Jo Peters – better known as Joanna Delilah – is a woman who has seen a lot of pregnant women. But she’s not a doctor or a midwife: she’s a make-up artist, with a specialism for painting baby bumps. It’s not a career she set out to have, but a niche she’s happily fallen into.
“About nine or ten years ago, I did a theatrical makeup course and one of my units was body painting, which I’d never really done before. In the classroom, they had a body painting magazine called Illusion Magazine, and in there was a page with baby bump painting,” Jo recalls. “I just thought it looked really sweet! I knew someone who was pregnant and painted my first bump on her and just fell in love with it.”
In between teaching theatrical make-up and body-art skills at Bristol Beauty School, Jo makes home visits to mums-to-be, turning their pregnancies into temporary works of art. Arriving at the home of Sue Hughes and Chris Haslett, a stone’s throw from Southmead Hospital where Sue works as a midwife, she’s armed with a suitcase full of paint and plenty of creative ideas. This is the second time she’s painted Sue’s bump; the first was at her baby shower.
“I’ve always really enjoyed having my face painted,” Sue says as Jo paints the first strokes onto her belly, encompassing it in a perfect circle with her professional body paint, safe for both mum and baby. “I heard about bump painting and I just thought it would be a really lovely thing to do – really creative. I looked at some of the designs online, and in particular Jo’s Instagram photos, and I knew that as soon as I got to that stage of pregnancy, I was going to have my bump painted. I thought I’d combine it with a baby shower, and it was a really fun afternoon – I had friends round and they were all taking photos and videos. It was a really relaxing and social thing to do.”
Bump painting was relatively unheard of when Jo started out, but it has grown in popularity thanks to social media and especially platforms like Pinterest and Instagram. “No-one else knew about it when I started almost ten years ago,” Jo recalls. “I’ve gradually gathered steam with it and I do put a lot of work and effort into it. The whole thing is growing into quite an industry of bump painters. I get lots of customers through my website and because I do so many it just gathers its own speed.”
Indeed, Jo has just celebrated the milestone of painting 200 bumps – an amazing achievement that has doubtlessly been a special experience for every single family she’s visited with her suitcase of paintbrushes. “What I love about body painting is that although it’s temporary, you get that photo.,” Jo says. “With a bump, that photo is cherished by the family and they’ll look at that photo in 20 years time when the kids are grown up and go, ‘Oh, remember when we had this done?’.
“So it’s like being part of a really special family memory. The mums really enjoy having it done, and everything about it is nice and happy – it’s a novelty. There’s a lot to love about it and it’s just fun! I think everyone pregnant should have their bump painted.”
With amazing speed, Sue’s bump has been transformed into a veritable bouquet of coral-coloured roses and delicate purple ombre pansies, with a big bow right across the middle. Jo turns her attention to making it look more 3D, skilfully working on a surface that occasionally moves and ripples as the paintbrushes tickle baby Bronwyn.
She applies the final touches, snaps a photo on her phone and shows the photo to Sue, who grins with delight – “Oh, wow!” she says with genuine amazement, seeing her bump now transformed into a perfect gift-wrapped present. She examines the photo more closely, as her partner Chris comes in to admire the work too. “Oh, that’s really sweet,” Sue says with a beaming smile. “A precious gift.”
A bump painting session with Joanna Delilah takes around an hour and costs £40. To find out more, to see more photos of bumps Jo has painted and to book a session, visit www.joannadelilah.co.uk