Jane Bristowe, photographed in 'The Jane Bristowe Rhino Silk Square' by Lou Souza Photography https://www.lousouza.com/
As a celebration of women’s rights and liberty, International Women’s Day is particularly important to us, as a female-led business.
Whilst our silk collection does take inspiration from the art and design of many male artists and designers, we’ve been working to sway the balance and champion not only female artists of the past, but also the present.
In 2019, we had the pleasure of collaborating with the wonderful Jane Bristowe, to create a stunning square silk twill scarf, based on her iconic red ‘Rhinoceros’ linocut print.
Jane chose to donate all royalties from the sale of her scarf to the charity Tusk and continues to do so. We caught up with her to see how life in lockdown has been and hear more about her inspirations and successes as a female artist.
F&C: As it’s International Women’s Day, we thought we’d catch up with a woman who certainly inspires us - one of our favourite contemporary female artists and creator of our ever popular ‘Rhino’ silk twill scarf! So Jane, please could you give us an insight into how you started out as an artist and what it is that continues to inspire your work?
Jane: It really all began in my mid-20’s, when someone recommended a book to me called ‘Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain’. It’s a truly fascinating book by a female author called Betty Edwards. Delving into the creative process and how one uses the two sides of the brain, Edwards gives exercises to stimulate working on the right side (which is the more creative of the two, controlling lateral thinking in shape and colour). I must say, reading her book was like a lightbulb moment for me.
For a number of years after that, I took life drawing classes – but at some point I felt I needed to find my own style, so I enrolled at Putney School of Art to learn printmaking techniques and was told by my tutor that line was my ‘thing’.
The animal prints came quite naturally to me, I thought to myself – what did I love as a child? Elephants! And so my first linocut became a very primitive elephant!
‘Rhinoceros’ was next – in fact, this is the rhino featured on the Fox & Chave scarf. When I first created this piece it was in fact shortlisted for Wildlife Artist of the Year 2008 and exhibited at the Institute of Contemporary Arts.
It so happened that for my first linocuts, I had picked up square pieces of lino and to this day I love the challenge of working within a square. A square just creates some sort of tension, which is fun to work both with and against.
In terms of the colours I use, they come secondary to the line. It’s difficult to put a finger on why, but it seems I veer towards certain colours for particular animal designs.
F&C: What an inspiring story, all sparked by reading a single book! In terms of other artists, is there anyone in particular who has inspired your work, or whose work you just love?
Jane: There are a number of female artists I really admire, in particular Louise Bourgeois, I love her work, both the playful side of it and the serious - it’s obvious she brings her unconscious into play. Similarly, Sonia Delauney – I admire her colours and the rhythm of her pieces.
Further to that, I adore Matisse and of course I was always inspired by Paul Klee and his famous quotation: ‘taking a line for a walk’, I love that idea.
On a personal level, I think my mark making is a combination of deliberate and accidental lines - and it’s a truly ‘fine line’ between them; because the deliberate lines can get so very tight and regimented, encouraging the accidental is really important.
When I begin a new piece, I like to be taken by surprise, perhaps by a photograph of an animal. Then I just start drawing. I begin with a sketch, but not too many as I’m so very aware of the play between right and left brain – if I do a sketch that’s quite free, I think of that as the right side at work and the left side could easily crush it by saying ‘that’s not quite right’ – there’s always that interplay.
F&C: What wonderful artists, they’ve certainly inspired us too! Our collection of silks is inspired by the work of so many artists and designers, both historical and contemporary, how did you come to work with Fox & Chave and translate your beautiful ‘Rhinoceros’ print into a wearable textile?
Jane: I first discovered Fox & Chave at a textile fair in London Olympia, back in 2019 – whilst wandering, I spotted a stall of gorgeous silk scarves. As I had my little red rhino calling card with me (it’s sort of my totem!) I approached Jemima and asked if she would be interested in working together. Having shown her my ‘Rhinoceros’ print, I was delighted to find that she loved it and so it went from there.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with Fox & Chave, I was very keen for the project to happen and as I just love rhinos, I decided I would donate all my royalties from sales of the scarf to the charity Tusk.
In fact, it’s an extraordinary thing that I began a collaboration with a silk business as at a similar time, I’d spotted in the newspaper a story about one of Henry VIII’s silk hats going on display at Hampton Court – it was said to have been caught by Nicholas Bristowe as Henry VIII celebrated the siege of Boulogne.
I was struck by the mention of another Bristowe as there aren’t many of us who spell Bristowe with an ‘e’ on the end. After speaking with a genealogist, it turns out I am descended from Bristowe and he was in fact ‘Clerk of the Wardrobe of Robes’ to Henry VIII, personally overseeing deliveries of silk to the palace - quite the silk connection!
F&C: Now that is a coincidence – and a wonderful story to tell! Moving on to the inevitable question about ‘Lockdown’… how has it been for you? Have you changed the way you work, perhaps finding further collaborations or translating your work into other mediums?
Jane: It’s been a busy time for me which is great and I’ve really focused my energies into collaborations. Recent projects include bags, greetings cards and giclée prints – I also teamed up with Amy Kent to produce bespoke, hand-knotted rugs featuring 14 of my animals.
Instagram has been the biggest surprise to me during this time – I never imagined I would enjoy it so much, but it’s great for me as I like to link my work with poems and quotes and Instagram makes that so easy to communicate. It’s also a very useful as a channel for bringing in new relationships – and what’s more, it’s fun! Although I take my work seriously, having the fun element is really important to me.
Overall, I believe that collaborations really widen one’s creative scope. They also help on the business side of things – it’s great to have a partner who can help with marketing and leave the creativity to me!
Thank you so much to Jane for taking the time to chat with us, we loved hearing about her work, inspirations and exciting new collaborations and look forward to working with her again, hopefully in the not-so-distant future!
Jane’s beautiful ‘Rhinoceros’ silk twill scarf is still available to buy here with all royalties going directly to Tusk.