With an entrepreneurial spirit and a joint love of cider, it was maybe inevitable that Anglo-American couple, Gordie and Mandi Woollacott would settle in Somerset. The Taunton duo started creating and crafting shortly after meeting in 2011 and they have been making things together ever since. Under their new company name of Jacks & Stripes – a nod to their respective motherlands – they now create handcrafted and hand-painted frames and art from reclaimed pallet wood.
Gordie: “Jacks & Stripes was only started recently as part of our goal of self-sufficiency, although we have been making things together almost since the day we met. I was on a round-the-world solo backpacking mission. I was in the last few months of my adventure when I met Mandi in Seattle, Washington. It was 4th July (American Independence Day) and I had literally flown into the city a few hours earlier from Las Vegas, when I got chatting to a stranger on a bus. He was on his way to meet friends at a bar to watch some football and invited me along. His name is Angelio, which is very fitting really. I ended up at a house party with them all afterwards, where I met Mandi. The rest is our history. Mandi moved here in 2013. We married the same year and now have our own home, a two-year-old fox red Labrador, and a baby boy called Camden Rae!”
Their new company name – Jacks & Stripes – is an instant classic, but Gordie admits that it took a while to find one that reflected both their shared history and vision for the future.
Gordie: “We started off a couple of years ago under the name Tomaytoes Tomahtoes. We wanted to get the UK/USA connection across to our customers and it served us well, but as we have gotten much busier we realised that either people didn’t get the name, or more importantly it was a bit too fussy for spelling and saying. We came up with the name Jacks & Stripes whilst visiting Mandi’s parents in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin (just north of Chicago). It retains the UK/USA vibe as a combination of our flags – Union Jack and Stars and Stripes.”
The couple work from their home in Taunton, where Gordie takes care of making the wood and Mandi “adds the magic” with her art. As well as being married, family connections are important to the couple. Mandi often paints alongside her young son, and Gordie says it was his late father who encouraged his love of woodwork.
Gordie: “I got the woodworking gene from my dad – also a Gordon! When he sadly passed away in 2015, I inherited a bunch of his old tools and since then I’ve discovered a totally different connection when working with wood. Mandi, born in Las Vegas and raised in San Diego, is a natural creative and honed her art skills at the Academy of Art in San Francisco whilst studying there in early 2000.”
Due to the nature of the materials that the couple uses, no two pieces of artwork are ever the same. Inspiration, Gordie says, comes from everywhere and they only make items that they would want in their own home – it means that they are constantly brimming with ideas.
Gordie: “I have a note on my iPhone that is packed with stuff, most of which will probably never get made! We especially love making bespoke commissions and so our customers are equally a brilliant source of ideas as we adapt their initial plans for a wider audience. We are currently producing a 6 meters x 2.4 metres free-standing pallet wall backdrop for the top table at a wedding in June – we get quite a variety of requests! Motivation without question comes from our little baby boy, Camden. We want to provide for him, and be around as much as we can. Working from home, doing our own thing is the perfect solution.”
Gordie and Mandi’s passion for their work and their family is evident. But why do they love Somerset? Well, Gordie has a cheeky response.
Gordie: “Why do we love Somerset? Can we say… because of Sheppy’s cider?!”