Posted on June 04 2021
Our third instalment of Small Business Features is here! Continuing our theme of celebrating creativity, we're having a chat with Small Business Owner, Jon Turner.
⭐️ We love your work, but would love to know more about you. Tell us all there is to know about you and your business?
Thanks! I’m Jon Turner, I live in Manchester, and I’m an artist/illustrator/amiable weirdo. I work from a terminally messy, junk-filled studio in a largely analogue style, using pen and ink to create strange and spooky artwork with a melancholy feel. I also enjoy drawing sad robots, and help run XS Malarkey, one of the UK’s longest-running comedy nights.
⭐️ What inspires your illustrations?
Style-wise I’m very influenced by Victorian/Edwardian illustration and classic printmaking techniques, but I think I draw influences from everywhere. Some things that influence me include: old libraries, getting lost, trees, vintage sci-fi, street art, queer culture, weird high-fantasy book covers, retro videogames, 60s psychedelia, cheese, gothic architecture, mushroom hunting, surreal comedy, and Kate Bush.
⭐️ What is a product you haven’t made yet but would love to sometime in the future?
Until recently my immediate answer would be “a book”, but I actually achieved that last year (and hopefully it’ll be the first of many). I love wearing weird button-up shirts, so at some point I’d really love to design a fabric and make one of those, even if it ends up being just me wearing it. And I’d really love to turn some of my characters into toys at some point… Basically whenever I see a thing I think “ooh I want to make that”, and usually at some point get around to it, which explains why I always have so many open Zap orders that I haven’t prepared the artwork for (soz guys).
⭐️ What is something you know now, that you wish you knew in the past?
I think the biggest thing I’ve learned, and it applies to my life as much as it does to my career, is that most things seem scary/intimidating/a big deal until you actually do them and realise they were fine and completely achievable. And that doing things at all is much more important than doing things perfectly. Also that just because you’ve chosen to do one thing, doesn’t mean you can’t then go and do something completely different.
So my advice to younger me, or anyone else starting out in a creative field, is just to go for it and don’t worry too much about the path you’re taking; you’ll only get somewhere if you’re not afraid to take a few steps, even if you’ll maybe fall into the odd ditch, take a detour through a few dark woods, or join a ragtag band of mysterious adventurers along the way.
⭐️ If you could live the life of one fictional character, who would it be and why?
Probably Doctor Who; the thought of backpacking through time and space is very appealing, and I think I'd make quite a good cosmic hobo.
⭐️ If you could have a lifetime supply of any Zap! Product, which would it be and why?
I really love Zap’s stickers, but I think if I could choose anything it would be the wooden pins. They lend themselves perfectly to more detailed artwork and I’m always amazed by how intricately printed they are.
⭐️ What is the biggest curveball you have had to overcome since starting your business?
It probably sounds like a boring cliché at this point, but the pandemic was a real curveball for me, as it was for pretty much everyone working in the arts. I’d got into a work cycle where the majority of my annual income came through exhibiting at conventions around the UK and Europe, and they were obviously wiped out in 2020, and are unlikely to return in their previous form for a while. I was lucky enough to receive some government support, but it also encouraged me to fundamentally re-evaluate where to focus my energy. I made a concerted effort to get my online store back to where it should be, after a few years of neglect and complacency, but also took the time to steer my focus back towards the creative side of my career rather than the commercial side (though both are obviously important if you want to make a living from art).
After a few months where my studio was out of bounds, and trying to do everything from my bedroom, I got back and completed a full October drawing challenge for the first time ever. I used the artwork from that- along with the accompanying poems I’d written- to create a book that was successfully funded on Kickstarter at the end of 2020 (for which Zap helped me create most of the stretch goal items).
I can’t wait to get back and do a con again, but not until they can happen in a vaguely normal way (plus Brexit sadly means that the logistics of doing non-UK shows will be a nightmare). I really miss meeting people and seeing my convention family, but I don’t think I’ll return to a place where they are the primary focus of my work as they were a few years ago.
⭐️ What is your current favourite Netflix/tv show and what’s your go-to snack for watching?
I am a snack fiend and our studio is about 70% snack products- my absolute favourites are Snyder’s pretzel bites (Jalapeño for preference, but I never met a pretzel I didn’t like). Recently I think most of my viewing has been old episodes of Drag Race while drawing, but some shows I think everyone should watch are Ghosts on iPlayer and Please Like Me on Prime.
⭐️ How did you first start selling your work?
I took a very circuitous route, did an English degree, worked a few different jobs (some great, some not so great), before realising (/confirming) that working for a company really wasn't for me. During that time I'd been designing and drawing things, as I always had, and at some point starting selling t-shirt designs, to bands and to shirt companies. That gradually got me into commercial illustration, before I moved more into making and selling my own things, which has gradually evolved into what I do now.
⭐️ What would you like to achieve this year?
I'd love to get started on another book, something a bit more narratively driven this time, and I'd also really like to create a deck of cards. I should probably also sort out some artwork for my overdue Zap orders...
⭐️ Where can we purchase your work?