Artist profile - Joanna Perry
- Credit: Pics; John Cocks
Joanna Perry, who lives in Smallwood, travels the UK bringing colour and life to walls in homes and businesses of all kinds.
Joanna Perry is a muralist and is building a very successful and satisfying career. We meet in her rural cottage home in Smallwood, near Congleton. A converted coach house, it has been completely restored for comfortable living by Joanna and her husband, who share the space with their 14-year-old son.
‘I have been painting on walls since I was 12-years-old,’ says Joanna, when I ask how she started in her current career. ‘I have always been able to do it. I can take an image and translate it to a large area, just by instinct and experience. People ask if I use a projector, but I honestly don’t know how I would!
‘I painted my bedroom wall, then my friends’ walls, but hadn’t considered it as a profession. I studied art at A-level and then on a Foundation Course. I chose to study surface pattern design at Staffordshire University and did two internships while on the programme, with Churchill pottery and Royal Doulton, before they sadly closed down.
‘My favourite thing to paint is foliage and flowers, both real and fantasy. My mentor at Churchill gave me the very best advice for when I started to seek work – create a portfolio that shows, in great detail, my drawing talents. This helped me find a job immediately after graduating, with a lighting company in Lancashire.
‘After this I moved into designing ties, for a company in Congleton – all repeat pattern work, but I needed to know and understand the manufacturing process too, of course. I became rather disillusioned with it all though, as the advent of design software rather took away the creativity part of it I loved most. I moved into other areas of the business, with stints in pretty much every department; I learned a great deal that has been of much use to me since I have set up for myself!’
It wasn’t until Joanna became a mother that she considered a return to a more creative career, however.
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‘When my son was born, I painted a mural on his nursery wall,’ she says. ‘I went back to work part time, but quickly realised I didn’t want to do a desk job any more. I set about offering my services doing voluntary murals locally – I did one at the local GP surgery and for various friends. It was a great way to build my experience and my portfolio and I honed my skills for four years before finally taking the plunge and resigning from my job and setting up full time self-employed. That was ten years ago and I haven’t looked back!’
I am curious about who commissions a mural, and how they go about it.
‘Oh, I have a very mixed clientele,’ says Joanna. ‘I get a lot of requests for nursery or children’s rooms, but lately I am being approached by a much older generation too – over 60s looking to be a bit more creative in their home.
‘I just completed a faux brick and plaster wall in a downstairs loo for one chap. When I showed my son, he announced he wanted this in his room too.
‘I had offered to paint something for him already, but his request for rows of guns on shelves wasn’t one I would agree to, so I was very happy with his desire for a cracked plaster wall! It was ironic though, as we’d just spent ages re-plastering all the walls, which had previously been very much like his painted wall is now.’
Joanna has also seen an increasing number of requests from dementia wards in hospitals and care homes.
‘There is a proven and recognised benefit to creating a much more personal, reminiscent environment in dementia wards,’ she says. ‘I just completed one whole floor of murals. Each corridor had its own theme – an apple orchard along one, for example and palm trees along another. This really helps with way-finding, helping residents learn their way around – much better than anonymous corridors and confusing numbering.
‘I did a different theme in each of the public rooms too, such as the 1960s flower power style wall in one room. I have just accepted a commission from another care home which is replacing stick-on vinyl murals with my hand-painted ones too, which will help with both their longevity and facility to have exactly what they want.
‘I am getting more briefs from offices too, such as a recent one from a company who wanted to reflect their business’ ethos in their décor and make the working environment more vibrant and energised for their staff.
‘I have worked for the RAF in Peterborough and went to Germany to do a whole school for the British Armed Forces there. I have done trampoline parks and play barns...the list goes on.
‘I think it’s the advent of things like Google image search and Pinterest that makes it easier for people to see something and be inspired, then contact me. They send me the dimensions of the space and either a description of what they want or some images. From these I can develop a quote and then, when it’s agreed, take it to a full design, which they get to see and amend or accept before we proceed.
‘Wall art is becoming more ‘mainstream’, I think. People see things they love and are inspired to reflect it in their own home.
‘A hand-painted mural can be more budget friendly than a designer wallpaper, which you could then come across in the loo of the newly opened bistro or bar in town. It’s also easier to work into a less than perfectly square or flat space.’
It’s a concept I love. I am often to be found drooling over the most expensive of wallpapers, but the thought of a totally unique, designed to meet my own wishes, hand-painted mural is really quite irresistible. u