We met Jackie Bennett in the small town of Lewes just outside of Brighton, and she immediately took us into this quaint and tiny gallery, called Martyr’s Gallery to show us some of her work on display. We then sat down in a nearby pub to discuss her work, all of which she makes from home.
Jackie has always loved the process of weaving, ever since she did a little bit of it on her art foundation. She decided a lot later in life to take on a tapestry weaving diploma at West Dean College after some students came into a museum she was working at in Hove.
She says it is hard to describe; but “tapestry weaving is an art form” which needs very little equipment and is an intricate and complicated process done by hand.
“I am an artist I design and make tapestries based on my artistic practise,” Jackie emphasised. She explained that she prefers to let the weaving take over rather than starting with a plan. However she emphasises how different weaving is to something like painting as if you make a mistake you have to undo it which makes it a very time consuming process.
Jackie tells me about the history of weaving, saying that only the rich could afford it in the past with Henry the 8th being a big fan. He loved large tapestries that covered his walls, apparently these kind of large artworks are a lot rarer these days.
Her work at the moment has been based off of where she lives in Lewes and the South Downs. Jackie’s work is different because it is often 3D, she likes to experiment with texture and form. The landscapes she creates are often bright colours, especially green she likes her work to make a visual impact and be a bit showy.
She has just finished working on a project to be shown in Lewes Art Wave and is now doing a more in depth project for the Wellcome Collection in London. This exhibition at the medical institution will be based off of a historical collection of medical implements. Jackie has been looking into Chinese acupuncture for inspiration.
Recently she sold one of her more popular pieces, which was a landscape scene of Lewes Castle, she tells me it is off to be exhibited in Moscow. Although her artwork isn’t cheap this is not how she makes her living, instead she teaches some tapestry weaving classes.
“Complete beginners always mention how engaging weaving is because it’s quite a calming thing to do, and they get really absorbed, and they feel quite happy getting into the process of it,” Jackie tells us.
She talks about how it is never plain sailing as an artist and how she spends a lot of her time alone and engrossed in her work. She does love weaving but is happy teaching because it means she gets to socialise with others which in turn fuels and inspires her creativity.
Despite the struggles as an artist she says something always happens which changes her thinking from; “oh i must get a proper job” to encouraging her to carry on, like selling a piece of work.
Her whole family is creative, she has two children who both tried tapestry weaving but decided it wasn’t for them instead they went down their own paths.
If you’d like to find out more about Jackie and her work you can visit her website at jackietapestry.com or even attend one of her classes, she will be teaching more general classes from September at the Evolution Arts Centre in Brighton.