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Jan creates small-scale machine embroidered patches and  hand-embroidered hoop art from original designs

27 Sep 2019

Designer Spotlight: PatchHaven

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Full-time thread artist, dabbler in all things creative, Jan: ‘As a creative and artist, I have always taken great delight that the pieces I create are able to give someone else a similar sense of the pleasure I gain’

Hi, I’m Jan, the face behind PatchHaven. I am based in Bundaberg, QLD these days and live here now with 3 furry workshop purr friends, LeeLoo, Sophie and Roger. Yes, I did it, the kids finally left home and are doing well. Mission accomplished!

Hand embroidered mini hoop art of the New Zealand Highlands, and a monsterra leaf embroidered badge by Queensland maker, PatchHaven

I can recall as a child, in answer to that question, “What do you what to be when you grow up?” my response was “An Artist”. I have been making and creating since finger painting! The delight of those squishy gel-like paints under the fingers, sparkly trinkets and threading beads, the joy of wearing your first hand-made clothing.

Jan creates small-scale machine embroidered patches and  hand-embroidered hoop art from original designs

My artistic life had been a world of side travels, there have been a lot of side paths. It’s only been in the past few years that I realised I was able to fulfil that lifelong dream. A slow and steady progression, many disasters, many side steps. The worst of all is the dreaded artist daydream - “Illusions of Grandeur”, as I call it – and then periods of none – and then frantic activity. Overall, a sheer determination to succeed and to create the unique and the beautiful without leaving behind a sensible practicality.

A vast array of embroidery threads, finished landscape artworks embroidered in mini wooden hoops, and hand-embroidery work in progress

The saying that every man needs a shed, applies to this woman also. I have been fortunate in the past 20 years to often have had a dedicated creative workspace – I made it happen – even if only a desk! These days my main workspace is part of a garage, it’s practically my second home (and for a few months during the aftermath of the Queensland floods in 2011, it was – Bed, TV, I even sewed a quilt out there, during time off from work commitments).

Jan in her purpose-built shed with one of her much loved embroidery machines; ‘Rule #1 Do not get your fingers in the way of these machines; they are powerful beasts…creating and design is often a bloody sport’

This 6x3m space is the manufacturing / creative hub and houses the embroidery machines, fabric and threads that create my patches. Sometimes the entire process of creating a patch begins and ends here.

Machine embroidered sunflower iron-on badge by PatchHaven surrounded by rolls of golden and green thread

While the machines are working (and I’m monitoring them), I may be sketching and developing a new design in specialist software, finishing completed runs (stitch outs) of pieces, or working on something entirely different. It can be a noisy place when everything is running, so earmuffs are a requirement.

Jan hand stitching an embroidered artwork outside; ‘while the machines are working…I may be sketching and developing a new design in specialist software, finishing completed runs…or working on something entirely different’

Rule #1 do not get your fingers in the way of these machines; they are powerful beasts. According to the service agent, I have been christened. But creating and design is often a ‘bloody sport’ in most things I have created, and most artists need to have a small medical kit handy.

’Summer Fields’ hand-embroidered mini hoop art by PatchHaven

As I also make other items, such as hand stitched embroideries, sometimes the overflow of the creative workspace spreads to other areas within my home. The sprawl of embroidery threads or sketchbooks often find themselves in the outdoor area, enjoying a quiet afternoon of stitching, often listening to music, or the sounds of the local birdsong.

Silhouettes of small yachts dot the glassy surface of the Burnett River in Bundaberg, QLD against a golden sky; ‘Like many artists, I am inspired by nature, but also the work of other artists’

Like many artists, I am inspired by nature, but also the work of other artists. Learning new techniques, studying and practicing. I have always enjoyed the challenges of a restricted pallet; it forces you to be creative in new ways and discover new techniques or ideas.

Humorous  ‘Loading self control’ embroidered patch by PatchHaven

Humour and language also play a part in the creative process and I find inspiration for these in media: music, movies and even commonly used sayings - both national and international. I regularly spend time during my ‘workday’ researching - anything from urban slang or street art to fine photography - and also studying tutorials and courseware.

’Sunset Meadow’ hand-embroidered hoop art by Australian maker, PatchHaven

I have had quite a varied creative career, dabbling in many crafts and art techniques along the way, but throughout there have been mainstays that have endured. Drawing, of course, with a collection of sketch books – some going back to high school Art class. Sewing and knitting also; the things learnt as a child that I still enjoy so much were to be a firm base for a creative life.

