Julia Desch MSDC
Julia comes from a long line of artists and has been creating her own original artwork since childhood. Her love of nature and the natural world informs everything she creates, including hand dyed and felted textile hangings, sensory wheels, unique wool fibre garments, poetry and watercolour paintings. 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 and study groups.
Julia grew up on Dartmoor and this experience gifted her the skills to explore making and creating handmade items out of her own imagination. Life led her along many different pathways, including marriage and family, ultimately leading to the running of a small Sussex estate between 1996 – 2010, where the different threads of her life integrated and she directed an Awards for All Lottery funded Project in 2009 called "Sheep to Shawl”. This project included farmers, shearers, spinners, dyers and 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., British Wool verified the quality of Julia’s fibre and she became a Small Licensee in 2006. From here Julia progressed to working exclusively with her own Wensleydale Fibre, which gave her a deep satisfaction, as it brings together her love of animals, nature, colour and texture in design, pattern making and creating artwork in semi-abstract forms.
Julia creates colour palettes of plant dyed locks and wool, similar to watercolours. Her large textile hangings are constructed using dry, wet and hand sewn 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 garments she creates are based on simple patterns which evolve over time using both her natural and plant dyed yarns. The bringing together of poetry and watercolour painting again allows different languages to evolve and collaborate together. Like the dyeing of indigo, it is an alchemical process with each stage and element as important, integral and absorbing as the next, contributing to the whole.
All Julia’s artwork is a labour of love from clipping the fleece, sorting for quality and tone in order to produce worsted spun yarn in shades which are unique. The Silver Grey Wensleydale is a genetic gift, cannot be bred directly and takes several years to collect enough for a small run of a few kgs of unrepeatable yarn. For years she has worked with Roger Mosby, Master Spinner owning Diamond Fibre Worsted Spinning Mill learning all she can in order to help produce her own unique yarns. The rewards are seeing the effect these tactile, 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.
These responses have motivated her desire to create art specifically for well-being and self-expression, and she is now actively seeking opportunities to place her work in public spaces where health and healing are uppermost in purpose and working in collaboration with others who are like-minded. Julia is also committed to helping people learn new skills which enable them to design and make their own artwork and prosper at a micro level.
Every stage of every artwork Julia creates is slow, organic and "hands-on". As a consequence, she only produces a few items each year, several of which are held in private collections in both the UK and US. A great influence for Julia 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 motivation and enduring aim.
- 2021 March 27/28 International Feltmakers on-line Exhibition ReConnect.
- 2020/21 New Educational Project based on Sensory Wheels acting as facilitator/maker/instigator. Designed for well-being and literacy through Art in 5 primary schools in Sussex and 5 in London. Covid has delayed the start of this project, but reclaiming the right to touch is fundamental to all ages.
- 2019 Acting as Co-Host for PURE Arts at Hastings with Lesley Samms . Selected for 10th Anniversary PURE Arts Exhibition, Battle.
- 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 Collaborative Exhibition "Alchemy"( with 3 other Artists) of Felted Art, Designer Knitwear, and other handcrafted work at Gallery North. East Sussex.
- 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.
- 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)