Us at Oaf are always prowling the world wide web looking for amazing creative talent that we could work with in the future. Which is how we found illustrator and artist, Sharmila Banerjee (Aka Bone Jelly). We loved her colourful, trippy designs, so we reached out to see if she fancied working with us. Sharmila went ahead and created a set of illustrations for us, one of which is now featured on our Rat Snacks Cardigan. We think it perfectly matches the vibe of our Out of This World collection; the lazy rodent hints at the existence of an alternate reality where rats rule…but not this rat. This rat sits around drinking beer, eating bowls of cereal and not leaving its bed. Very us. Now we’re here to chat with the originator of Rat Snacks, Sharmila, who tells us all about her life, her work, and the meaning behind ‘Bone Jelly.’
Chew The Fat With BONE JELLY
Hi Sharmila. Fancy introducing yourself? Where are you right now, and what did you have for breakfast?
Hi there. I’m a freelance illustrator and graphic artist from Germany. I’ve spent the last two months travelling between Norway, Spain and Germany, and right now I’m at my parents house where I had a German bread roll with french cheese and an Indian style omelette for breakfast.
Can we ask about the name Bone Jelly? Where does that come from?
It was the name I came up with for my first tumblr blog that I started around 2008. It was a word play on gelatine (as I’d been a vegetarian for a long time), but also inspired by the character Skeleton Jelly by Matt Brinkman. He’s one of the Fort Thunder artists. The main and very practical reason though, is that Sharmila Banerjee is a very common Indian name and it’s also hard to spell for non-Indians. It was basically hard for people to find me online, so along came Bone Jelly.
How long have you been working as an artist?
I’ve been drawing and making artsy stuff for as long as I can remember. But if we’re talking about the commercial side of things, I’ve been freelancing for over a decade now and have been able to live from my work for the last 5-6 years. It’s been a long journey.
If you had to sum up your creative style in three words, what would they be?
Fun, cool, weird, far out, dreamy, playful…It’s hard to choose just three words as I do a lot of different things.
What are your main reference points when you start creating a new piece - where do you look for inspiration?
It usually starts with the creation of a character and then I imagine its personality and the world around it. When it comes to comic style drawings like the rat, I don’t really have to actively look for inspiration anymore. My head is already filled with tons of reference material. What comes out on paper is usually a pastiche and new interpretation of 70s, 80s and 90s pop culture; TV-series, movies, children's books, toys, skateboard graphics, comics and graffiti characters, or the huge amount of mascots and merchandise produced during those years. This style just easily flows out on the paper when I sit down and draw.
We love the way you use characters and creatures in your designs, do you have a favourite?
There’s a little bit of me in each character I create. They all are like my little babies so to say, so I can’t really choose just one favourite.
Our fave is obviously the rat from the Rat Snacks cardigan you created with us. He looks like he loves lager and hates leaving his bed. Can you talk us through the design?
Very good observation. This little guy loves living a relaxed and comfortable rat life while snacking away and sipping on a cold lager. He’ll do whatever it takes to get to his favourite snack! It’s quite funny to look at this design now, as I drew it during the pandemic lockdown and it really reflects how I spent my days back then.
Are you pleased with how it looks now it's on a real life piece of clothing? Where will you be wearing it?
It’s the first time I’ve seen one of my drawings on knitwear, so I’m quite excited about how it turned out. I really like how the lines look a bit pixelated because of the woven structure of the fabric. As it’s a very colourful piece, I’m gonna wear it on a fun day when I want to shine within the crowd.
What do you hope people get from your art?
I don’t really have a clear agenda. If my work speaks to somebody, makes people think or smile and if it’s meaningful or relatable to some people out there, that’s fantastic!
What does the creative process look like for you, do you have any rituals that help you get in the creative zone?
My mind is usually all over the place, so a realistic to-do list for the day can help to get started. A variety of snacks lined up beside my drawing board is also necessary: nuts (unsalted, natural), crispbread, fresh peas or a tomato, an orange or grapefruit. Plus lots of coffee, water, and licorice for the sugar level. A good podcast, radio documentary or music in the background is also essential.
When you’re not making art, what’s your favourite thing to do? Talk us through your ideal Sunday.
I like to take part in the cultural life of the city I live in, so I’m out a lot to socialise when I’m not at my desk. But lately I also love to go on adventures on my own to explore new areas and to have new experiences. As for Sundays I love a big breakfast on the table and I’m trying in general to make it a fun activity day with friends (instead of being hungover all day). I'm planning to go on bike rides in the forest, play more tennis again, and to go swimming in the ocean.
If you could design any Oaf piece, completely from scratch, what would it be?
I’d love to make a collection of silk clothes with fun prints on them. Slip on dresses, silk pants, silk t-shirts. The silly characters would make quite a nice contrast to the luxurious material. Hire me!
Do you have any advice for people looking to start their artistic career?
I’d say: Be patient and work at your own pace. Don’t look too much at your likes on social media or other peoples work online, because the internet shows us too much of the same and it’s not all about quantity. Art isn’t a competition.
Any final words for the people?
Be kind if you can.