I decided to start selling my work, it was kind of a no-brainer to me that everything I did, from production to packaging, had to be sustainable. I try to be as eco-conscious as possible in other parts of my life, so it just made sense that my art should be the same.
Before I started selling prints, most of my experience with tangible art was through the form of crafting and upcycling, so I did a lot of research on how best to go about creating something new from scratch with minimal environmental impact: like what papers to use, environmentally friendly print companies, plastic free packaging and carbon neutral shipping.
What makes your art eco-friendly?
Like I said, I try to make my art as eco-friendly as possible, from the production of prints right to the packaging and shipping. I draw most of my illustrations digitally, so I don’t really have to worry about any waste in that sense.
All of my printed products like prints and cards, as well as any stickers I use in my packaging are printed on 100% recycled paper.
I print my art with a company called Print.Work who are based in Leeds. When researching print companies it was important for me to find a balance between staying local, finding a company whose ethos completely aligned with my own, and being able to print on recycled materials while still receiving a really high quality end product.
A lot of larger print companies that I came across do offer a recycled paper option but with far less variety than the other papers they stock, for me I wanted something a little thicker than the 190gsm most of these companies were offering. All of Print.Work’s house paper stocks are 100% recycled and uncoated, FSC certified, made from 100% post-consumer waste and come in a range of thicknesses all the way up to 350gsm. The inks they use are also partly made from organic biomass and contain no animal products, plus they ship all orders completely plastic free. So, they were a no brainer for me. (I’m not in any way affiliated with them, I just really love them.)
As for packaging, everything I use is either 100% recyclable or compostable. I send out all orders in paper tubes or envelopes. Usually brown craft paper is the standard for these, which is great since unbleached papers are also better for the environment! For smaller items I use glassine bags, which are a type of grease and water resistant paper, and for larger prints I use a type of biodegradable and compostable cello bag made from corn-starch. I think if I didn’t live in the UK I would ditch the cello all together and go 100% paper, but I just really don’t have any trust in Scottish weather to not soak through everything I put out. For any items that need sealed I use washi tape which is a fully biodegradable sticky tape made from natural fibres like hemp or bamboo, and it comes in loads of fun colours and patterns, which is definitely the best bit.
Lastly, I sell my art through Etsy who just so happen to offset carbon emissions for all deliveries, making shipping carbon neutral!
What advice would you give to other artists trying to make their art more sustainable?
I think my biggest advice would just be to be conscious. Be conscious of the materials you use and the methods you use to produce your work. I am speaking purely from my experience as an illustrator selling prints, but I think that the same type of ethos can be adopted by almost all art forms. Like, re-use where you can, up-cycle where you can, avoid plastic where you can and over all, just make sustainable choices when you can.
For example, I’ve seen a couple of independent artists recently who are having their designs printed or embroidered onto second-hand or vintage t-shirts and jumpers instead of new products, which I think is really cool. Not only does it save those items from landfill and reduce the demand for new products, it also makes each item a little more unique and individual and gives that artist a really cool unique selling point.
I do think most of my advice applies to artists who want to, or already do, sell their work though. Since people who buy art will usually keep that piece for a long time, the art itself isn’t the biggest problem, but the packaging and production that come along with it. Like I said, just be conscious. For example, if you already have a company that you love to print with, check to see if they have more sustainable base products available, such as recycled paper stocks, or recycled/organic garments. Most companies do. Or if you have specific materials that you like to create art with, again just look for more sustainable versions.
Do you see sustainability becoming more of an issue in the art world?
I think yes, in a positive way. Especially with the emergence of this new generation of millennial and gen-z creatives (and the generations to follow). The issues of sustainability and climate change are only gaining popularity, and have had a massive worldwide boom over the last couple of years. So I think that being part of a generation who have been far more exposed to sustainability issues and eco-friendly lifestyles means that a lot of young creatives are now entering their practice already with sustainability at the forefront of their values, which means not only making sustainable material choices, but also making more art which surrounds, and raises awareness for these things.
Not only this, but the rise in awareness and popularity of sustainability issues now means that eco-friendly alternatives are far more developed, readily available and widely offered than they have ever been. Like I said, most big companies now offer at least one eco-friendly option, meaning that choosing to be sustainable doesn’t even require any extra effort. Plus, the craft and market for upcycled art has really been having a moment over the past few years, and especially this past year during lockdown, and I don’t really see that going away any time soon, which is great.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Aye, please sponsor me Print.Work haha.
Head over to graphicjod.com to see more of Jodie’s work and get your hands on some sustainable prints!