Meet Bodil Jane, the artist behind Human Nature snacks packaging

Meet Bodil Jane, the artist behind Human Nature snacks packaging

Hi Bodil, thank you for taking part of this interview. We are delighted to speak to you about your designs. Can you please tell us about your background?   

I grew up in a very creative family of four. After my birth in Amsterdam, my parents decided to move to Haarlem, a smaller city close by. They met in art school and both worked (and still work) as freelance creatives. My mum owns a ceramic brand and paints giant tile panels for homes and restaurants. My dad used to be a storyboard illustrator in advertising. Next to that he is an artist and currently works for my mum. My sister and I spent a lot of our time creating things. We had a weekly crafts day with our neighbors. During vacations we would all keep a sketch book and visit uncountable museums. It was completely logical we both choose to go to art school. I went to Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam, where I studied illustration. I graduated in 2014.

Bodil Jane with her dog                                                                     Bodil Jane with Miso

Your work is mostly female-focused enhancing the personality of your characters immersed in detailed environments. How does your work comment on current social issues? 

It’s interesting how at some point people started to call my work “feminist”. I am a proud feminist, but I was personally wondering what was so feminist about my work. I didn’t try to make it feminist on purpose. I simply illustrated real women that I saw around me and I hoped were easy to relate to. My characters look back at the viewer and aren’t afraid of life. They’re not being observed but looking back at us. It’s pretty interesting how that is already perceived as activist. To me it’s normal haha! I think my illustrations are mainly a reflection of who I am. And I am an outspoken person and someone who can get very frustrated when thinking about certain subjects. Portraying actual people that I see around me and including a little criticism on the way we treat the earth for example, just comes natural to me.

What does your work aim to say? And what do you think your legacy will be from this message? 

I don’t want my work to be an extension of what we already see in the media: perfect models. I would like my characters to be real and relatable. I hope women will recognize themselves and feel like they can be anyone they want to be, when they see my illustrations. I think my work is really about being yourself and not trying to be a certain person. That’s also something that I’m aiming for personally. Besides trying to show that with my illustrations, I also try to show that with the life I chose. Doing what I love and working really hard to let it succeed. I hope people who follow me will feel encouraged to also try to do that.

Bodil Jane prints                                                                        Bodil Jane's prints 

What and who are your biggest inspirations away from the art scene?  

My illustrated characters are mainly inspired by people I see around me. A bike ride through my hometown Amsterdam can be an inspirational trip for me. I love everyday settings like a busy grocery shop full with produce, beautiful packaging, clients and a cat sleeping in a corner. Besides that I’m very inspired by interiors and places with a lot of objects, like flea markets. My parents live in a very colorful home with lots of collected objects from all over the world. It has really influenced my style and taste. I love maximalism! I can also really enjoy spending time in a botanical garden or greenhouse. I’ve visited many botanical gardens from Portugal to San Francisco and it’s the number one thing that I look up when I go to a new place.

How have you developed your career in a difficult path of creating art that tackles social justice issues? Would you say your style makes difficult subject easier to digest?  

I’d say that in general illustration is a great medium to make any subject easier to digest. An illustrator can use humor, colors and symbols to communicate a subject in a more subtle or poetic way. I love that about illustration. Personally I love creating illustrations that aren’t fully realistic. For example a giant woman hugging a group of very small people. An image like that can communicate so many things. I think my own colorful style really helps to make things lighter. I often hear that I can make everything cute. I used to think that didn’t do justice to the amount of work I put into it, but now I can really appreciate that. When I visited Japan back in 2018 I noticed that literally every traffic sign is cute. Cuteness really makes the world a lighter and happier place! 

Bodil Jane puzzle                                                                Bodil Jane x Eeboo

We know you have generously given your time for our Human Nature project with little upfront benefit, what is the reason why you decided to join it?  

First of all Human Nature seems like a genuine and beautiful brand. The message they like to convey really spoke to me. At this point in my career I have the luxury to not only let the financial side of things decide which jobs I take on or not. It’s important to me that I’m genuinely interested in the job and love the brand. I have huge passion for packaging design and prefer to work for brands that are conscious about their environmental impact. The brief for the packaging series really matched my style and what I like to do. It wasn’t a hard decision to make. 

As you may know, much of the work we do will involve more female employment in regions where poverty is a concern. These workers will help us plant 1 million trees every year and your art would of gone a long way to encourage sales of the product to make this impact. How does this make you feel knowing a picture can make such a difference?  

That’s really great! It really adds an extra dimension to the collaboration, which is amazing. It’s really important to me that my work is used for good instead of for example creating more waste or promote harmful brands. This is something I’m very conscious of when I accept a job or not.

For the pieces you made for us what story do they tell us, in your opinion? 

I think they communicate a feeling of connectedness with each other and with nature. The packaging series carry out a message of being conscious about our environmental impact and trying to work together to achieve this. I love how the pieces each have a little “joke”. From a landscape with giant cheese wheels to dipping onions in a sour cream river, there’s some lightness to it.

Bodil Jane x The Jaunt                                                 Bodil x The Jaunt silkscreen print

You kindly donated 10,000 trees as part of you taking on this project. This will help people balance their carbon footprint. You clearly are a believer in living sustainably, what actions do you think people should take to lead by example for the younger generations taking on this challenge?

I think being conscious about your impact is the first step. I feel like we can all contribute in our own way and do what we can. But I don’t like how people are being held responsible for the current climate crisis, when mainly big corporations are responsible. They should be held accountable and we should work together to make sure they are!

We think it is important that artists who follow you or want to be like you need encouraging to keep believing they can make the strides you have made. What advice would you give to a young artist following in your steps?  

I’m aware I’ve been very privileged having parents that are freelance creatives. They showed me how working in this field can pay off and how to make a living out of it. This example has always given me a direction and the faith that what I wanted to achieve was possible. I hope the new generation of designers will also have this faith and understand how important the business side is to their profession. Being creative alone won’t get you where you want to be. You have to embrace the “boring” side of it too and stand up for yourself to get what you’re worth. Get your work out there and go for it!

Izzy wheels                                                             Bodil Jane x Izzy Wheels

Finally thank you for taking part in this project, can you let people know any upcoming projects you are working on that people might be excited to know about? 

I recently finished a very exciting collaboration with Foekje Fleur. It will launch tomorrow! Foekje is a product designer from Rotterdam and all about minimizing plastic waste. All her products are created with this topic in mind. She has created soap dishes with a grater so that you can use the soap for house cleaning as well. The soap dishes are made out of recycled plastic waste. Together we worked on a collection of ceramic vases that are inspired by plastic bottles she found on beaches all over the world. I created a pattern for the packaging, inspired by things you find on the beach: from plastic waste to sea weed and shells. It’s a bit of dramatic but very colorful pattern!


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