This week, Friday Folks features Manchester-based designer maker, Jane Blease.
We first encountered Jane in October 2010, when she exhibited at the Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair. Her stand really caught our eye and we highlighted her work in the blog we posted about the event. Six months on, she’s going from strength to strength!
Who are you & what do you do?
My name is Jane and I set up my business, Jane Blease Design in 2008. I design & make lighting and homewares which I sell from my shop, my online site www.janebleasedesign.co.uk and from numerous galleries and boutiques in the UK.
I strive to use my materials in both efficient and imaginative ways. In my current collection, I intricately embroider wood veneer using a selection of vibrantly coloured threads to create bespoke lampshades, framed artwork, jewellery and accessories. I came up with the unique & unusual technique in 2009, initially woodburning the holes by hand, which created a very rustic effect. For precision, I now laser cut the elaborate patterns, this allows me to create much more intricate designs which I then finish with spirals of threadwork.
I use mainly wood to create my products but I also use recycled plastics and vintage, imitation tortoiseshell. It was produced in the 60s & 70s, specifically for making glasses frames. It is one of the earliest plastics ever made, which I have re-claimed, re-formed, lovingly restored and transformed into beautiful lampshades.
How did you get into the business?
After graduating from my 3D Design course at Manchester Metropolitan University in 2006, I was one of 8 artists who gained a place on the Design Initiative 2006-08 Setting Up Scheme, which provided a comprehensive business development programme. This allowed me to transform my product ideas into a functioning business. I now have a shop/studio in the Manchester Craft and Design Centre.
Who or what inspires you?
Being based in the Northern Quarter, one of the most diverse and up-and coming areas of Manchester, I am surrounded by inspiration on a daily basis. I also love going for walks in the countryside and take inspiration from the natural world. All of my work is organic, either in form, pattern or materials used.
I love seeing what the craft world is up to so I visit exhibitions up and down the country on a regular basis. This also helps me to decide on the right places to show my work. Plus, the internet is an amazing resource these days, there are so many great craft and design blogs.
I’ve got an exciting adventure coming up this year! I’ve been handpicked by the renowned industrialist and heritage conservationist Abhay Mangaldas to take part in an artists residency in India this summer. For six weeks I’ll will be working alongside the local crafts people of Ahmedabad to develop products for the modern market. I will be combining their more traditional skills with my modern approach to design.
My existing product range should evolve beautifully by taking inspiration from some of the local skills. India’s culture and scenery will inspire me immensely I’m sure.
What has been your greatest success?
After two years of hard work, my business is going from strength to strength. In Summer 2010, I was chosen by executives at Manchester Airport to create 22 pieces of framed artwork for the Escape Lounge in Terminal 1. The embroidered artwork covers three, 4-metre walls and is the focal point of the contemporary ‘snug’ area. This was my biggest and most prestigious commission so far.
In April this year, I took part in the British Craft Trade Fair, and was delighted to receive The Bluefin Insurance Award for Excellence. It was my first trade show and I was overwhelmed by the response to my work. There was a definite buzz around my stand with attendees commenting on the uniqueness of my products. I had a fantastic show, I took lots of orders and I have got some great exhibitions lined up as a result, Similar Threads or Edau Tebyg at the stunning Oriel Mostyn Gallery in Llandudno next month, MADE at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park Nov-Feb and a few others later in the year too. I am extremely proud of my achievements and feel like it is the beginning of a great future for my business!
Have you got any advice for someone wanting to break into the business?
Make the most of all the opportunities that come your way! It takes a few years for businesses to establish themselves so you will need patience (and a part-time job), but if you think you have a niche then go for it. Also, in terms of your work, there are no mistakes when it comes to design. I always say that the best ideas come through experimentation, so don’t be afraid to just have a play.
To see more of Jane’s work, please visit www.janebleasedesign.co.uk