Northern Ireland news

Former Co Down schoolteacher's artwork featured by Repair Shop's Jay Blades in `game changing' collaboration

Artist Jacqueline Rooney with the painting for Jay Blades

A FORMER schoolteacher's vivid paintings inspired by the Mourne Mountains and Carlingford Lough have brought her a career-making collaboration with `Repair Shop' presenter Jay Blades.

Co Down artist Jacqueline Rooney received a "game changing" telephone call from the popular upcycling furniture designer after the Instagram page of her work caught his attention.

"I follow him on social media, because he uses bright colourful fabrics and my art is very vibrant and colourful and I would comment from time to time on his pieces," she told the Irish News from her home studio in Rostrevor.

"Then at 7 o'clock one morning I had a comment from him saying `I absolutely love your work, we need to collaborate, can I call you?'

"He said my art inspires him and give him shivers on the back of his neck and we needed to connect with brand collaboration.

"Jay contacting me is a game changer. He was such a gentleman speaking to me on the phone as if I had known him for years. I kept thanking him and he said `I'm just a man, don't thank me'.

"I did a painting for him and shipped it over to him and now everything's gone wild as he's put it up all over his social media.

"The phone hasn't stopped ringing with people ordering paintings because they have his furniture and want the artwork to go with it. I have had 30 orders since the weekend, including one from France and one from Germany."

Her new collaborator, who is now also fronting the new BBC1 series `Home Fix', had predicted her life was about to change forever.

"He told me `This is going to go viral'."

The mother-of-two, who was born in nearby Kilkeel, had been head of art in St. Joseph's High School, Crossmaglen for 12 years before giving it up to follow her passion and become a full time artist 18 months ago after turning 40.

"My husband and I both lost his parents to cancer in months and had two children in 15 months around the same time.

"I had a secure teaching job where I was telling my A Level students to follow their dreams and I was thinking `I'm not doing that'. I resigned and my paintings got brighter as my feelings were reflected in my art."

Her husband Scott also left his teaching job to fulfil his ambition of becoming a barista, converting a horse box into a mobile café called Evanlay Coffee after their sons Evan (3) and four-year-old Finn (Finlay).

"He does that at weekends so I take care of the boys then and do my work during the week."

While her work is based on the stunning scenery surrounding the family home, and the nearby Silent Valley where she would go as a child with her late grandmother and "biggest fan", the colours reflect the feelings she has when drinking in the landscape and the influence of time spent living in Australia.

"I feel so lucky, maybe I appreciate it more because I didn't do it straight out of art school and I did have a job first. I want people to know you can always follow your dreams, not matter what age you are."

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