Leeds-based illustrator Khloe Baker documents the people and stories behind the city’s famous food markets in a charming personal project cum zine. And it’s gone down with vendors so well that she’s even got some free hot dogs out of it.
When it comes to bringing people together, few things beat food. And just as families bond over Sunday roasts and colleagues catch up in the canteen, Khloe Baker has connected to the community of Leeds by drawing the vendors of the city’s renowned food markets.
Having moved to Leeds from a small Essex town, Khloe says that the city has become her found home. Part of the excitement and novelty of moving to a big city is the bustling food scene, which taps into her interests as an artist.
“I’ve always enjoyed drawing people and food, so I knew the combination of the two within a space like a busy food market or a restaurant would generate a lot of inspiration for me,” she tells Creative Boom. “When working on this project, it was less of a question of how I start and more of a question of where I stop. I wanted to draw everything in these spaces and tried to cover as many areas as possible.”
Through her illustrations, which have since become a zine, Khloe managed to tackle the daunting prospect of location drawing. And as well as improving her creative work, drawing on location also connected her to the people around her. “People are curious about what you’re doing, but they’re mostly friendly and are interested in talking to you about your work, which is always nice,” she explains.
“I feel like drawing on location adds to my work as it allows me to stay loose and not get too caught up in the details; instead, it makes me capture the most important parts of a place that show what I am trying to say. You have to work quickly when drawing from life as things are constantly changing, especially when you’re drawing people.”
By going to the market and drawing in person, Khloe got to know several vendors and their life stories. Take the owners of Little Tokyo, who have made their restaurant as traditional as possible by importing their Koi fish from Japan and using Horigotatsu seating. “This changed my focus and led to me giving these features of their restaurant more focus within the zine,” Khloe reveals.
Then there’s James, the owner of Fat Annie’s, whose story resonated with Khloe on a personal level. “He shared with me how he took a leap starting the business after taking voluntary redundancy from his day job. This was really inspirational and relatable to me as an emerging creative, reminding me to take risks and follow my ambitions.
“Interviewing James also highlighted how vibrant and busy the market is. He told me how it’s a community hub which leads you to meet all different kinds of people. Each day is different, and there’s always something which can make you laugh. This led to me returning to draw different people within the food market over an afternoon during the lunch rush and creating a folding element to the zine to reflect the busy atmosphere of the food hall itself.”
As Khloe suggests, the zine will feature illustrations with vendors alongside her illustrations. These will include personal observations from the owners of the food stalls, as well as their memories of working there. It’s a great idea for a collaboration and one that has gone down well with everyone involved.
“The people who work at both of the venues have all been super lovely and welcoming,” says Khloe. “Little Tokyo and Fat Annie’s shared my illustrations on Instagram, which helped me to get a lot more eyes on the work. I gave them a copy in person, too, and I loved seeing them react to the final zine. I even bumped into them selling at my graduation ceremony, where they gave me some free hot dogs!”
Since completing the project, Khloe has continued to get out and draw different places in Leeds. “It is the personal project that I find most fulfilling and find myself coming back to most often,” she concludes.
“I’m hopeful that these zines will be a starting point to collaborate illustratively with more businesses in Leeds and beyond.”