Some of Jan’s earlier mosaic work; a mosaic urn and  ‘Hiding’ artwork; ‘I created and sold decorative mosaic pieces… in the 80s / 90s when only a few artists worldwide we remaking these outside of traditional church mosaics’

The path to a full-time artist began mainly around 20 or so years ago when my sons were young. I created and sold decorative mosaic pieces for several years in Sunshine Coast Galleries in the 80’s/90’s when only a few artists worldwide were making these outside of traditional church mosaics.

Two of Jan’s 3D inflatable kite creations; a large purple dinosoar and life-size red sports car

Then in 2000 moved into designing and creating 3D inflatable kites! Six-metre-long floating astronauts, giant turtles and the craziest inflatable car, attending various kite festivals, with some original designs finding their way to kite flyers internationally that are now flown around the world.

Two of Jan’s earlier textile artworks before she discovered her full-time creative path in embroidery

At other times I dabbled in stained glass, soft pastels and textile arts. Painting with various media is also in the equation. Some of my ideas were certainly a lot brighter than others!

Palm-sized hand-embroidered landscape artwork; ‘The life rollercoaster got in the way for a few years and then suddenly the size of designs shrunk significantly’

The Life rollercoaster got in the way for a few years and then suddenly the size of designs shrunk significantly. From giant creations to pieces that can fit in the palm of your hand. While embroidered patches/ badges are my ‘main gig’, I also enjoy creating tiny hand embroidered pieces. Hand embroidered patches, but also small landscape embroideries. They are quite different genres but sometimes merge, while allowing a creative break from one genre to the other.

Egyptian green scarab beetle embroidered iron-on badge-by PatchHaven’

As a full-time artist, I am very aware of ‘burn out’ or those creative devoid spaces where ideas or inspiration disappear (I need a break!). I find that keeping a variety of other creative things happening, that are unrelated from the patch manufacturing side of my business, helps to keep ideas flowing and flourishing.

Sunset wetland landscape embroidered hoop art by PatchHaven; ‘In all the things I’ve tried, succeeded with, or had difficulty with, something is always taken away from those experiences and challenges’

Even now, while running a full-time patch business, some things I return to on occasion, the occasional mosaic, polymer clay project or beading etc, just for a change and because I do enjoy them. For some - like painting with various painting mediums, I realise, it’s ok, but not my thing and leave well enough alone. Truthfully, I can blend a soft pastel, but mixing paints and cleaning brushes – I’m happy to leave those arts to others.

Cloud and meadow heavily textured hand embroidered hoop art, and the hand stitched name and signature on the back of another PatchHaven tiny hoop artwork

In all the things I’ve tried, succeeded with, or had difficulty with, something is always taken away from those experiences and challenges. The variety and study involved, learning new techniques (even the ‘binners’); all those things have provided a process of creativity, finding solutions and working the problem – even if the problem was myself!

Three ’Coexist’ embroidered iron-on badges set against a chart of the world’s religions; ‘The pieces chosen to wear says something about that person…providing an extension of themselves that is instantly visible and recognisable to others’

As a creative and artist, I have always taken great delight that pieces I create are able to give someone else a similar sense of the pleasure I gain.

Denim jacket with embroidered iron-on patch depicting sunglasses with palm tree reflections

For the patches I design, I believe I have been able to take this to a further level. The pieces chosen to wear says something about that person, what they like, what they find humorous or even politically serious (such as environmental awareness) – providing an extension of themselves that is instantly visible and recognisable to others as they go about their own lives. They have made a connection with my own work, the things that I care about, admire, or can laugh at.

Embroidered black and gold bee iron-on patch, made in Australia by Jan, of PatchHaven

I really love being able to get the pieces I create to a wider audience. For many years finding outlets for work was difficult, if not impossible (especially when living in regional areas). It really has been only in the past few years when I first started selling on Madeit and becoming more active online as an artist, that I have been able to reach to a far wider Australian audience. I believe growth has been mutual over time, not only for myself and other Australian craftspeople, but also the online venues and social media. It is an exciting time to be a creative.



Visit PatchHaven to find embroidery for your walls and your breast pocket: PatchHaven

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