Dalesman July 2014: The Tour in Textile: textile artist Janet Browne

When the call went out for artists’ works to celebrate the Tour de France coming to Yorkshire, Janet Browne was a natural choice.  She’d spent years making textile art based on journeys around Yorkshire – and the Tour was to pass right by her door.


Janet’s work looks deceptively simple, with a folk art quality that disguises lengthy preparation and painstaking design.  Each piece is based upon her experience of a journey, highlighting features that caught her eye.  If she’s not interested, it doesn’t appear.

Detail from a journey picture by Janet Browne

Detail from a journey picture by Janet Browne

She explains ““I jiggle with the point of view, mixing the plan of a map, but with views of things seen along the way.  It took courage at first, to break the visual rules, but it works.”


Janet also slips in memories, commenting, “For instance, when I do Scarborough, there’s often a 1950s ice-cream van, that I remember as a child, as well as things I’ve seen on more recent visits”


To prepare a piece, she begins by making a journey – often several times.  It may be a long journey: perhaps a trip to Sheffield from her home in Addingham.  Or it may be as short as a walk around her little garden.


Janet Browne's works all start with a sketch

Janet Browne’s works all start with a sketch

While making the journey, she sketches: “I make hundreds of small drawings as I’m travelling.  I draw rapidly, things that catch my eye.  sometimes they’re mundane, for instance the silage and haylage bales, their colours and their roundness.  And farm buildings – quite often, unimportant little buildings.”


“Then there are things in shops.  I was going to Clitheroe one day and there was a sign in the newsagent, it said something like ‘Pendle ready for great meat robbery’.  It was a peculiar headline, it caught my eye, and I included it in my work.  I include strange little features, for instance a camel going down the M6 – funny little things.”


“I sketch glimpses that become aspects of the maps.”


“On most journeys, you don’t take in everything, so I suggest the essence, sketching things that I notice – and that other people notice too.”

Garden, textile picture by Janet Browne

Garden, textile picture by Janet Browne

At home, these sketches are slowly and carefully transformed into complex textile wall pieces.  Janet dyes her own fabrics to get the exact colour she wants, then, piecing, stitching, and maybe adding embroidery for extra texture, the piece emerges.


She also makes small pieces from details she saw along the way: a bird; a flower; a cottage.


Janet’s large textile pictures take ages to make, and every one is unique.  So only one person can buy it.  For those unable to secure the original piece, she produces greetings cards printed with reproductions of the works.


See Janet’s work on her website ,

and at Yorkshire Festival at the Craft Centre and Design Gallery, Leeds

Read all about it in Dalesman Magazine.

About Helen Johnson

Freelance writer specialising in Yorkshire's history and heritage.

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