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TOTALLY EAST TEXAS: Mother-daughter duo play their cards right, bring art into your hands

The pandemic has many of us feeling like the deck is stacked against us. But a small deck of cards inspired a big idea, FOSTER, for Kim and Frances Hackney.

TYLER, Texas — Kim and Frances Hackney share so many sweet memories together. 

The mother-daughter duo both love to create. Kim is an interior designer, Frances is an artist and both went to Ole Miss. Actually, that's where Frances was, about to graduate, when the pandemic hit.

"And then I came up with this great idea for a mother-daughter trip that we were taking that summer, last summer, to do a deck of hand-painted playing cards around Oxford and Ole Miss, and just bringing in traditions and places on campus or the community to just foster relationships and memories," Kim said. "So, Frances got to work and did a deck of cards for Oxford."

That trip to the beach and their love of playing cards quickly shuffled into a business.

"And we had the bright idea of let's just see if we could sell these," Kim said. "We ordered 250 decks and within two weeks, we had sold out, and we had tons of recommendations and requests to do other colleges."

Bringing a little piece of art into the palm of your hands takes time and a tremendous amount of consideration.

"So, each deck, we start with, you just gather a list of around 16 or 17, ideas or traditions, icons from the campus," Frances said. "That process is really unique, because we get to work with alumni and students, faculty and we kind of ask them what they would like to see, or like, what was a good memory that they had on campus or around the college town. We start by, just literally, I go in and just start making paintings of all of the ideas and traditions.  And that takes around 70 to 80 hours to do a deck."

At FOSTER, they just keep stacking the decks. They've created about a dozen officially licensed custom collegiate decks for universities like TCU, SMU, Auburn and Alabama, but that's not their only ace in the hole. 

"So we've done wedding decks of cards, which is about the couple," Kim said. "The really special thing we've done this year working with Liz Ballard and Erica Hallmark is we've done the Texas Rose Festival, first ever deck of cards, and it just worked out perfectly this year that there's enough, 52 cards in a deck, and we were able to get every Ladies in Waiting and Duchess costume."

Much of the work is done out of the Hackneys' home, from the packaging and shipping to the personalized, handwritten notes, that go out with every deck.

It's a lot of hard work, but such a special experience for Frances to work alongside her mom.

"Because she's such a talented designer, she can come up with this vision," said Frances. "So, we kind of work together to come up with how are we going to portray this idea that we have onto our products. It's a really fun process, being able to create this imagery together."

As with any growing business, FOSTER expanded their line by creating matching products to go with their decks, like cups and napkins. Still, at the heart of the company, they just want to bring people together, which brings us back to their name, FOSTER.

"My maiden name is Foster," Kim said. "And so that name just means encourage, promote, mother, nurture. So we've really made our motto fostering others and fostering friendships and memories."

This Totally East Texas mom and daughter are making the most of the hand they were dealt.

You can get your hands on a deck of these hand-painted playing cards from FOSTER on their website and they're sold in some local stores in East Texas, like Sweet Gourmet and Cole and Company in Tyler, as well as Pen and Company in Longview.