Sarah Jane Hemsley

I cannot help wondering whether being born or brought up on Bute gives you an innate talent for textile design? Situated in the Firth of Clyde, the island is steeped in history. There is such an array of landscapes: deep green hills, covered in heathery pinks, lilacs and creams, leafy forests, sandy beaches and rocky coves. The variety of colours and textures, everywhere you look, must provide a constant source of inspiration. The island is home to the world famous Bute Fabrics, and the local colours, textures and patterns are literally woven into their famous designs, making them bold, bright and complex.

Fabric designer and upholsterer, Sarah Jane Hemsley and her husband were both brought up there and still have strong family ties. They live in London now, Sarah Jane worked in hospitality for many years, enjoying artistic pursuits simply as a hobby. However, a lightbulb moment occurred a few years ago, when, within 5 minutes of starting a class in upholstery, she just knew this was for her!

She now runs a busy studio in Twickenham and has found herself launching her own range of fabrics as well. Working with some beautiful, quirky mid century fabrics, they reminded her of the work of the late Bute based artist and family friend, Lyn Bulloch, also, her art teacher as a child.

The ‘Sleeping Warrior’ cushion held up against the rolling fields of Bute in the foreground with Arran’s ‘Sleeping Warrior’ range of hills on the far horizon

Lyn had devoted much of his life to painting the scenery of the island he loved. He produced the distinctive, colourful ink drawings, as screen printed Christmas cards every year. There are lots more to make new designs from. ‘I share that passion for the island’s beautiful landscapes and coupled with my strong interest in everything mid century always found Lyn’s work inspirational and irresistible’ Sarah Jane shares. An approach to the Bulloch family for permission to use Lyn’s work was met with delight and so the Bulloch Collection was born

To date the Bulloch Collection has 3 designs: each based on one of Lyn’s timeless images connected to the island, the artwork is taken from original screen printed ink drawings.

‘Waverley’ in original blue, above and grey, below.

‘Waverley’ in grey

The Waverley is the iconic, last seagoing paddle steamer, depicted by Lyn in full steam on the Firth of Clyde. The vessel is currently having a break from it’s regular travels from Glasgow, all the way around the UK to the Dorset coast and on to London, via the Thames, partly because of Covid19, but also for a boiler re-fit. Sarah Jane donates 10% of the sale price of this fabric to the Waverley Boiler re-fit fund.

‘Sleeping Warrior’ depicts the rolling fields of Bute in the foreground with Arran’s ‘Sleeping Warrior’ range of hills on the horizon.

The Toile de Jouy ‘Dunagoil & Shore Road’ is an ancient rocky cliff overlooking a bay in heathery purples and a residential road hugging the beach in pinks & reds.

Waverley cushions in various shades – backed and piped in Bute Fabric weaves.

The designs are printed on to a base cloth of half panama cotton which is suitable for a range of interior soft furnishings, all available from her online shop. Keeping the island connection Sarah Jane has used Bute Fabric’s wools as the cushion backing and piping for her shop and in many of her bespoke, reupholstered pieces. Although colourful, the heart of the collections are the graphic squiggly ink drawings so reminiscent of the memorable period of design, captured in the 1951 Festival of Britain. The festival was intended as a ‘tonic for the nation’, a spectacular cultural event to raise the spirits of a country, still in the grasp of austerity and rationing, and undergoing severe social and economic reform. How wonderful would it be to repeat this event as a post-Covid19 treat? The desire to celebrate the work of up and coming designers such as Sarah Jane, could not be more heartfelt.

All the images in this post, unless otherwise credited, are by photographer Caroline Jones.

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