Jo Ford was born in Marin County, California, but spent her early childhood in a rural area outside New Orleans, where she loved romping through the swamps. Back in Marin County in her teens, she spent them hiking, swimming, and doing a lot of embroidering on jeans while trying to avoid rock stars and drug dealers. After not graduating from high school she studied drama and writing at College of Marin. Later, at the San Francisco Art Institute, she studied oil painting with Robert Colescott, Deborah Oropallo and Irene Pijoan.
Ford received her M.F.A. from UC Berkeley. Although placed on probation at one point, she eventually served as her class’s valedictorian, using a stuffed elephant as a ventriloquist’s dummy to speak about creating and using art to open up possibilities of kindness and understanding in the world.
Ford’s work has won awards from such jurors as Rennie Pritikin and Enrique Chagoya, as well as from the California State Fair and the Korean Cultural Center in Los Angeles. She taught both Art and English in San Leandro and Contra Costa public middle and high schools for over fifteen years. She currently lives and works in Berkeley, California.