Friday, October 30, 2009

Interview - Liz Jones (aka Betty Jo!)

Betty Jo's latest range, inspired by Art Deco! Beautiful.

Colour collage by Liz Jones

Now there are many super talented crafters in Melbourne... and so many beautiful hand-crafted goods being made and sold in our lovely town. But it's not often you see something utterly unique - like these FABULOUS pieces by Liz Jones (aka Betty Jo)!

Liz makes her fantastic jewellery, accessories and clocks from salvaged vintage lino! Genius. Each piece is also embellished with carefully selected vintage details... buttons, buckles and beads - making each Betty Jo piece entirely one-of-a-kind! Liz has such an incredible way with colour... the way she composes each quirky character with layers of colour and pattern is truly inspired. And how about her Colour Collages?? Stunning! It's no surprise Betty Jo was spotted by UK fashion giant Paul Smith a couple of years back, and ordered for their London and Paris stores! How cool is that!? What a great feat for a local Melbourne crafter (and one-woman business!).

In addition to creating her fabulous designs, Liz Jones has a fantastic and very entertaining blog, and her photos on Flickr are so gorgeous, you must take a look! You can buy Betty Jo Designs at lots of local and online places listed here.

Read on for an insight into Liz's creative inspiration - and her finely attuned vintage lino radar!

Tell me a little about your background – what path led you to what you’re doing now?

I began my working life as an Art and Craft teacher in Melbourne, but moved into jewellery design when I needed a change. I relocated to Sydney for six years and worked in two Jewellery studios, co-managed a jewellery supplies shop, worked as an artist in residence and always made my own range of jewellery that I sold in shops or at markets around Sydney.

When I moved back to Melbourne, I tried teaching again, but the concept of working for myself and starting a business was brewing in my mind. I quit teaching for good in 2005 and since then have been working on building up Betty Jo Designs into the happy little operation it is now.

What have been some of your favourite pieces or creative projects?

I loved having that light globe moment when I created my first lino cuckoo clock.

It was exhibited at Craft Victoria, and then found a lovely home with a reader of my blog. Since then I have custom made many clocks and still enjoy creating special customer orders.

I am also having heaps of fun playing around with my new camera creating my Colour Collages. I plan on printing some up as cards in the near future.

How did Paul Smith find you!? Is he still stocking your pieces, and has this lead to any other international stockists, fame and fortune??

In 2007 the free fashion magazine “Attitude” did a little story on Betty Jo Designs. Paul Smith’s “Buyer” was in Australia at the time and saw the article. He contacted me and then the company made a big order for their London and Paris stores. My pieces were well received and totally sold out! As is the nature of this company they rotate their indie designers each year to add variety, so alas no more orders as yet!

As for Fame and Fortune, I don’t know if this little Cottage industry with a staff of one (me) is quite ready to expand into a larger format. I like to keep it small and personal, and this would be lost if the business turned into a production line of sorts.

As it is, I find it challenging to keep up with the large number of orders for my Australian (and NZ) stockists and customers.

A lot of independent designer/makers say they struggle with the ‘business’ side of things – how do you structure your business to ensure all the boring sales/office tasks/marketing and PR gets done?

I was lucky enough to join the agency Ambiguous Horse in the early days of Betty Jo Designs. It helped me secure numerous interstate and NZ stockists, took care of the online ordering system, organised some PR, participated in trade shows and generally kick-started things along.

On the home front, I deal with all my Victorian stockists, organise the accounts and keep on top of the paperwork at Tax time.
There's a lot to do to keep the ball rolling in a micro business like mine, so at times it can feel like your juggling six balls in the air.

Where do you turn for creative inspiration – nature, travel, books, magazines or the web etc?

I try to surround myself with Inspiration. In fact my studio, and house for that matter, is pretty full of kitsch, cute and colourful vintage knickknacks, old toys and children’s books. Jolly Enid Blytons, Classic Golden books and any beautifully illustrated picture books, no matter how preloved.

I am also continually blown away by all the talented artists and crafts people in this City. You can’t help being inspired by their originality and innovation. If they work with re-cycled, repurposed materials, even better!

When it comes to creating my work I find the most inspiration comes from the materials I work with. The gorgeous retro prints and patterns on vintage Lino and Laminex, the lolly shop colours of Bakelite buttons, and the Nana inspired fancywork in pretty op shopped doilies.

Brooch Collective

Which designers, artists or creative people do you admire?

Illustrator Madeleine Stamer of Little Circus Design

Her work is utterly delightful as is she. I’m lucky enough to own two of her sweet prints (which I traded for some Betty Jo pieces.) Madeleine has also designed the CD cover art and merchandise for our friends The Blackeyed Susans retrospective Box set. Beautiful bird inspired artwork for one of my favourite bands (but I’m biased!)

