Made with love and crafted with values that stand test of time
THE interior design industry is as guilty as any other when it comes to our throw-away attitude. With each new season, fashions wax and wane and little about what we do is permanent.
So it’s refreshing to come across a British designer who is passionate about making things that last. Embroidery designer Jan Constantine lives by her motto – “Designed for today, destined to be heirlooms of the future” – and her distinctive brand of hand-embroidered textiles has made her one the UK’s hottest designers.
But what inspired Jan’s passion for stitching and how did her kitchen-table business transform itself a household name?
“I think I probably had a needle in my hand as soon as I could draw or write,” explains Jan. “My granny was a dressmaker and my mother was a tailoress but all my great aunts used to sew as well and do embroidery – so it’s always been there.”
The influence of her early childhood was obviously a profound one. Being surrounded by creative women, and the timeless skills they practised, gave Jan a deep-seated love of sewing. For her, needlework not only represents craftsmanship and care, but it also evokes warm, nostalgic memories. It’s hardly surprising that so many of her pieces incorporate the word “Love”.
There can have been no greater apprenticeship than a childhood spent running up dolls’ outfits on her tiny sewing machine. The die was cast and it seems inevitable that, as a young adult, she would pursue a career in textiles. After training in fashion design, Jan quickly moved her way up the career ladder from junior designer to head designer to design director at a busy London firm.
Jan, however, was keen to be her own boss. As exciting as her metropolitan career was, she longed to focus on her one overriding passion – handembroidery. In a leap of faith, she moved from busy London to green Cheshire to set up her own business. “I started in a very small way around a kitchen table with friends, stuffing lavender bags,”she explains.
It wasn’t long before her distinctive work was spotted by a buyer from Liberty’s. Jan had taken some of her work to a Country Living Show, pieces inspired by her grandmother's embroidery from the early 20th century, and they’d gone down a storm. The rest is history.
Nowadays, rarely a month goes by when Jan’s work isn’t featured in an interior design magazine or glossy Homes supplement. And with good reason. Her exquisite designs are hand worked on natural cottons, linens and silks. Her use of colour is bold and exciting – a
I started in a very small way around a kitchen table with friends stuffing lavender bags.
welcome change from ubiquitous beige. And, rather like Emma Bridgewater ceramics, Jan Constantine’s vintage-inspired textiles are fast becoming collectible.
But most of all, her belief in craftsmanship transforms simple stitching to something infinitely more special.
How many companies can say that their products are embroidered by hand not by machine? How many describe their employees as “artisans”? And, best of all, how many of the things we buy for our homes can truly be counted as an investment?
Find Jan Constantine textiles and home accessories at the Olive Branch, Market Place, Addingham, tel: 01943 830123 and Market Place, Easingwold, tel: 01347 823402, www.the-olivebranch.co.uk
HEARTFELT: Many of Jan’s designs feature the word “love”.