About Jane Atkinson
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"From the start I wanted to make it personal, but there was no training in lace design anywhere. Picking my way via rare old design books, art and design courses in other media and studying old pattern-masters, I have written two books myself and travelled the world encouraging others."
Studio: 78 Pauntley Road, Christchurch, Dorset BH23 3JW.
Lace has always been rooted in Place – think Honiton, or Chantilly – but a tiny patch of Dorset is driving a modern approach to the medium.
I was born in Prestbury, Cheshire in 1950 but brought up on Exmoor, I then trained in London in commercial languages and Cheltenham in news journalism. I studied at the Institut Français, in London in 1970 gaining a Diplôme. I then received a NCTJ Proficiency Certificate with distinction in 1973 and a Cert Ed. From Southampton University. In 2003 I studied Fine Art and Design with the Open College for the Arts.
Stanpit in Christchurch has been my home for 35 years and on arrival in Dorset, following my new husband’s career, that a chance encounter led me into lace - I was knocked over the head by handling bobbins, I felt I saw stars.
From the start I wanted to make it personal, but there was no training in lace design, anywhere. Picking my way via rare old design books, art and design courses in other media and studying old pattern-masters, I have written two books myself and travelled the world encouraging others. But clearing my decks after the second book in 2011 I felt drawn to examine the Spirit of Place of the fascinating location that always draws me home.
Stanpit Marsh has inspired some of my earliest artwork, but many beautiful phenomena I observe there on daily walks can be bafflingly difficult to work with. I had been carefully designing and planning my patterns, but the most alluring sights were often abstract and free-form; so I set to work extempore, following nature into a new visual language that could capture its fragile and ephemeral resonance.
This has meant inventing new stitches and processes, learning to spin linen for character yarns, working like the mythical Penelope, encouraged by the example of Louise Bourgois: ‘I do, I undo, I redo’. I have created new uses for lace with expressive hangings and panels, made on a bespoke pillow the size of a kitchen table and drawing on a room full of machine-spun linen gathered on trips to exhibit around Europe, but the biggest challenge now was forcing myself into the unknown.
The research that accompanied it unpicked our relationships with landscape, spiritual, symbolic, scientific, archaeological, literary and philosophical, to add to personal experience of the brutal changes wrought by the weather. Wetlands are now in the frontline of climate change.
The new body of work will be shown in Spain and Dorset in 2018, and I am recording my experiences to open the subject up to the general reader with a final book. People talk of lace now being threatened; I’d like to prove that this would be a crime.