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The Jacky Winter Group – 5 questions with Kelly Thompson

20th April, 2012
Jenny Butler
Friday 20th April 2012

What a week!! Thank you Jeremy for taking the time to interview 6 talented and unique folks this week- they each had such valuable advice and stories to offer, especially for fellow creative business owners and staff. We hope that today's Field Trip is a huge success (I suspect it will be - it's sold out!) and we all look forward to seeing what is next for The Jacky Winter Group and its creatives. Thanks again JW! - Jenny x

Kelly Thompson - you have such amazing hair!

I can't say enough amazing things about Kelly Thompson, the best-dressed person in the entire Northern Suburbs. Alongside everyone else in the office, Kelly is like the final piece of a couture-inspired Voltron, if that Voltron's job was to make me feel incredibly insecure about my own wardrobe and talents. Kelly also has the most amazing Fiancé ever, who sometimes comes by to walk the dogs and deliver hot cross buns. He also puts Jon Hamm to shame in the handsome-ness department. Just saying.

Jeremy Wortsman (JW): Kelly! Hello! Have I ever told you that you are my sunshine? It's true. Really. Moving along, lets get started with a bit more about what you do here at JWHQ.

Kelly Thompson (KT): Do you say that to all the orange haired girls?

JW: Most people probably know you best for your very successful personal illustration and photography practice. What skills from these areas do you find have been the most useful in your role here at JW?

KT: Freelancing either turns you into a slightly smelly, hunchbank with communication boundaries, OR it makes you super motivated in the knowledge that if you're not a nice person and on the ball you wont get work. Luckily for me it groomed me to be the motivated sociable variety, and helped me battle through crowds to bust in and become an account manager/producer at Jacky Winter.

One of the main benefits of having worked as an illustrator and still working in the industry is that I know exactly how it is to be in the position of our artists and to expect the unexpected with every project. I have had so many of them say things like "Oh I don't need to explain this to you, you've probably had this plenty of times", and I think they appreciate that if they need to chat I completely understand where they are coming from.

I've also had previous representation which I left to join JW so I know what it is like to work with an agent and be represented. I like to think that having experienced things from both sides makes me better at relating to artists and clients, and makes me good at what I do. I know what drove me nuts with my agent and what was great, so hopefully I am filtering all of this through to keep our team happy!

I'm very happy to work, have a list of tasks and tick them off, figuring things out for myself like I've done in my studio alone for years, I am sure that as the number of staff grow at JW Jeremy will love me very much for this! (right Jeremy?)

Its also very handy to know all of the technical terms and understand the processes to create the work. Today I was talking to Charlotte in our office about the texture used in the shadows of one of our artists work, how that would have been created and who could match it, I think my past has definitely made me more aware of the little details that count.

Some of the Jacky Winter projects that Kelly has produced

JW: On the flipside, can you talk a bit about what you have learned on the job that has a positive effect on your personal practice?

KT: When you're a creative there is no tutor, book or anything that ever tells you how much things cost or what you should charge. If you ask someone its like you just asked them to make out with you when you have food poisoning, they look to the floor, get fidgety and back towards the nearest exit in fear. Nobody ever speaks of these things! Since working at JW I've gained some pretty exceptional insight that creatives would probably take hostage for!

Some of the most beneficial things I have learnt are related to licensing and budgets. Seeing the huge range of jobs that come in every day and negotiating costs with a wide roster of clients has given me a solid span of knowledge about what sits where and the value of work. There are no more half assed paper trails happening with my own work, my clients have been commending me for my extensive detailed quotes and emails and there is no way a brief begins until I milk all the information. JW made me fancy! Im also really inspired by all of the work I see every day, the artists we have are so amazing and so talented that all I want to do is push my own work harder and be better at what I do. I am definitely more confident with my work and feel like my eyes have been opened to many more possibilities.

Original Juice artwork created by Stuart McLachlan, produced by Kelly Thompson

JW: It must be a challenge to successfully manage personal commissions, selling work, and writing back to fan mail, while working full-time, but you seem to do it with ease. How do you achieve a balance in this regard, and what advice would give to others who may be struggling to follow in your footsteps?

KT: I don't know about ease, or balance, but I'm glad it looks that way! I apologise regularly on my Facebook fan page as I'm not so speedy on the replies anymore (sorry!).

I guess I'm all about the greater goal, while there may be a few things about my personal work that I don't always have time for now, what I am gaining with JW is invaluable experience and in six years of freelance I would only just learn as much I have in the last year at JW. My standard day involves JW until 6 and then KT until midnight-ish, but I actually think its getting easier, you just adapt!

One of the good things about having limited time and something that has kept me sane is that I have no choice but to be selective about my projects, where as before I would take everything and slam myself because I am too much of a "yes" person. I have found that since becoming more choosy, the work I am doing is more fulfilling. At the moment I am working on an exciting collaboration with photographer Derek Henderson and we are creating a book together based on model Zippora Seven. I am really appreciating taking the time to immerse myself in this project without a million small ones nibbling at my heels.

As far as advice goes I would definitely recommend setting up processes and systems for yourself to make life easier. Goals are the most important things a freelancer can have, I always set mini goals throughout my night to get things done, for example "once I finish colouring this image I can go and open that magazine that came in the mail" silly things like that keep me motivated. I have long term goals, monthly goals and daily goals and I write them down so I can see them and be reminded. Its like a positive guilt system! I always feel bad if I don't tick things off.

Its really important to make things easier for yourself so you can get things done. I've always had a "shop" section on my website that involves people enquiring to buy prints, but since opening my facebook shop I have much more time as it is all automated and people don't have to wait for me to reply to buy. My website is now checking in for a shop makeover! Having online shops, fan pages and twitter that make you available to the public even while you sleep, make additional income breezy! I also have a large selection of my work on display at home and welcome people to make appointments to view, personal contact with your customer is so important and they love to know the details behind the artwork.

One of the biggest and possibly cheesiest (but important) pieces of insight/advice is to remember that nobody can do it quite like you, so you just need to find your style and do it your way and in time, with effort it will come together.

Some of Kelly's beautiful work- see more at her Facebook Shop here

JW: One of your major roles here lately has been in establishing The Twitchery, our fledgling Photo Agency. Given that you have worked professionally both in illustration and photography, what do you think links the two disciplines together successfully?

KT: Go The Twitchery! I'm really excited that all of the writing, research, and interviewing  has finally come to fruition!

These days with everyone being a blogger/designer/world dominator I think that the lines are pretty blurred between specialties and in the case of image making everything is beginning to link and intertwine. I see photography and illustration as one and the same, some people create images by hand, some with a computer, brush, or camera, its all about creation, it doesn't matter what tools are involved. In the past painting had its time, then photography and then illustration became popular, now it is not the way you create the image, it is what you create that counts. I think that in the case of Jacky Winter and The Twitchery it is the clients who get excited and creative with all of the possibilities that will truly make this link a success.

Kelly Thompson working / chatting at Jacky Winter HQ

After a week of interviews with staff and clients of The Jacky Winter Group, hopefully those reading along have gathered some tips and tricks of how our creative business runs. From keeping your morning tea away from long nosed Italian Greyhounds to ensuring that all of our clients and artists feel connected to us as people and not as an email signature, I hope that there is something from this week that you can apply to your own work.

- Jeremy

The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email