Member of the Month - JC Middlebrook
Categories: Case Studies , Design Factory Member News, Design Factory News

DF Member of the Month - October

JC Middlebrook - Fellow member

Jayne joined Design Factory in 2011

Jayne Childs is the creative force behind JC Middlebrook, designing and making beautiful lace in Nottingham since 2010. Driven by the lace-making heritage of her home town - Nottingham was once known as the lace capital of the UK - Jayne is inspired to produce original decorative gifts and wearable lace for the 21st century.

As well as being a Design Factory member Jayne is also a member of our sister organisation Design Nation.

Here is Jayne's story...

Where did it all begin?

I've been interested in textiles since I was a kid, and especially loved making my own clothes. I grew up in a Leicestershire village, surrounded by the remnants of the hosiery industry and the sound of factories making socks and knitwear. On moving to Nottingham, those sights and sounds were replaced by the ghosts of the lace trade, once a massive part of the city's economy. There is lace literally imprinted on the buildings, it's around every corner.

I didn't go to art school, but worked in sales and training for a sewing machine company, and then worked with young and creative people starting their own business, all the while designing and making textiles as a hobby. Eventually I started my own business in 2010 alongside some freelance project and social media work.
I was working from the spare room, until a couple of years back we moved house and I was lucky enough to convert one of the outbuildings into a studio. I've loved having more space, and have been able to host an ‘Open Studio' for the last two years.

What Inspires you?

I design and make embroidered lace, sketching the motifs in specialist design software first, and then making the lace on my two machines. I guess I straddle the gap between painstakingly handmade lace and the kind made on vast machines in a modern factory.

The initial design is the hardest stage, often taking months. I'll work on a motif for a while, play around with combinations and shapes, and then leave it until I have fresh eyes. Often when I return to the motif, ideas for jewellery shapes tumble out of me into the computer. I have a huge box of samples that never quite made it out of the design stage!

Once I've developed a motif, it's full production mode, with both machines clattering away in the studio, producing the lace from thread I get locally. I use rayon embroidery thread, which is great as its soft and very shiny. I also like the fact rayon's made from wood pulp, so doesn't have the environmental impact of oil based polyester threads.

I love working with other designers, having taken part in Design Factory's ‘Synchronise' project with ceramicist Clare Gage and then with Samantha Robinson, which led to installations at Nottingham Light Night, using the moniker ‘PorceLace'. I'm also working with a German designer, more below...

How did your collaboration overseas come about?

Nottingham is twinned with Karlsruhe in the South West of Germany. Design Factory supported a number of makers to showcase at an Applied Art Fair in Karlsruhe. I met German goldsmith Brigitte Adolph on our first trip there in 2011, supported by Design Factory,. Brigitte makes beautiful solid silver and gold jewellery cast from scraps of lace. Brigitte was able to come to Nottingham the following October and we have been working together ever since. Our first design, a silver lace bracelet, won first prize in a German jewellery competition.

I've been lucky to have access to Nottingham Trent University's Lace Archive, full of treasure from the days when the Art School there provided designers for the local lace industry. They had some catalogues from the World Fair, and Brigitte and I found some designs from a German company in Plauen, which is the German equivalent of Nottingham for lace manufacture. We developed some of designs from those pages and remade them first in lace, and then in silver for a lace Festival in Nottingham.
Apart from this collaboration, I've worked with other Karlsruhe designers, and have hosted some of them when they've come to Nottingham. It makes the trip to Eunique and much more rounded experience; we are able to make it about much more than simply a selling show. As a result, I've picked up stockists in Germany and elsewhere in Europe.

Why did you join Design Factory and Design Nation?

I joined Design Factory almost as soon as I began my business in 2010, knowing that I wanted to be part of a network of other makers. I've been really lucky to be involved in a number of DF projects, including the first mentoring project, Synchronise I&II, international trips and more. I strongly believe that you only get out what you put in, so I made a conscious decision from the start to support as many DF events as I possibly could. Being in a network is important, but membership is also recognition of the quality of my work, and makes me strive to work to a high level at all times.

The opportunity to talk over plans with Hayley Banks has been really useful and I've recently become the coordinator for the Nottinghamshire Regional Group, which has been great fun, leading. So far we've had a successful group exhibition in Nottingham and have plans to meet up and take advantage of more professional development through Design Factory.

When Design Nation came into the picture, and Liz Cooper joined the team, I was interested in the differences between the two networks and the different opportunities offered by the new (to me) organisation. After I joined DN, I found that they too had a long history and a high ‘recognition factor' within the creative sector. When I joined I saw DN as a more design led organisation, working with businesses who were perhaps more focussed on small scale manufacture, as opposed to the designer-maker businesses within Design Factory. In fact there was more cross over than I'd first expected

I've been involved in some group showcases and a pop-up shop in London through Design Nation, meeting makers from the capital and beyond.

Upcoming events

I'm currently working on a new e-commerce website, so instead doing some of my usual Christmas shows, I'll be gearing up to lots of online sales! But I will be at Attenborough Arts Craft Fair in Leicester on 28th October and Nottingham Contemporary Craft Fair 17-19th November.
I hope to return to BCTF in Harrogate and to Germany next Spring.

View Jayne's profile here
View Jayne's website here