We recently met Janet Cook (in cyberspace) and we are thrilled to have a chance to show her work here. Thrilled, and slightly awed, in light of the fact that Janet Cook is a member of the prestigious Society of Designer Craftsmen in the UK. This organization dates back to 1887 and the Arts and Crafts Movement, founded by William Morris and his contemporaries. Janet Cook's work will be shown in the 2011 major exhibition, which opens this weekend in London*. Janet has created an amazing range of textile art that includes pieces inspired by landscapes, archaeology, and history. In each area of her interest she has pushed the boundaries of fabric art and craft, exploring new subjects, techniques and visual effects. Her magnificent "Opus Sectile II" is a collage of designs based on one of the greatest treasures of Westminster Abbey: the 700-year-old Great Pavement.
Opus Sectile II, by Janet Cook
'Opus sectile' refers to an art technique popularized in the ancient and medieval Roman world where materials were cut and inlaid into walls and floors to make a picture or pattern. The Cosmati were a Roman family who specialized in decorative geometric mosaics for church floors. For "Opus Sectile II", Janet Cook matched her colors to the beautifully colored stones chosen by the original Cosmati artists. With characteristic modesty, Janet confides that this stunning quilt was her first "experiment" with paper foundation piecing (!)
~Artists such as Paul Klee have had a great influence on my work, as have the Roman mosaicists in Morocco, Tunisia, Italy and here in England. I put quilts together in ways similar to their floors, building images then joining them to make a whole statement. ~ Janet Cook
Consuo, 2007, by Janet Cook
"Consuo" means "I stitch together" in Latin, and the outstanding Consuo, shown above, was made to celebrate 20 years of quilting. This quilt shows the artist's progression into mosaic forms, using a mosaic technique to create the scene. Thousands of hand-cut pieces were bonded onto a background, then layered with chiffon before quilting. The 7 pointed star is Janet's logo, and it neatly coincides with the 7 colors of the rainbow. In the distance you can glimpse the bridge that is the subject of her distinctive Bridge Series (see below). The distinctive black-and-white border is an original block called "Crest of the Wave". The bridges, flower fabrics, and sewing machine are her photos printed on fabric, as is the picture of Janet in the center. You can see many intriguing mosaic quilts in her Mosaic Series Gallery.
Before the Storm, 40 x 30, by Janet Cook - in the Bridge Series
"Before the storm" is one of a series of quilts that depict a bridge before, during and after a summer storm. "Before the storm" evokes the energy, movement, dark clouds and restless waters that accompany a pending storm. The quilting lines remind us of sleeting rain, coming from the side at an angle, while gusts of wind create conflicting patterns and whorls. Do you want to see just how different - and tranquil - the bridge scene looks after the storm? Visit Janet Cook's bridge series gallery.
~I believe that unless we fully explore the potentials of fabric, stitch, paint and dye we will not be carrying on the traditions of our grandmothers, who in their turn explored the potentials of the materials available to them. ~ Janet Cook
L'Or D'Automne, and Squirls, by Janet Cook
In "Consuo" you saw a distinctive black-and-white border, which is Janet's original "Crest of the Wave" design. Like a log cabin quilt block, the spirals can be laid out in a variety of ways. Take a peek at the brilliant diagonal Crest of the Wave and the spirals-within-a-spiral in Rock-a-Doodle Doo. Below you can see L'Or D'Automne (left), and Squirls (right), which are two more examples of this clever block. Several patterns are available for purchase on Janet Cook's patterns page.
~The Romans loved this spiral design because it was so adaptable, and so do I. ~ Janet Cook
Celtic Hares, 15 x 15, by Janet Cook
The symbolism of the moon and the hare is deeply entrenched in Celtic lore and history. The circular motif of three hares chasing each other appears in sacred sites from the Middle and Far East to Europe, and it occurs with the greatest frequency on the churches of the West Country of England. The marbled fabric used for the hares reminds us of the original stone carvings.
In "Celtic Hares", Janet has placed the hares against the moon "to bring you good luck". The pattern is available on Janet Cook's patterns page. If you love this delightful quilt, you should check out her gorgeous Moon Hare art quilt which was shown in 2008 at the premier quilting event in Europe - the Festival of Quilts.
~Inspiration comes also from the English countryside - its colours, moods, textures, history, myths and folklore. ~ Janet Cook
Moon over the Valley, 2004, by Janet Cook
Finally, did we mention how we first 'met' Janet Cook in cyberspace? We discovered her site while we were researching a quilt block called "Moon over the Mountain". During our quest, we came across the stunning art quilt - and free pattern - which Janet calls "Moon over the Valley."
~This is my adaptation of the traditional block "Moon over the Mountain". As I cannot see mountains from my home, just a gentle valley, I devised this block to enable me to make a quilt based on my village. ~ Janet Cook
Closing thoughts: By now you can probably tell that Janet Cook inspires us with her life and work as a textile artist, designer, and teacher. In discussing her prize-winning quilts, Janet explains her approach with a dose of humor:
"I am very lucky to have won any prizes at all, because I don't set out to meet a judge's criteria for piecing and quilting. I respond to a stimulus and make my quilts in the way that seems best to suit that stimulus... you can see the problems I present to judges !" ~ Janet Cook
*SHOW OPENING: Designer Crafts at the Mall 2011 will be presented by the Society of Designer Craftsmen in January 2011 at The Mall Galleries, The Mall , London SW1 (near Admiralty Arch off Trafalgar Square). Opening January 8, through January 16. It will be a chance to view and buy works from some of the UK’s most innovative and creative designer makers.