James Jarvis is best known for his Amos Toy’s creations, his recent YOD Figure is his latest, but he’s also just released a book of his selected drawings from over the years, fittingly titled "James Jarvis Selected Drawings". I spoke to James about his work over the years, the development of his company Amos and more.
As an artist, I’ve read interviews with you when you say you consider yourself an illustrator before anything else, how has this transposed into making figures and other mediums?
I think what I tend to say is that above all else I consider myself someone who draws. Drawings are the raw material for everything else: illustrations, toys, comic books and everything else I do.
What initially influenced your interest in art, and who or what did you look towards for inspiration in developing your style?
My initial influence I guess was my parents. They are very cultured people and exposed me to an amazing array of visual and intellectual culture from an early age. I was brought up on amazing children’s books by Richard Scarry, Hergé, Uderzo, Maurice Sendak, David McKee and Alfred Bestall Rupert the Bear.
When I think about style I look much more to an intellectual consideration of what I do rather than the purely visual. The particular intricacies of my way of drawing is evolving constantly – I am always re-evaluating how I draw. But my way of thinking about drawing and about visual creation in general is much more consistent.
How did Amos toys come about?
I’ve answered this question so many times, but basically… When the toys I made with Silas became popular(ish) we realised that they could, and should, have a life of their own, outside of and independent from the insular world of ‘streetwear’. So in partnership with Russell and Sofia we started Amos.
Many of your early toys were made famous for their colaboration with Silas, what was your relationship with the brand?
I met Sofia and Russell who ran Silas when they were working for Slam City Skates. I went to see them while I was still at college in Brighton in ’92 or ’93 to show my work and I used to hang out in the shop when I moved back to London to go to the RCA. When Slam started Holmes they asked me to do graphics for them. When they left Slam to start Silas I carried on working with them…
You’ve been involved in numerous colaborations over the years, what were some of your favourite?
I’m not sure that apart from working with Silas I’ve done many true collaborations. When I left college I did a shit-load of crap illustration jobs to make a living. I think an illustration commission is very different to a true collaboration, where I think you are given more responsibility and more room to be oneself. Sofia and Russell were really the first people to let me just get on with it.
What artists around today do you admire?
DELTA, Geneviève Gauckler, KAWS, Gary Panter, Parra, Will Sweeney
I’ve heard you’re a keen runner? How often do you run?
I run every day – I do between 50 and 70 miles per week, depending on what I am training for. I run to work and back during the week. I’ve qualified to run the London Marathon next year as an Elite athlete, which is quite exciting.
Are you a fan of Streetwear, what brands do you like at the moment?
I find it quite diverting, but I have no interest in ‘Streetwear’ as any kind of seriously culturally substantial entity at all. I like clothes and I think about what I wear, but I can’t say I have any deeper engagement than that.
You recently colaborated with Will Sweeney’s label Alakazam, have you got any plans to develop your own clothing label?
We’ve already been making shirts for Amos, which is fun. But in terms of Fashion with a capital ‘F’ I don’t think it is where my strengths lie.
Where do you see Amos headed? What are your plans for the future?
The liberating thing about Amos is that as my own company it is a vehicle for any project that we want to put out there. With regards to really big undertakings like animation we realise we need partners because such things are logistically so huge.
Tell is a little about your book ‘Selected Drawings’, 240 pages sounds like a big undertaking? What lead you to create a book?
I made a paperback book with relax magazine in Japan several years ago which reproduced a small selection of my drawings, and I had for a long time wanted to do something similar. It took me until this year to get it together. When we published Vortigern’s Machine last year we realised that it was possible to put books out there ourselves. In a way it was an easy project because the drawings were already there. They just needed to be scanned and edited. The hard part was looking over all that old work and trying to decide if it was of any worth or not.
Alongside the book, you have developed a set of new figures, can you tell us about these, and where the inspiration came from?
Alongside the book we are releasing Illustrated YOD, which is YOD decorated with drawings of beaked demons.
To buy the book and the newly released tee’s and figures of James Jarvis Amos, check out the online store here.