Jo Willis, the creator of The Curio and an amazing photographer is a new mother of just a few weeks old Dulcie and lives in Margate with her husband Dom. Jo speaks to beachwalkmuse about her journey….
Tell me about your move to Margate?
We moved to Margate three years ago. Before that, we were living in London and both my husband and I wanted to move out of London. We tried buying a house down there and things fell down quite dramatically. We’d come to Thanet – Broadstairs for a weekend. Infact, we stayed at Jilly’s Belvidere Place. We started looking at the estate agent’s window, knowing that we’d liked the place (Thanet) already.
When we got married we got married in Dungeness , and then drove back. We stopped at various places, one of them was Margate. We stayed at the Nayland Rock Hotel in 2009 . We were the only people at the hotel. But even then there was something about it that we really – really liked!
So it was that time, we had a bad experience in London and we wanted to move out. We were to-ing and fro-ing between Hastings and Margate for similar reason. They both were at the stage where things were starting to happen, things were starting to change but you could still get nice properties for a lot cheaper.
When it came down to picking a place, we found out that Margate was the friendliest place. Having come down for a few weekends, we’d already started to make friends. So that was a big deciding factor. Nobody spoke to us in Hastings but in Margate people saw us a couple of times and that was it. They came up to us and started talking. When we found the house, we made the offer and moved in within 5 or 6 months. It all happened very quickly .
What were you doing for a living before becoming a mother?
I spent years working in the interiors and art directions. Then I quit that job and started working at this reclamation company. So I was doing photography of their interiors but then also started doing a bit of furniture dealing. I did a degree in photography but hadn’t worked as a photographer in a long time. My husband is a freelance film-maker (commercials) and he was looking for new projects. We both wanted to get out of London and work on our projects and do it in a place where we could afford to do it. And, also do it in a place where it felt like there was opportunities to have a go and do things.
You have been involved with Resort studios. What is Resort Studios?
There’s a group of us. The original group is of about six of us. We all decided we wanted to set up a studio. It is basically a big warehouse with two floors where all of us have our little work space – the ground floor is a big gallery. We have had little shows and a couple of theatre companies do their things in there. And we are planning to open a cafe in there at some point. The first floor is one big open space studio where all of us have our own freestanding pods almost like sheds just nicer.
Tell me a little bit about how did your website The Curio came into being?
When we moved to Margate I was still going to London and doing my job at this interior company and I wanted to do something here. I kept meeting people who were meeting here, buying amazing places, doing up their houses, setting up shops and doing really interesting things that were starting to stand out. Like when GB Pizza came up, they were one of the first people I’d photographed. It was the first, (sounds cheesy) but ‘cool’ restaurant, a place where you’d want to sit and hang out. That’s one place of its kind and since then a lot of places have come up. I was getting more and more annoyed by people always talking negative about the place and also people were not recognising that there were people who wanted to come and live here and yet things were being demolished – beautiful buildings, structures etc. It seemed to me like, there was a mentality of Cliftonville especially was really run down, so let’s not fix it but knock it down.
In my opinion as many others, is that the period houses have a huge amount of demand and a particular kind of person would like to buy these houses and that’s what you should be promoting. So I went to see Rebecca Smith from the Thanet Gazette and said that I wanted to do an interior piece for her which would show housing and property in Thanet . There are a lot of houses, people with interesting lives, people who have lived here for years etc who are never being written about. And that is what I tried doing through the Curio. Rebecca said yes and that’s how it all started.
What’s the plan for The Curio now?
Right now because of the baby I have stopped obviously but I have a plan of making a book out of it. And I will be doing more of such stuff with new ideas, definitely.
Run me through your journey to Motherhood?
Dom and I got married in 2009, five years now. When we were in London, we had a miscarriage. And we decided at that point that we wouldn’t try again until we are properly settled. And then we were here for a year or so, we thought it’d be very nice to have a child here. There’s a beach down the road, we have a lot of friends here who have kids, it felt like this was the right place to have a baby than in London anyway. So the baby was planned and it all happened VERY quickly.
Fondest memory with your mum as a child?
The thing that I remember is that my mum, who is an art and textile teacher, so we always used to make clothes and things with her. She used to being home these Batique sets and we’d sit in the kitchen Batique’ing. So it was always like that, making clothes, knitting or some sort of textile or art based things.
As a new mother, are you finding it difficult?
No I am enjoying it, definitely. The only difficult part is lack of sleep. Everyone tells you how tired you are going to be but you have no idea until actually have a baby.
What’s the best part about being a mum?
It is early days and she is sleeping all the time. It is all about her at the moment- cleaning her, feeding her etc. But she is starting to smile. And she would look at you and smile – not asking to feed her but you can tell that she is just happy that you are there. So that’s the thing I am enjoying receiving and over the next few weeks, that is going to develop more. And that is going to be very rewarding when she can give your a proper massive grin.
What kind of mother would you like to be to your little one?
My relationship with my mother was a positive one and if I didn’t have a good relationship with her I probably wouldn’t have wanted to be a mum myself. I mean that is the kind of effect it has on me. My upbringing was lovely and happy and they supported me in everything I wanted to do. And that’s how I’d like to be as a mum. I hope we can do things together like shopping, go to theatre etc.
Is there anything that you miss doing that you could do before becoming a mother?
I have done a lot. I am not a very young mum. I have done quite a lot work wise and otherwise. And I am not ready to be a mother and making it all about my child.
What changes in you as a person when you become a mother?
You realise priorities in true sense. Before you could spend hours obsessing about something that you’d now think as not so important in the grander scheme of things. Suddenly, what is important for the baby is important to you.
How do you unwind?
I am watching lots and lots of films at the moment. We’ve always watched a lot of films because Dom is obsessed with films. So yes, watching films, going for walks and knitting.
This is going to be your first Mother’s Day. How would you like to spend it?
My first mothers day, my mother is going to be here. And it is also my neighbour’s daughters first birthday. So I think we will be spending my first mother’s day at her first birthday.