IT is often road trips that inspire Jacky Al-Samarraie’s designs. Trees and landscapes from Bronte Country to the isles of west coast Scotland have ended up on her striking range of prints, tableware, cards and soft furnishings.

But Jacky is also drawn to urban skylines; the stark, man-made structures of industrial towns and cities.

“I like pylons and gas towers for their shapes and lines,” she says. “They’re often silhouetted against the sky; they work well on my designs, which are simple with block colours.”

Cityscapes such as Newcastle’s Tyne Bridge, Salford Quays, Cardiff Castle, Battersea Power Station and Liverpool’s Albert Dock appear on Jacky’s mugs, coasters, place mats and trays. Trees and birds also feature, inspired by scenes in Whitby, Northumberland, the Lake District and Haworth.

“I’m inspired by places that mean something to me,” says Jacky. “As I get older, I appreciate the natural world more. When we’re younger we don’t notice what’s around us so much, but now, when I’m out on coastal and country walks I think: ‘We’re so lucky to have all this’.

Jacky sells her designs online, through her business, The Art Rooms, and supplies to stores such as John Lewis, London’s South Bank Centre and the House of Lords gift shop. Her designs have also reached a shop in New Jersey, run by two Yorkshirewomen, and her prints and cushions have appeared on TV shows Cold Feet, Hollyoaks, Geordie Shore and DIY SOS.

The Art Rooms is based in Saltaire, in the ground floor of Salts Mill. The site, comprising Jacky’s showroom, studio office, workshop and storerooms was an apartment used by Sir Titus Salt to entertain guests and hold board meetings. A ‘dumb waiter’ where he had meals delivered is visible in the wall, and there are stone slabs, hooks and pulleys in the old kitchen.

Jacky swapped a 20-year career in social services to follow her dream of running a design business. Returning to the UK from Abu Dhabi, where she and her family lived for a while, she settled in Bradford and, juggling a demanding job with looking after two young children, did part-time courses in pottery and woodwork. Approaching her 40th birthday, she decided to re-train as a graphic designer. “I wanted to change direction, and run my own business.” says Jacky, who did a two-year interior decoration course, followed by a graphic design HNC and, in 2000, gained a first class Honours degree in graphic media and print-making from Bradford College’s art school. After her studies she took a studio on Thornton Road, designing wedding stationery and greetings cards, and went on to set up the Art Rooms.

Last year was the 10th anniversary of the business, and Jacky has introduced print workshops. “We have a beautiful inspirational space. It’s perfect for creativity,” she says. “The classes are run by printmaker and artist Brian Hindmarch, who was my graphic design tutor throughout my HNC and my degree. He’s passionate about printmaking and brings his extensive knowledge, skills and love of printmaking to the sessions. We use the etching machine in my printroom. We’re planning a new programme of classes for 2019.”

Jacky has been creative since childhood, when she made herself a pair of shoes. By the age of eight, she had learned to sew, using sample fabrics her father brought home from work, and aged ten, she had taught herself to make sewing patterns. “I measured myself, then stuck newspapers together and drew the shape onto them. My mum had a hand sewing machine and I made myself a catsuit - the zip was a bit wonky, but I thought it looked great, “ she smiles. “My friend had a pair of Scholl shoes and I wanted some, so I decided to make a pair! I found some plywood in my dad’s garage, sawed two pieces into a shoe shape and nailed green plastic bands onto the sides.”

As well as selling online and to retailers, Jacky holds an annual Christmas open night and has had stalls at events such as the Yorkshire Dales Food Festival.

She creates her designs at her Saltaire premises and all the products, apart from trays which are made in Sweden from birch wood, are manufactured in Britain. As well as landscapes and city skylines, the designs feature sports and outdoor activities - her mugs, made in Stoke-on-Trent from Staffordshire bone china pottery, depict images of cricket, football, horse racing, running, hang-gliding, bird watching and cycling. Jacky designed a range to celebrate the Grand Depart in Yorkshire in 2014, and the cycling theme has proved popular ever since. “The cycling designs are one of my biggest sellers. Tour de Yorkshire has been a great legacy, and the UCI Road World Championships are coming here in 2019 so it looks set to continue,” she says.

Other designs include cotton throws, cushions, vases made from English Ash wood, created in collaboration with a local wood turner, reed diffusers and scented candles. “I want to make more use of natural products, such as linen, wool and cotton,” says Jacky. “All the landscapes that inspire me came from road trips, I like to do a long trip to get a collection together. I’m always seeking new inspiration for designs. I’m currently looking to do some dog faces.

Jacky is originally from Liverpool, and a place particularly close to her heart is Crosby Beach, where the Antony Gormley Another Place sculptures stand, eerily, in sand and sea. The statues appear on some of her designs, along with Gormley’s Angel of the North.

Saltaire also ignites the creative spark. “It’s a very creative place. I get involved with the festivals and art trails,” says Jacky. “I look out of the window and see all this history; the streets, canal and park. It never ceases to inspire me.”

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