In the run up to the launch of the Ebb and Flow axhibition at the Fishing Heritage Centre and The Minster, Josie-Anne Gray profiles a leading light of the local arts and textiles scene.
Jan Dowson is an award winning textile artist, a founder member of the FABRIK group and an inspirational teacher of textiles and mixed media as Creative Arts Co-ordinator at the Thrunscoe Centre. She has enjoyed success as an exhibitor locally and nationally, both on her own and as part of FABRIK.
She is also a teacher, part time at first, but she soon found that her role as an artist had begun to be overtaken by that of mentor.
She had found a new vocation and for the past seventeen years Jan has been focused on Community Learning at Thrunscoe, working with students over nineteen. The centre offers courses in the creative arts up to City and Guilds Level 3.
When she talks about her students her pride in their achievements is evident.
“We’ve had four Gold Medal winners and this year another student has been nominated and our adults have a real passion for learning. Many of them travel a long way to the centre because so many other areas have cut their creative arts programmes. North East Lincolnshire is a beacon not just for textile arts but also for creativity in general. The area is bursting with talent.”
It’s not just Jan’s students who are award winners. In 2013 she was nominated for the City and Guilds Gold Award for teaching and she won in the textiles category. Afternoon tea and a presentation from the Princess Royal at Buckingham Palace followed although what was most moving about the experience was reading the testimonials from students past and present.
“They said wonderful things and I have a disc with all their testimonials recorded on it that I treasure.”
2013 was certainly Jan’s year. She was runner up for the Guild of Broderers Beryl Dean Award and enjoyed a magical presentation evening in St Paul’s Cathedral with the Duchess of Gloucester and Giles Brandreth.
Jan’s inspirational powers as a teacher were in evidence at the recent exhibition of her students’ work at the Thrunscoe Centre, the theme of which was women’s lives. Learners were encouraged to look at and discuss serious issues such as human trafficking and FGM and this was reflected in the work. The result was a very grown up exhibition that was moving and powerful as well as beautiful.
The exhibition has led to big things for Jan and her students with some of their work has been selected to be part of a major exhibition. Ebb and Flow, curated by the 62 Group of Textile Artists opens on Saturday 13th September in the Fishing Heritage Centre (3pm) and Grimsby Minster (5pm).
Jan’s students have been involved with Communities Together at the Mela events and she is always looking for ways to inspire new learners. She is certainly keeping the great heritage of arts and crafts, particularly stitching, alive and vibrant here in NE Lincolnshire and her enthusiasm in infectious. After talking to her for just an hour I returned to my own sewing basket with my inspiration renewed.
You can read the full article in our print edition Issue 29 or online here.