Home is where the horse is

What’s She Like?

Article originally published in Style Reins Autumn 2016 magazine. Read the full issue plus current magazine and all other back issues with a FREE digital subscription…


Jo Burrows is an artist and illustrator proud of her North East of England heritage.  Starting as a designer for several high street stores, Jo began selling her work through agents and soon BYKERLASS was born.

Today Jo and her husband Nick run the successful Wot Ma Like business designing and selling Geordie Mugs, Mam cards and of course Charlton Hall Designs their Equestrian and Country themed gifts and cards.  I  caught up with Jo to find out more about her background and her plans for the future…

Jo Burrows

Wot Ma Like is an unusual name, is there a story behind it?

I used to say the phrase WOTMALIKE a lot for comedy effect – usually if I did something wrong or forgot something.  The phrase was a natural fit for my business, our customers often say they don’t forget us because its unique and they like it when we answer the phone saying “Wotmalike”.  The spelling isn’t the greatest name for web users to find me but I do get a lot of web traffic so it hasn’t hindered me in anyway business wise!

Can you pinpoint the exact moment you decided to become an artist or was it something that happened over time, can you tell us what it was like?

I was always really artistic as a child, I used to make dolls clothes and dolls houses.  My mum claims I learned to knit at the age of 4.  I got my first sewing machine aged 11 which I had until very recently and I used to make my own clothes. I always knew I’d be a designer. I was never shown how to paint – I just knew how to do it – I can paint classically and definitely have the heart of a fine artist.  One day I would love to paint and sculpt without any financial pressures.

What was the first thing you designed specifically to sell and what was the inspiration behind it?

My first job was for a big gift manufacturing company for UK high street stores.  I was employed as a junior designer straight from leaving Uni, my first range went into Marks and Spencer (it was a cosmetic bag) and sold over 50,000 units. Whilst working for this company I learned about designing for the mass market with manufacturing and budget constraints.  I have worked for probably all the major high street brands you can name at some point in my career and still get a buzz seeing someone using my products or something I have designed.  You would probably be surprised to know that I still design now for other very well-known brands when asked via my design agents.

You’re proud of where you’re from and said in a previous interview that you love to celebrate accents, not just the Geordie one.  As time goes on and language changes due to the internet and kids getting older do you find it easy to keep up with the new phrases, does one stand out that particularly has tickled you?

Urban slang is amazing and constantly evolving. I’d like to think I’m still aware of trends but sometimes I have to google phrases to find out what memes are, or what ‘Slay’ means and in what context.  Whilst working with ‘Scouse Bird’ Problems aka ‘Sassy Bird’ last year I had an education.  Her demographic is under 30 and she has over half a million followers on social media.  I loved the Christmas card I designed for her and sent it to some of my friends.  It said “Jingle Bells, Fake Tan Smells, My eyelash blew away”!

I adore your equestrian themed gifts and cards, can you tell me about your equestrian background, what led you to add horses and dogs to your range?

I LOVE horses but have NEVER owned one of my own – although I am confident that will change fairly soon.  I am from a very working class inner city area and growing up the only horses I ever used to see were for rag and bone men or on holiday in the Lake District once a year.  Due to hard work and fabulous marriage I now live near Winchester in a rural village I am in heaven as I am surrounded by horses and help friends with their horses so I do get a horsey fix everyday! I am about to have a knee replacement and when I do I will push to getting back on a horse – hopefully my own.

With regards to horsey design – I love the shape and movement of horses and in design I felt they were little represented.  Designs were either very traditional and stuffy or cartoony and ugly.  I wanted to create something beautiful which horsey people could relate too.  It has taken me three years of working in my spare time to put this range together and has been a huge labour of love.  I’m very proud of it and am so pleased with the reaction it has received.

You’ve successfully collaborated with Matt Reilly and Scouse Bird Problems, if you could choose to collaborate with anyone in the world, who would it be and what do you imagine designing together?

I was only just thinking today that I’d love to work with Amanda Thompson the lady who invented SKINNY PROSECCO. Only reason being is that I’ve got a few amazing Prosecco based designs up my sleeve for Christmas which are really stylish and I think she would love them and I LOVE prosecco!

I’ve seen your “One Prosecco, Two Prosecco, Three Prosecco ….Floor!” Design, and I’m sure it hits home with a lot of buyers, is there a funny story you’d like to share with our readers behind one of your designs?

My favourite sign is one for myself which is The Duchess of Fizz.  My Dad calls me the Duchess as I have always lived beyond my means and background.  I like to think that I’m secretly a minor Royal and that’s why I love horses!

What’s next Jo? If you could work on designing something you never have before, what would it be and why?

I really want to produce a range of bone china ceramics with an equestrian theme – I have ideas in my mind but I fear they would be completely off the scale in relation to price point as I would like to have gold leaf! and use the finest of china! Who knows one day I may see them become reality.

See more of Jo’s brilliant designs at wotmalike.co.uk

Article originally published in Style Reins Autumn 2016 magazine. Read the full issue plus current magazine and all other back issues with a FREE digital subscription…