J.C. Middlebrook (Jayne Childs)

"a design geek at heart"

Tell us about your work

I’m a contemporary lace-maker, in the tradition of machine-made lace here in Nottingham, my home town. I’ve been growing my practice since 2010, responding to changing fashions just like the lace-makers of old. I sell online on my own website, and through contemporary craft galleries and boutiques.

Why are you a maker?

I’m driven by a need to create; simply making something from start to finish gives a sense of enormous wellbeing

How’s it all come about?

Really I’m a geek at heart – I love a technical challenge. Getting the design to work in thread is much harder than it looks! After years in sales and training for embroidery machines, teaching others, I wanted to be free to make my own designs. The biggest challenges outside the technical ones are the boring but essential admin stuff – like getting paid and keeping records.

What does your work involve?

A lot of technology – but my process can’t be separated from the maker. I draw the design using CAD type software and use computerised machinery to make the sketch in thread. Once the machines have completed the lace, my hands take over again, finishing and assembling the textile into wearable or home items. My work’s got lighter over time. I’m using fewer traditional Nottingham Lace designs and more of my own sketches. I enjoy making the unexpected in lace, such as an eagle – or a skull made of flowers.

What’s your studio like?

It’s a converted outbuilding at home. It was the first thing we renovated when we bought our cottage, in fact using it as a warm space to live in for the first few months. For me a good workshop has lots of space – to experiment, to be surrounded with beautiful objects and to be inspired.

Favourite tool?

A small pair of curved scissors I’ve had for about ten years – sharp but not too pointy and perfect for removing tiny threads from my lace designs without slipping.

And the future?

I’d love to work on a larger scale. I’m currently enjoying working with light, and would love to upscale some of these ideas

Any advice?

Get a solid technical background and don’t be a perfectionist to start with! Try things out and get them right later, then work hard to make them perfect!