While wandering through my home town of Winchester, snooping through the arts and crafts stalls of our twice monthly market, my eye was drawn to an end display of white frames. These cute cutouts make a great uplift to any wall and make perfect gifts. They are creative and unique in their quality and choice of pattern so well worth a look.
Now some opening words from Emma & Becky the ladies behind the mount-board, about their journey in to the craft world.
We set up Bertie & Jack with the aim of creating a unique brand that would be associated with affordable, colourful, fun wall art. We also wanted to be innovative with our designs and the materials we worked with, creating something new, never seen before.
And we wanted to do it our way, fitting the business around our young children who were the catalyst for the business: Becky’s 4 year old girl, Bertie and Emma’s 3 year old boy, Jack.
We started in 2010 after both of us no longer being able to return to our previous jobs. We had just enough maternity pay left to buy a market stall umbrella and pay the first month’s rent. We took it in turns with the childcare and selling; one looked after the babies, whilst the other set up our umbrella and a suitcase to sell, sell, sell!
With Becky’s background in photography and fine art and Emma’s background is in PR and Marketing we had a great set of skills to kick start the business and like a traditional custard cream biscuit, our skills were sandwiched together by a beautiful sweet filling of friendship.
We began experimenting with cutting simple shapes from mount board and sticking ‘found’ materials behind the cut-out area – we were onto something! Our first ‘cut-out’ designs were our simple elephants and love birds, which are still amongst our most popular designs today. Realising the demand for this style of product, we now create our own range of background prints and patterns to reflect whatever’s in demand – if neon’s in, we’ve got a neon print for you!
We aim to be the brand that customers turn to whether they’re looking for a special gift that will hang around forever, or something cheery for their home. The business being named after our children inspires us to do our very best. We have created a business that will grow and flourish, and (all being well!) provide a legacy for our children in years ahead.
After finding out more about these lovely ladies story I was even more impressed with what they have created, and continue to create new and more beautiful designs following along with trends and seasons to best fit their customers needs. So lets ask them a few questions:
So how did you ladies decide on ‘cutouts’ as an art form? I see you do a selection of prints as well? Who’s the artist?
The cut-out product came about from experimenting with existing mount board cutting technology; lets just say it’s not designed to do what we do with it! We push the technology as far as possible with our creative designs, all of which start life as hand drawn illustrations, the cut-out element bringing them to life. We are both involved in the creative process and the prints we design come from various inspirations. We both have very different styles, we use this to our advantage to create our quirky and colourful work.
This is obvious a family enterprise, do the husbands and kids get stuck in to?
Bertie & Jack is a family run business in every way possible. Our husbands both work full time for Bertie & Jack and are integral to the business. They assist us with most aspects of the business; an important role being ‘children’s entertainer’. Bertie & Jack are best friends and love getting involved in the business, from ‘helping’ to paint display units to giving out business cards at events. We have photographic evidence.
Lots of animal themes in your work are they here to stay?
Animals are the key theme running through all our work. They are so much fun to design, they become there own little characters. We discovered early on that our customers have strong connections to certain animals. We never get tired on the market stall of hearing, ‘’oh, I love elephants.’’The Love Birds, Original Elephants and Original Penguins were our earliest creations and still our best sellers. We have just designed a new cut-out, (coming to the website soon) which is a pair of bright eyed and bushy tailed squirrels. Lots of fun!
Are there any new designs or plans for the future you want to share with us.
At Bertie & Jack HQ we are always innovating and striving to move the business forward with new concepts and ideas. We have new designs that still utilise the cut-out technique, and new products using our pattern designs. We are nothing if not crazy ambitious, and our big fat ambition is to have a Bertie & Jack store on every major high street!
I love your website, its very personal, the swatch booklet of your patterns is very helpful. Are your online orders vital to your business?
Having an online presence is essential to Bertie & Jack; for those customers that see us at one of our market stalls and then want to buy from home, to new customers searching for that perfect ‘feel good’ gift. Setting up more stalls and retailing our products at various events across the country has definitely provided us with the exposure we need to boost our web sales and with more and more people shopping online these days, we see this as being crucial to the future of Bertie & Jack.
Where can we find you now that everyone is dying for a picture? Bath, London, Bristol all market stalls?
You can find us on our Bath Stall on Burton Street, our Bristol Stall on Corn Street and at Greenwich Market in London. Or, via our 24 hour online superstore, www.bertieandjack.co.uk If you befriend us on Facebook and or follow us on Twitter you can keep up to date with all the latest goings on.
So to finish, a Gola question, which one of your bespoke patterns would you like to see on a pair of Gola trainers?
We would love to see one of our bespoke patterns on a pair of Gola trainers and would go for something cool, but timeless such as our Dog’s Tooth. Or, if we want to edge it up a notch, our Coloured Cubes. We’ll be first in line to buy them!
I am impressed with Emma & Becky’s drive to succeed and the love they have for the images they create. I can’t wait to see what they make next and continue to expand.