‘I’ve always been a dabbler’ said Jenny Fulton, reflecting on the myriad jobs, curiosities and passions which led her to start making textile art five years ago. ‘But sometimes things seem to fall into place… there’s a sort of rhythm that pulls everything together at the right time’. She created her first textile picture in 2017: Canadian Aspens is a vivid composition of silvery shimmering trees set in the Rockies with the blazing colours of an Alberta fall. It looks like the mature result of study and exploration from a lifetime of creativity.
Canadian Aspens, 2017 & Jenny at work in her studio
Perhaps surprisingly, Jenny’s career background is in lab-based microbiology plus stints in communications, auditing and retail management. She enjoyed all of these roles. ‘But making things has always been part of life’ she explains. ‘I’m from the make-do-and-mend generation. We all made clothes and I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t creating things from fabric, yarn, wool, string… I think there is a very analytical element to many of the jobs I did - you needed to work out how to get results and there is a sense of that in textile art too’. In the 1980s, she made clothes for her own children and occasional wedding dresses (‘too much pressure, but I did it for pin money’) yet never considered it to be anything beyond a hobby or a necessity.
In 1985, she took a job at the newly opened iconic Liberty store at 10 Trinity Street, Cambridge and progressed quickly to store manager. Arthur Lasenby Liberty was famously determined not to follow existing fashion but to create new ones. ‘I fell in love with the quality of the fabric, the eclectic designs and the colours’ Jenny says. ‘I love colour … I can carry a colour in my head for ages and I enjoy the synergy of clashing colours - ones that clash in the right way’. She happily stayed at the store for nine years until 1994.
The catalyst for creating her own textile art came from a visit to a gallery in Toronto in 2004. Jenny saw a textile which she initially thought was a painting. ‘Textile art has had to work very hard’ says Jenny. ‘I don’t think I would have seen textiles in a gallery when I was younger. Textile art was not taken seriously, It grows from the worlds of spinning, weaving and lace making - incredibly skilled crafts but - essentially - it was seen as ‘women’s work’ that was not suited to the gallery’.
We’re displaying seven of Jenny’s beautiful distinctive textiles at Stapleford Granary from Sunday 23rd January to Sunday 27th February. Inspired by trees and pebbles, they are a tantalising juxtaposition of natural and organic surfaces remade in fabric and thread. Starting with a photograph, a memory or her imagination, Jenny builds up her pictures from the background to the foreground with layer upon layer of fabric using raw edge appliqué, net and free machine stitching. She hand dyes or paints some of the fabrics and has developed techniques for making textured tree bark, canopies of leaves and vegetation. Most of her pictures take between 30 and 40 hours to complete, usually over a period of about three weeks. Jenny says ‘my aim is to capture the textures and variety of colours seen in a single tree or a forest, the mood of the environment be it stormy, cold or seasonal. I want my pictures to tell a story’.
More info: jennyfultontextileartist.co.uk
Meet Jenny Fulton and see her work at Stapleford Granary on Sunday 23rd January and then at Gallery opening times.