Jeweller Liana Kabel of Plastic Girl

A Jeweller after my own heart. She repurposes domestic items such as knitting needles and Tupperware. I own a nice selection of her work and admire her ever evolving style and business acumen.

Fashion Designer and Printmaker Hannah Kopacz of Made with love by Hannah.

L.A. based Hannah makes beautiful folkloric inspired skirts, dresses and more. I own four of Hannah’s skirts (swaps again) and am always coveting more. Her eye for colour and whimsy is second to none. And she has the best collection of cuckoo clocks I have ever seen.

Sculptor-Rosalie Gascoigne.

I was lucky enough to see the retrospective of her work at Ian Potter gallery. I am often asked if I have seen her linoleum collages and installations. Once I mentioned to a woman I feel like I am channeling Rosalie at times as she is such an inspiration. It was sort of a joke, but would you believe it , the woman was into psychic stuff and took me very seriously....Na Na Na Na (Twilight Zone theme music) .

What would be your dream creative project?

I would love to create an installation of a child sized room where every thing is made from vintage Lino. The cushions, cutlery, ornaments, every thing. This would be all financed with the imaginary grant money I dream of (or Tattslotto if I bothered to enter).

What are you looking forward to?

I am planning to start having market stalls in the New Year. It will be nice to meet some of my customers in person. It sometimes gets isolating when you work in your studio all day and only deal with people online.

Melbourne Questions -

Where do you shop for the materials and tools of your trade?

My main material is recycled vintage Linoleum. Not something you can just pick up at the local craft store. I mostly come across it by chance, but these days I have a very fine tuned lino radar and seem to find it regularly. I mainly source it from Council hard rubbish collections, junk shops and The Darebin Tip recycling Centre “Outlook”.

Lately I have been given big piles of forties and fifties lino from friends who are renovating and polishing their floor boards.
Since I have started my blog and spread the word about my hunt for vintage lino, I have had donations from all over the country, often arriving as pieces in parcels and post packs. I always repay the sender with a piece of Betty Jo Jewellery (or some monetary repayment if they prefer!).

I scour op shops for old buttons, buckles and embroidered doilies (which I chop up) and regularly check out markets, garage sales and school fetes.

I buy my findings from The Bead Company in Smith St. Collingwood, and
glue, tools and hardware from BIG Bad Bunnings. (I’m sure they pipe subliminal messages over the PA system at Bunnings to make customers stay and buy more hardware.)

What/where was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?

We eat Vietnamese regularly, and as always, find you can’t go past Coconut Palms in Smith St. Collingwood. The Salt and Pepper Squid is rather fabulous.

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

A typical Saturday morning would usually involve a bit of mooching about, coffee, reading the papers, getting jobs done like mowing the lawn, or my least favourite, housework! That said, if there was proper motivation, I’d be out and about at a local fete or market, riding my bike, or having the decadent blackberry French toast for brunch at my local cafe Pearl Oyster…. if it’s not too crowded (it’s usually chocka block on the weekend, best go on a weekday!)

Melbourne’s best kept secret?

This place isn’t really a secret on a balmy summer evening, but The Gelobar in Lygon St East Brunswick has the best gelato in town.

Whoops! Why did I just tell every one about this place? It’s kinda crazy at the best of times.

Snow Scene


  1. Fabulous interview. I enjoyed it immensely.

  2. Morning Lucy & Liz,
    OMG i almost did back flips when i saw my name mentioned by the legendary Ms Betty Jo! Shivers, my daily read turned into the best surprise ever (thanx, thanx, thanx! Trying not to sound sucky, Liz truly is such an unique artist and mother extraordinaire! I urge everyone to buy her beautiful jewelry and I can guarantee you'll be stopped on the street by constant admirers and please save your old lino for her. She's an environmentalist princess.

  3. Great interview Lucy! I have loved 'Betty Jo' pieces for some time now, and am so excited that we will soon be selling them in my store here in NZ. So good to know a little more about Liz herself.

  4. aww how wonderful to hear more about Liz, really lovely :)

  5. I really love Liz's creations... everything about Betty Jo is so unique, and so sweet - great interview, Lucy & Liz!

  6. This work is simply beautiful!

  7. I am a big fan of Betty Jo designs since I met Liz at the Melbourne Stitches and Craft Show this year. I can't wait for my custom-made Cuckoo clock that I have ordered for myself for Christmas!

  8. I am a big fan of Betty Jo designs since I met Liz at the Melbourne Stitches and Craft Show this year. I can't wait for my custom-made Cuckoo clock that I have ordered for myself for Christmas!

  9. Wow! So creative. What a great idea. Very inspirational. I think Liz's work would look super duper cool as a board book for babies.

  10. this is great, i love those colour collages!!

  11. Fantastic creations, I just love these little owls!

  12. what fabulous paper in those collages.