Collaboration Chocolate

Jenni Sparks

Jenni Sparks


I cannot explain how jump-up-and-down excited I was when Jenni agreed to come up with some exclusive designs to help launch Collaboration Chocolate. If you have not yet come across the uplifting colourful illustrations that make Jenni's work stand out from the crowd, you're in for a real treat.

One of her most recent commissions was to draw all over the windows of Selfridges London's flagship store no less, so it is an absolute privilege to have her create something special for us - and you! 

So without further ado, lets hear from Jenni..

Have you always been a creative person? 
I’ve loved drawing since I was a child and have drawn pretty much every day since then. When I was a kid I realised that if I was going to have to work for the majority of my life, I wanted it to be something that I found fun - hence deciding to pursue an art career. I find drawing almost like therapy sometimes and the practise of putting pen to paper is pretty meditative - there’s nothing better than the combination of drawing and listening to music for me.

How did you settle on what you do now? I was more academic at school that creative but really wanted to pursue art. While doing an art foundation course a tutor told me my style would suit studying illustration further. This blew my mind as I’d always thought that illustration was purely doing children’s books - but it turns out illustrators create loads of stuff that you would never have guessed! I followed that with a BA in Illustration at Plymouth University, and after graduating decided to make the move to London.

Tell us about your first big break. 
My first ever paid piece of work was to draw a map of London that was funny and different to the usual geographic/tourist affair. I spent four months working on the map, and when it was released it ended up going viral and was picked up by the UK press. After this lucky break, over the years I built up a name for myself drawing maps for various clients, and getting paid to travel and draw other cities such as New York, Berlin, Paris, San Francisco, Sydney and Melbourne.

Where do your ideas come from?
I grew up working on the bars and waitressing at a caravan park and living in a seaside town in the South West of England, and I think this gave me a lot of inspiration early on. Working somewhere where every day is a holiday has given me a predisposition to make things as fun as possible in life. I love the bright colours of merchandise sold in seaside shops and I also love the tacky ‘faded glory' atmosphere of the British seaside. Other than that I like walking around London a lot and taking it all in - ideas come when you least expect them too so I always jot them down immediately. Some ideas take years to formulate properly, I don’t really know how it all works (the creative process is very mysterious!)

What do you love the most about your job?
My job is the best job in the world because it’s just so much fun, apart from when I have 5 deadlines all at once and I have to pull all-nighters - but even that I don’t really mind as I like the drama of it every now and then. I love the flexibility of the job and the fact that I can work from anywhere - last year I travelled around Europe during the summer and just brought my sketchbook, laptop and Wacom drawing tablet.

Tell us how you came up with the Collaboration Chocolate designs?
Earlier on this year in the summer I was asked to draw a window display at Selfridges - and I did lots of doodling in my sketchbook to prepare, and this was the initial inspiration for my chocolate bar design. Obviously over the last year things have been pretty terrible for everyone and the theme of my chocolate bar is ‘positive vibes’ - I wanted to work with the very simple idea of cheering people up a bit and putting a smile on someone’s face. Rainbows have also been a massive theme of this year so I decided to take this and run with it - making sure there’s a lot of colour on there too.

What Makes You Happy?
Walking around the streets of London while listening to music or chatting with a pal, or in the pub! That’s when I’m at my peak happiest. Failing that, I’ve taken up exercising every day recently and I have noticed a marked improvement in my mood. Before COVID hit I loved going out dancing and to gigs but I’m not sure when that will be happening again.

If you had a Magic Wand and could fix one thing what would it be?
There’s so many terrible things going on that I’d probably just hit the reset button on Earth, haha.

Best Advice You’ve Been Given
My mum always taught me to work hard. She worked her way up in her career from a cleaner to the big boss - and that has always been very inspiring. My family all have a pretty decent work ethic and this has helped me grow in my career. I think people tend to think artists and creatives are just naturally talented and even though there is a little seed of that at the beginning - you have to put the work in to help it grow!

Best Advice From You
I’ll give some design advice! I think as a creative person it’s important to have an awareness of current trends while simultaneously cultivating a personal style - make a list of things that you are genuinely interested in and use them as influences on your work. Don’t worry too much about whether these interests are considered cool or not. It’s about carving your own niche and being as authentic as possible - I found that I managed to make a career out of map making, which isn’t exactly the coolest thing ever but I find it really interesting!

You can only have one for the rest of your life.. CHOCOLATE or CRISPS? Crisps! Though I obviously love chocolate too. I can eat crisps for days though, I have to set firm boundaries with myself otherwise things get crazy.

Favourite Quirky Chocolate Bars
Salted Caramel, Full of beans and White raspberry Eton Mess

See Jenni's Work
Find her on Instagram, Facebook & Twitter:  @jennisparks  

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