Artist : Jane Bevan

Jane Bevan creates craft from natural materials that she gathers daily in the woods near to her home in Derbyshire. I first met Jane when she was a curator at Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery and I was working at the Arts Council. I was really interested to find out more about how Jane’s made the transition from curator to artist.

Tell me a little about your background and how you got into making.

I did History of Art at university and worked in museums for twenty five years, it’s my passion. I worked with artists all along and kind of knew I wanted to be an artist. However it just didn’t seem feasible at the time. The artists I spoke to were all very encouraging when I confessed that I really wanted to be an artist. It took a long time, but in my late forties I went back to university.

So I started a second career. I went to Derby University, the timing was perfect, and it was actually lovely to do it that way round. You get so much more out of university at that age. I had always dabbled with art, but I needed structure and deadlines to really get going. I was into recycling and used plastics, buttons, fragments – I started using natural materials on my course.

What are the main drivers/influences for your work?

A lot of what I do involves collecting and foraging, I have a lot of collections at home. It probably started with beach materials, picking up a pebble here, shell there. It’s also a museum thing. I love multiples and displaying the same type of objects together. Display can make such a big difference to objects. My parents took me to loads of museums as a child. I also did a lot of exhibitions when I was working in museums about the collections people have at home.

I’ve also always loved woodlands. I had a childhood obsession with Robin Hood; I would always be hiding in the woods and making dens. I have enjoyed exploring the outdoors with my three boys as they’ve grown up.

The Pitt Rivers Museum is a really big influence. When I first visited I found a lot of work that was similar to my own. There were bark vessels that had the same structure and had been put together in the same way. It’s a good job that I only went there after I had actually made the work – but that’s how I know that the materials I use will last.

I’m glad that I did my degree later in life – I now have knowledge and a love of nature that I did not really have in my twenties. If I’d done my degree then it would not have been the same at all. I think it was meant to be.

What you’re currently working on?

Currently I’m doing a lot of 2D work. I really like repeating patterns and have been making insects. I like the repeating patterns that you get on leaves, feathers, the pattern on bark. I put bits of nature together so that it looks like an insect and explore how materials can take on the character of something else.

I also need to make some nettle string, that’s this week’s thing.

I’ve been doing workshops with preschool and school children. It’s good to get the kids outside; I’m really involved in a community orchard project and like the health benefits of being outside.

Do you garden? What sort of a gardener are you? 

I don’t garden but I do have a really lovely garden and enjoy being in it. It’s also full of stuff – there’s an enormous pile of sticks that we’ve collected from trips into the woods. It’s a bit like a salvage yard of nature.

I am interested in why other people garden and love walled gardens. When I was little my mother and I were in The Wildflower Society; we used to go on trips with old ladies and go off looking for wildflowers.

You exhibit in a lot in homes and gardens, what appeals to you about that?

I love exhibiting in gardens; people are so relaxed and happy. They are already in a good place. I feel lucky to be able to do so. It’s often on a Bank Holiday but then I think ‘where would I rather be?’ It’s a joyful experience – small is great.

Where can we see your work?

In  June you can see my work at Open House Leicester, and the NGS Open Garden and Secret Craft Fair.

I’ll be in residence at Derby Arboretum for two weeks in June.

I’m in a touring exhibition by the Devon Guild called Home Ground later this year; it’s about people who use their immediate surroundings in their work. I also have a lot of work at Royal Derby Hospital until September , there’s an 18 foot installation there at present.

You can view and purchase work by Jane at our NGS Open Garden & Secret Craft Fair in Loughborough, Leicestershire on the 7 & 8 of June.

Jane will be running a workshop in early October in Loughborough in my home and garden using found, natural materials, showing you how to transform raw natural materials into beautiful craft objects; what materials to collect and when and a range of simple craft techniques. You’ll make and take home a set of mini assembled artworks and a coiled pine needle basket.

Jane has written a beautiful illustrated and informative book containing 12 easy projects Craft From Natural Materials – by Jane Bevan. Bloomsbury Publishing 2013.


Twitter @JaneBevan01

Photography – Paul Tupman

Other artists and makers exhibiting at the Open Garden & Secret Craft Fair include, Bridget McVey, Helen Rhodes, Olivier Marc Thomas Leger, The Green Woodpecker and anon.creatives.