Working as a content writer for (more than a) few years should really have prepared Jo Rourke for pivoting to full time artist and poet. But it didn’t. It turns out that putting her own work out there, rather than being able to hide behind a company profile or publication, was scarier than a toddler having a late nap.
But like all good heroines (writing about yourself in the third person is fun!), Jo battled through the fear and did it anyway. She set up Willow & Weeds, her fifth baby (yes, she has four actual children) and started putting her original poetry out into the world, in the form of cards, wall art, home decor and stationery.
And it’s been quite the ride.
Jo hates it when people say things like “Well, the business just sort of “took off”, I didn’t really do anything!” because this has never happened to Jo. Jo would like it said for the record that she’s worked really hard for any success….but has enjoyed
every second, nearly all of it.
Initially, Jo focused on sharing the poetry that she’d written for her own children. Gentle, slow, bedtime rhymes which she paired with artwork featuring feathers, dandelions and dreamy, eyelids-getting-heavy colour palettes.
Turning these creations into cards was the next step, as Jo came up with her signature Keepable Cards; A6 cards with a verse on the back, artwork on the front and a perforated middle fold so the recipient could easily separate the two sections and frame them in a double 6 x 4 frame. Eco-conscious, keepable and saving us from the horror that is The Card Drawer.
Next up was a move to other types of verse and artwork, the most important of which has been Jo’s quest to increase awareness and change the conversation for women who have experienced miscarriage or the loss of a child.
Jo is thankful every day for the four beautiful children she has, and the fact that she has never experienced the heartbreak of infant loss. Not all of her friends have been so fortunate. It was that which moved Jo to create her miscarriage cards, as when a close friend suffered a miscarriage, there was nothing appropriate to send. It seemed dismissive to just send a Thinking of You card, a regular grief card didn’t seem appropriate for the life that had been lost.
A further step was to enclose a verse to help friends communicate their support, to communicate that they’d hold space for the grief, whether it came in waves or all at once.
The cards and wall art have been met with overwhelming support; this support is made all the sweeter knowing that 20% from each sale goes to the Little Forget Me Nots Trust, which fundraises to support families who have experienced the loss of a child.
For Jo, lockdown has meant a curious bubble of together time, nursing a newborn (her fourth child, Evangeline, was born in February) and developing Willow & Weeds. How has she adapted her business for these...trying not to use the word unprecedented….changed times? She’s developed Art Activity Books for kids….now, whether that’s to help frazzled Mums grab 5 minutes to go to the loo in peace or to help herself grab 5 minutes to go to the loo in peace...you decide.