Julia Desch MSDC

Feltmaking

About Julia
Designing and making original, handcrafted art has been integral to Julia's life since childhood. Three generations in an artistic family have fed both her inner creativity and the practical skills enabling it to flourish. Her current work combines colour, texture and rhythm in felted art pieces, designer knitwear and illustrated poetry. Love of nature links and informs these disciplines. Julia grows and hand dyes her own Wensleydale wool fibre, is a British Wool Artisan Licensee and passionate about inspiring others through heritage skills. Her Studio is open to visitors, students or groups.
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Julia grew up on Dartmoor, rode all over it and was given the skills to explore making and creating hand made items out of her inner imagination. Life led her into different areas of work, marriage and family and she ran a small estate from 1996 - 2010 where the different threads in her life began to integrate into Designer Craftmanship, culminating in Directing an Awards for All Lottery funded Project "Sheep to Shawl". This was Sussex based and involved farmers, shearers, spinners, dyers, volunteers all committed to making the best out of Rare Breed Sheep fibre. Together they shared skills, collaborated and encouraged one another to discover new ways of adding value to their animals or interests.(Julia commissions 2 local handknitters to create her heritage shawls).

Working with her own Wensleydale Fibre has a deep satisfaction for Julia as it brings together love of animals, nature, colour, texture and rhythm in design, pattern making and creating new semi-abstract forms. She creates colour palettes of plant dyed locks and wool, like watercolours. Her large wallhangings are constructed using a series of dry, wet, dry, handsewn techniques to allow the lustre and the depth of material to blossom in low relief. These pieces are slow to create and meditative in approach. They are not laid-out designs, but rather concepts which grow organically under her fingers, often inspired by myth or legend or elemental nature. Similarly, the design hand-knits are based on simple patterns which evolve over time using both her natural and plant dyed yarns.

The Silver Grey wensleydale is a genetic gift, cannot be bred directly and may take several years to collect before there is enough to spin a few kgs. All her work is a labour of love from clipping the fleece, sorting for quality and tone in order to producing worsted spun yarn in shades which are unique. The rewards are seeing the effect these hand crafted items have on both children and adults: the soft texture, the lustre, the natural rhythms of form and colour are all therapeutic and frequently provoke spontaneous responses. She is particularly interested in placing her work in public spaces where health and healing are uppermost in purpose.

Julia is especially interested in inspiring others to learn simple skills which enable them to design and make their own work. Her main motivation is writing and creating art for wellbeing. It is not just about self-expression but communication at a profound level with freedom to interpret. The bringing together of poetry and illustration, poetry and art pieces allows different languages to evolve and collaborate together. Like the dyeing of indigo it is an alchemical process with each stage as absorbing as the completion. Julia only produces a few pieces each year and several are held in private collections in UK and in the US. She is equally interested in different craft tools and how they help with each stage of her work.

A great influence for her is St Francis of Assisi who aptly says:

" He who works with his hands is a labourer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist". That is her enduring aim.

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Exhibitions/Projects

2018

Community Care Home Arts Project "Personal Memories" with Gallery North, Hailsham: Felted Art Piece entitled "Stained Glass Garden" plus part of Group Exhibition at same Gallery.

Awarded British Wool Artisan status (by invitation only) under new Licensee Scheme.

Accepted for PURE Arts Group and Autumn Exhibition, Battle.

Open Studio as part of Hailsham Arts Festival.

Hosted and facilitated group visits, courses (e.g.Rug Frame, Off-Loom Weaving).

2017 Small group Exhibition "Alchemy" with Felted Art, Designer Knitwear, and other handcrafted work at Gallery North.

Set up on-going Creative Ideas Exchange Group within PURE Arts Group to encourage new opportunities, skill sharing.

PURE Arts Group member and exhibitor at Autumn Show, Battle.

2015 -6 Member and Exhibitor with PURE Arts

Regular contributor to Bi-ennial Exhibition for East Sussex Guuild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers

2014 Exhibitor with PURE Arts Textiles "WOVEN" at Wing Gallery, Wadhurst.

2009 - 10 Director of CIC Sheep to Shawl Project, Lottery Funded under Awards for All involving all aspects of developing Rare Breed Fibre from sheep to end products, based in Sussex, partnered with Vauxhall City Farm and others. This project continues unofficially with Open Studio Days, Group Visits, Demonstrations at Makers' Fairs etc.

Partner in Campaign for Wool in conjunction with British Wool (Marketing Board) running from 2010 - 2015.

2006 onwards Small Licensee with British Wool based on quality of fibre produced by own Beech Hill flock of Pedigree Black Wensleydales. Designer items placed with Glyndebourne Festival Opera Shop and placed at home and abroad.

2000 foundation flock of Beech Hill Black Wensleydales started: breeding, developing quality fibre, holding educational events, working with volunteers and collecting skills in dyeing, felting, hand knit design and making to serve further design craft applications. (in 2011 this prize-winning flock was gifted to Merrist Wood College Farm to continue breeding.

Writing and Illustration

2015 - 2016 Self Published three poetry collections: "Anatolian Journey", "The Rhythm of The Year", "The Castle".

2015 - 2017 Winner of Edna Bourne Jones Annual Poetry Competition.

Member of Downland Poets and High Weald Poetry Society.

1998 - 2010 involved in Community Arts Project directed by Aanna Colls: Counterpoint Arts. Illustrating concert programme covers, writing libretto for a choral composition "The Advent Journey", co-facilitating events, performing.

Watercolour exhibitions both solo and group within Sussex and work held in private collections.

Education/Training

Skills in observational drawing/ watercolour techniques/practical applied arts e.g. dressmaking, needlework, basketry, knitting etc / animal drawing/ all taught within the family and schools. Julia's mother studied Fine Arts at King Edward VIIth School of Art, Newcastle and became window designer for John Lewis Partnership in early 1930's. Julia is a self-taught artist from adulthood, researching and developing expertise from multiple sources.e.g. London Spinning Group at Vauxhall City Farmunder Penny Walsh for indigo dyeing and fibre use, Roger Mobsby, Master Spinner at Diamond Fibre Worted Spinning Mill, E. Sussex on fibre quality and processing.

Member of East Sussex Guild of Weavers Spinners and Dyers.

Member of International Feltmakers Association.www.feltmakers.com

Pure Arts Group www.pureartsgroup.co.uk
British Wool Artisan www.britishwool.org.uk

MA Cantab 1965 (Modern Languages)

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