Jane Sanders is a textile artist from Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK whose machine stitched and applique portraits of pop icons are insanely impressive.
“I depict iconic music stars, ranging from Billie Holliday to Rag n Bone Man. I create the pictures on a basic 1960’s Singer Sewing machine, in my kitchen, surrounded by clutter, kids and a greyhound.
“I love pop music culture as everyone can relate to it and I get inspired by people’s hero worship of their idols. But I like to twist the image a bit by adding relevant mixed media, showing familiar faces in a different light. My background is in painting, but now I feel I paint with my Sewing machine.”
I love the way Jane captures the personalities of familiar pop icons using applique and mixed media. Her portraits are visually arresting and it appears that she can work her machine embroidered magic with pretty much anyone. She’s clearly a talented illustrator who makes great use of the textile format to bring her creations to life and each new character is packed with personality and charm.
From the world’s biggest pop stars to stars from the past, Jane creates them in this mixed media format, incorporating applique, beads, paint and embroidery, while charting her creative journey on her Instagram for us to enjoy. It’s great to see the process by which these amazing portraits to into being.
We first featured Jane in 2017, so we decided to interview her once again to learn more about her process and practice.
How did your technique evolve?
Originally my technique evolved from a love of stitching on my old Singer Sewing machine, but I wanted to make cutting edge, contemporary pop-art items. Not the the domestic boring things that the 1960’s machine would have been designed for. I also wanted to marry this with my obsession with pop musicians. The result was that I stitched portraits of my favourite pop stars.
Where do you think your creativity is taking you?
Since I starting with this technique around seven years ago, I have sewn well over 100 portraits and I’ve been able to go wild with my creativity.
A recent piece I’m really proud of is my life sized portrait of Paul McCartney. I love interpreting the subject I’m portraying in a personal way. I am so intrigued that Paul is the most prolific and successful writer of love songs ever, that I stitched him with his hands forming a heart symbol.
I was also keen to get other Beatles fans involved, and asked via social media, if people would like to donate a heart which I could festoon his jacket with. I was bowled over to receive over 60 gifted hearts from literally all over the world! The result was an eye popping, psychedelic and heart felt homage to one of our best pop stars ever. Also, I felt the piece became almost a collaboration between me and McCartney fans.
Another development in my work is my love of using unconventional materials. I believe in stretching the notion that textile artists can only sew with fabric. This is illustrated in my portrait of David Bowie. I was interested in Bowies obsession with Japan and Kabuki theatre. I decided to portray him in a kimono, stitched from antique Japanese washi paper, with ancient wood block printed calligraphy.
The piece is unique, from my own imagination. I am always trying to show familiar faces in a completely new way. I went one step further with my portrait of Kate Bush, where only her face was stitched, but on her head I hand constructed a birds nest, with real eggs. It’s a play on how people used to say she had “birds nest hair”.
What other artists inspire you?
Many artists inspire me, but in December I thought back to the one who was my childhood inspiration, and who planted the seed that creativity was the path I would choose. His name is Kit Williams, and he is most famed for his 1980’s masterpiece of a book, “Masquerade”. The thing that appealed to me about Kit, was that he was a multidisciplinary artist, excelling in painting, marquetry, jewellery, clock working, engineering etc. To thank Kit for inspiring so many young people, I stitched a portrait of him, and included many miniature things emerging from his hair and beard which represented themes within his pictures. The icing on the cake was that emailed him a copy of my portrait and was moved that he wrote back to both thank and congratulate me. A dream come true!
What is your favourite tool to use in your practice?
Obviously the main tool I cannot do without is my 1967 Singer Sewing machine. But apart from that, I constantly utilise my cast iron sewing machine stool. I originally rescued it from a skip in 1996! It’s great for both sewing and drawing as the height can be wound up and down. Also it’s really useful as it weighs an absolute ton, and I’m always turning it upside down to weigh down fabrics and paper, or hold materials together while glue is drying. It has been with me in multiple houses for 24 years, I think I’ll have it forever!
Can you share one creative tip with our readers?
My one tip for other creative people, is don’t spend a lot of money on materials. Most of the things I use are recycled, from a charity shop, or found objects. I think it’s more satisfying to make something out of nothing. Plus when materials have a history, they seem to somehow give off more of an impact. A good example of this is my portrait of Shane Macgowan from The Pogues. His hat is sewn from an old waistcoat, and the band is from a chocolate box ribbon. His shirt fabric is from some old boxer shorts, and his necklaces and earring are constructed from old jewellery.
Jane continues to create new pieces and is gaining more and more recognition for her exceptional talent. Follow her on Instagram to see what’s next; they’re bound to put smiles on your faces. Unless you’re this guy…