Kathy Jeffords, a 2000 FMU graduate, has reached new heights in her career
as an artist. Jeffords, who majored in theatre arts and minored in creative writing,
says she never took a single art class outside of the required introduction course
while in school, but always knew she was crafty and enjoyed being creative.
“I loved my whole FMU experience and don’t know that I would have done
anything differently, but I probably should’ve given some art course a chance just
because I would’ve enjoyed them.” Jeffords said.
Jeffords forfeited formal training in art during her college years, but this has
proved to not be an issue for her. In the summer of 2012, Jeffords was contacted by
representatives of The Bradford Exchange, an online producer and marketer of
collectible goods. The company was interested in licensing some of her artwork, an
opportunity that Jeffords said she didn’t seek out.
“I’m a bit of a control freak and a perfectionist to the core, so the idea of
putting my art in someone else’s hands and allowing them to do anything with it
was always a bit terrifying to me,” Jeffords said.
Ultimately, after realizing that it was not a scam but a legitimate interest in
her artwork, Jeffords agreed to license her work because “when a company like
Bradford comes calling, you kind of have to take a deep breath and jump and trust it
to all work out.”
The company created a line of figurines called Sweet Smiles by Kathy Jeffords
based on Jeffords’ paintings of big-eyed creatures. Four figurines are currently
available online and if they do well more may be created in the future. The Sweet
Smiles line was also recently made available for stores to pick up, and figurines are
already stocked in more than 100 locations.
While at FMU, Jeffords also fulfilled a childhood dream and wrote a novel.
Although the first draft was not a huge success, Jeffords said she plans to continue
writing in the future. Today, she is an accomplished artist who has had her artwork
published in many forms prior to working with The Bradford Exchange.
Immediately after graduation, Jeffords did the one thing she said she never
wanted to do: teach. Jeffords took a job at a local school teaching language arts to
junior high students. After deciding her original plan to avoid teaching was a better
choice, Jeffords left the classroom and took a technical writing job. Next, Jeffords
worked in a law firm, and it was during this time that she was looking for a creative
outlet and began painting. One of her co-workers saw her artwork and encouraged
her to submit some art to She Magazine, a local magazine that was gaining
popularity at the time. Later, Jeffords partnered with a child-friendly online site
called Storybird that allows users to write stories based on illustrations. The user
can essentially put a book together and the website allows parents to purchase a
hard-copy of their child’s creations which turns a profit for the artists. Jeffords also
collaborated with a jewelry company that makes handmade creations such as
lockets. Jeffords cited other opportunities in the industry as being great learning
experiences that helped form the path for her career.
Jeffords encourages students who are preparing to embark on a career in a
creative field to put themselves “out there” and take advantage of all platforms to
share their work.
“You have to really want it,” Jeffords said. “You have to be willing to live and
breathe it, if you want to make it a career.
In the future, Jeffords plans to have a dual career in art and writing and said
as long as she can continue to make a living by creating, she will be happy.