Although there is such a local dimension to the inspiration and production of her fabulous cards, contemporary wall art, notebooks and mugs, Jacky grew up in Merseyside and never planned to be an artist. "I don't know why I never went to Art School as I had always drawn and made things since I was a child of about eight. But I wanted to travel so I did nursery nursing to become a nanny. I then went to London, married and lived in the Middle East. I have been in Bradford since 1984.
Over the years I had always done evening and weekend part-time classes and courses in woodwork, drawing, pottery et cetera. Then I did life drawing and interior design NCFE levels 2 and 3 before enrolling on the HNC, coming to College one day per week for two years. Throughout this period I was bringing up my family and working on the days I wasn't at College. Around this time I started making cards for friends and family. Then people asked me to make cards for them so I started to sell cards on a very small scale.
After getting all distinctions in my other studies, I enrolled on the degree programme in 2000. I reduced my hours at work to sixteen a week and then studied the rest of the time. I absolutely loved my degree. I worked on my studies until the early hours every morning and all weekends but I thought it was brilliant. When you do a degree as a mature student it is something you really want to do and you have more of a purpose. I loved getting up on the mornings when I was coming to College. My lecturers were Brian Hindmarch, Mark Manning, Simon Davies and Roger Hitchin. Peter Rooney taught me Business Studies, which I had elected to do rather than Contextual Studies, for two years and I have used every bit that I learnt in his classes. If I won the Lotto I would be an art student again tomorrow!
I did Art and Design as my Diploma where I did illustration and printmaking. I had intended to continue this for my degree but then I transferred to the BA (Hons) Graphic Media Communication course where I mainly concentrated on graphics as it suited my style. I did a lot of card type designs for my final show in 2003. Tiger Print approached me at the degree show and offered me some work. I did a small amount of work for them but after doing some wedding stationery I felt it was too restrictive for me. If I am lucky enough to be in a creative environment I want to be able to have freedom to create what I want. I would feel stifled if I worked for a big company and always worked on occasions cards. I have just done what I like and fortunately I have found that I create in a commercial way.
I decided to work for myself so I could create more of what I want without meeting briefs from large companies. I got a small range of cards together and I set up The Art Rooms in 2007 but only doing online shop mail on a relatively small scale and I still need to develop my online range further. My first internet customer was Aggie MacKenzie, of Channel 4’s How Clean Is Your House?, who bought all thirty of my cards.
In July 2008 I launched at the Harrogate Home & Gift trade show . I was nervous about how people would respond to my work but I was inundated with positive comments and orders. I spent four days with a massive grin on my face! Six months later I did Top Drawer at Earls Court, where you have to be selected to have a stand, and I was worried what people in London would think, but the reaction was even better and I trebled my orders.
I could never have imagined how hard it would be or how many things I would need to know to set up on my own. There are so many elements. At first, when it was all very new, it was quite overwhelming dealing with orders, getting cards printed, mugs made et cetera. Now I attend three trade shows a year and people buy direct from me. I am doing it the hardest way but I think I needed to do it all myself until I became more established. I would have been too naive to do licensing straight away and I would have been anonymous. I need people to associate me with my work and to establish my own identity. Lots of people come and see me and they are becoming familiar with what I do. I am more confident now to say how I like things to be done, whereas originally I would have inadvertently given away some of that control.
At the moment all my things are made locally. The boxes for my mugs are made in Bradford, envelopes and bags made in Shipley, my notebooks and printing done in Yeadon. I would like to keep things manufactured in the UK but I am aware of the end cost to the buyer and at some stage this may not always be possible. I now employ a book keeper and my daughter helps me in between bookings as a make-up artist, but generally I do every part of the business myself.” The local emphasis is also apparent in her popular Landscape series of designs which are all based on Yorkshire places.
Jacky's admirable longterm perspective about developing her brand has meant that she has not had to compromise her standards or ideals. However Jacky has funded this approach by continuing to work four days a week in a demanding but unrelated career and spending every evening and weekend on her own work. With a schedule that would exhaust lesser mortals, Jacky deals with her expanding business and continues to create desirable new work.
"I am aiming for the top end of the market and my work is now sold in some really lovely places. When I was a student I would never have thought that places such as Tate Britain and the Courtauld Gallery would ring me up and order my things. I am now supplying every store of John Lewis with cards as well as individual shops and galleries."
Her studio is awash with boxes for despatch and packing materials. Jacky jokes that it is like "cardboard city" and although she is excited with her success, her thriving operation means that she must take and pack orders, deal with suppliers, receive deliveries and much more. Just maintaining what she has already achieved is a huge undertaking, but Jacky continues to create new work and is rapidly collecting accolades, prestige and a loyal customer base.
"I have just been shortlisted for Gift of the Year 2010 by the Gift Association. Last year I entered the Henries, which are the Oscars of the greetings card industry, named after Henry Cole who created the first greetings card. They had fourteen thousand entries last year and I was thrilled to get down to the last five for the best art range. Just being a finalist is prestigious in the industry.
I have also been commissioned by Kew Gardens to do a range for them to be launched in early Spring 2011. Everything will have my name on it and the Royal crest. I am looking at Kew throughout the different seasons. I have to submit a portfolio in November and I am bearing in mind other products as well as cards. I am also working on new designs of my own to take to Harrogate."