Made with love and crafted with val­ues that stand test of time

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY - Sally Coulthard

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”.

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