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Journal 2

Ancient textile techniques are used to make the highly desirable contemporary crafts of Norfolk’s Woolly Cushion Studio. JO FLETCHER-CROSS from EAST MAGAZINE finds out how the landscape of home inspires its designer-maker, Janine Corn

JANINE CORN LOVES WOOL. You realise this when you see her beautiful hand-made cushions and accessories, and meeting Janine the reasons for her choice of material couldn’t be clearer;

“Wool is lovely,” she says, “It’s a really comforting fibre, with lots of natural shades and features. I love it.”

Janine set up her business, the Woolly Cushion Studio, in March 2006, but she’s well experienced in the industry. After taking a degree in printed textile design at Loughborough University, she stayed on in Leicestershire and worked in the textile design industry.

Her time working in studios producing art work for fashion and furnishing fabrics and also in the dye industry, gave her a varied and valuable knowledge of the processes involved.

“I always wanted to set up my own business. I did a general business course last year, which taught me about finance and that kind of thing, and then I set up on my own.”

Janine’s designs are made from hand-felted wool, which gives them a totally individual quality. “I wanted to pursue felting, which I had done years ago. With print design you’re not designing for a product, you’re doing something that will be mass-produced.What I really wanted to do was make something that would be used, something functional and yet beautiful and unique.”

The range includes lovely soft throws, purses inspired by butterflies from the nearby heaths, useful little pouches, tea cosies and, of course, cushions. The cushions are particularly attractive, with designs inspired by local flowers and the Marram grass that grows on the Norfolk sand dunes.

She is passionate about being part of the British creative industry. “The UK has over 80 sheep breeds – we’re the best in the world; we’re renowned for having the best wool. I only used British wool and where possible I use Norfolk wool.” Janine is extremely knowledgeable about the sheep that supply her wool. Most of her work uses the wool of the local Norfolk horn, Jacob, and Welsh Mountain Badger-Faced breed. Norfolk is very important to her work. She is based in the picturesque village of South Creake, near Fakenham. Only 30 miles away is Norwich, a city that once had a vast weaving industry and many skilled felt makers. Great Yarmouth, the nearest port, was busy with exports of cloth; particularly worsted cloth which was spun from long stapled wool (from the Norfolk horn breed) into a harder yarn to make finer, lighter cloth, and is in fact named after the Norfolk village of Worstead.

So Janine is working in an area steeped in history, and particularly relevant to the work she is carrying out.

“We used to come to this area on holiday when I was a child,” she remembers. “It’s inspirational and beautiful. All my work is inspired by the area, by the coastline and the countryside.”

Her studio is indeed surrounded by beauty, situated at the bottom of her garden – “it’s a short commute” – with the River Burn flowing past.“I’ve got everything here. My table, where I do my felting and my workbench where I do the designs, I’ve got lots of wool here – lots of sweet jars full of wool fibres. It’s quite compact, but it’s amazing what you can get in if you’re careful with space.”

She uses ancient techniques. Hand-felting, hand-embroidering, beading and dyeing are all done by her. Everything is to hand in her studio, and she is completely in charge of the whole process.“That’s the best thing about the day-today work. I’m able to do what I want; I’ve got absolute control over everything – what ranges I work on, where I want to go with them. Of course, that’s also part of the most stressful

things too; I have to decide whether a range is going to be successful, everything falls on my shoulders. I have creative freedom, but I also have to have my business head on. I do enjoy that, though.” Woolly Cushion Studio is already rather successful, and Janine’s work is shown in galleries both nationally and locally. Satisfied customers rave about the beauty and quality of the goods.

Now she’s even busier. “We launched the website this month, and it’s already generated quite a lot of business. It’s a work in progress, obviously. I want to develop the website for U.K. and international customers.”

Other plans include a new range of felted jewellery, which will be launched soon. “They’re based on the local landscape,” Janine enthuses, “with one range based on pebbles, and another based on the tiny snails that are found in the sand dunes.”

Her passion for her work and the beauty of her local environment is infectious. She is keen to reinforce the ethos of the company. “It’s all about creating a unique product, made by me, and made in Norfolk.”

Janine’s exceptional handiwork and commitment to being part of a local creative industry can only bring her more success.

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