Artist with an eye for bottom line…
PLUMP-bottomed ponies and parents, competitive children trying to control strong-willed steeds, success and disaster – anyone who has "done" the Pony Club circuit will recognise where Jane Wells gets the inspiration for many of greetings cards.
"I have a 14-year-old daughter who is very horsey-minded and I tend to sit in the car and draw when we are at shows, especially as it is usually my daughter who is in the last event," says Jane, who also has two sons.
"I have had to take care not to make my drawings too Thelwell so I decided to go from the ground up – they show lots of bottoms."
Both Jane and her husband, Robert, are from farming families. They live in a lovely old house in Leintwardine, Shropshire, and Robert, who now runs his own irrigation equipment company, used to be a pig farmer.
"I try to cover the different aspects of equine life except racing. I do some double-image cards; on the front is one picture and inside the reverse.
"My cards also feature shooting, and eventually I would like to cover all the hobbies people are fanatical about. I have neighbours who are keen cyclists and they keep asking me when I am going to do that. We see a lot of lycra-clad bottoms going past our windows as our floors are below the level of the road," says Jane.
People tend to phone her with ideas. One friend rang and said her cat was sleeping in a hanging basket. That puss is now immortalised in Janes card "Sweet Dreams", snoozing contentedly on a bed of flowers.
"If I have an idea I put it in my ideas book. I sit in bed and work it out and then next day try to develop it. Some that I expect to work well just dont come off once drawn, others I am not sure about often work much better than expected," says Jane.
"The cards that I am most pleased with seem to be the ones I have done when demonstrating at a show. I find that is the best way to create interest in my cards when I sell them at local game fairs and country shows."
Her designs also include some well bred grouse, tiny ballerinas and particularly reproachful-eyed dogs. All Janes cards are professionally printed and are sold in tack shops throughout the country and other outlets.
"I really need an agent now who can deal with High Street shops for me," explains Jane, who also sells by mail order* and has been running her business, Hepplewells Designs, for three years.
This year she has been commissioned to create two Christmas cards for the Farming and Wildlife Trust and has six other designs available (two designs per pack of six cards, £2.60 including postage). These include one showing Father Christmas looking somewhat puzzled over the headcollar left at the foot of a little girls bed, which is obviously much too big for the toy horse he has brought her. Another shows him on a snowswept rooftop eye-to-eye with a pony digging its heels in and refusing to go down the chimney.
Jane is looking for ways to expand the business and has already started a new line built on her artistic talents. "While I was watching my daughter clear the jumps, a new idea came to me," she says. "I dont suppose you can have a container mind but I do like boxes, and it occurred to me that I could make a box shaped like a jump and fill it with stationery. I now do four writing sets: Hickstead Fence, Badminton Fence, Olympia Fence and Wembley Fence (£5.99 each). We have had big order for these from FR Grays & Sons, Walsall, who distribute my cards to tack shops."
"I have the jumps printed on to flat card and assemble them here. For this order I had the whole family, neighbours and friends, folding and sticking and counting paper and envelopes like a production line. Robert said I was turning the house into a factory, she laughs.
"I now need to expand the business slowly and there is a factory unit at the bottom of the village just waiting for me. Robert says it is too early for that but hopefully it wont be long before I need it."
* Inquiries (01547-540498).
Jane works from her pretty Shropshire home and there is an affectionate humour about her drawings. This double-image card is called Body Language.
Greetings cards with a distinct country flavour and more than a little humour are the trademark of artist Jane Wells.
Tessa Gates talked to her at her Shropshire home
Country pursuits are the inspiration for many of Janes cards and she has now expanded the range to include stationery sets housed in famous "jumps".