It was a treat to meet Jane of Bailey Hills recently. I've liked her work for a little while now (do you remember that pretty snowflake cushion I posted at Christmas? Well that is Jane's clever work...) and so on a freezing cold day it was a great to go and meet Jane at her warm and welcoming home.
patternbooth: How did you end up setting up Bailey Hills?
jane: I've always been creative and studied Interior Design which is the field I worked in for over 20 years. I really enjoyed it, but at the back of my mind I always wondered if I should have studied textiles instead. I reached the age where I thought 'it's now or never' and I was in the lucky position to be able to stop work for a while and go back to college.
I studied Printed Textiles at Loughborough University and graduated in 2010. I was uncertain about what practice to pursue but knowledge of my ancestors, who were wool cloth manufacturers, and my experience in interior design got me thinking about wool, and things started to fall into place then.
patternbooth: What is it about wool?
jane: I knew the potential of wool cloth from working in interiors; it's such a versatile fabric. I couldn't find anyone who was printing on interior weight wool cloth in this country, two years ago, though I already knew there were British wool cloth manufacturers. So I started to explore what was available and I got some samples and started experimenting. That was it, I was hooked.
patternbooth: Is the Britishness of what you do important to you?
jane: I think it' really important to promote British made cloth and British skills. We could lose some textile manufacturing skills in this country if we continue to solely use manufacturers abroad and once skills are lost they may never come back. It's good to be a part of trying, in my own small way, to support this industry.
patternbooth: You launched Bailey Hills Print and Wool towards the end of last year. How did you know it was the right time to 'launch'?
jane: I took a really long time doing the research and development stage of my work. I wanted to do it properly. It's like climbing a mountain, you need a really solid base camp in order to be able to move forward from there. Once I had all the ground work done, the time felt right to start putting my work out into the world. I don't think I could have done it when I was in my 20's, I didn't have a lot of work and life experience then , but now that I have, I have the confidence to approach people, make connections and work out what to do to progress with my work.
patternbooth: What is the hardest part of working by yourself?
jane: It can be lonely working on your own, so you need to have creative friends to talk to who can understand the challenges you're facing. It can also be easy to put yourself under a lot of pressure because it's really hard to say 'no' to enquiries even if you are really busy. You also have to be versatile and think about pursuing as many different income streams as you can from your work.
patternbooth: What are you working on now?
jane: A real mix of things! I'm working on a special print for a new customer, I'm testing some samples for a company who would like to print on their own cloth, and I'm preparing my contribution to the upcoming exhibition at Somerset House called 'Wool House' in March. It's the world's largest showcase of wool and will have work from leading designers and artisan makers. It's very exciting.
patternbooth: What advice would you give someone just starting out?
jane: Firstly look around at everything else that is similar to what you want to do, and then try and think what you could do to make your work slightly different. I know this can be really hard but you need to try and have a point of difference. It's very important to have a starting point. Narrow things down to using a particular material or process. Use two materials together which haven't been seen before. Find something in your background or what you enjoy doing in your spare time and explore these themes using different drawing media, for instance. Once you've decided on a starting point, then take time to see where this leads and eventually you'll come across something interesting you will want to develop.
Secondly, network. Join groups that are relevant and make a real effort to be in places where you might find people who are interested in what you do. Find people who can help you, or can link you with people who can.
Lastly, be very determined. I've had lots of knock backs but you just have to believe in what you are trying to do , keep going and eventually you will realise you are making progress.
patternbooth: What is your dream?
jane: To be able to keep experimenting with new print designs and making new interior products. I'd love to be able to move into an industrial unit with more space and maybe have some help, one day. I'd like to see my printed wool products, in time, reach a wider market and see my work in more people's homes.