Amazing

By Harriet Whitehead


A cleaner is carving out a career as an artist creating amazing fabric portraits of her musical idols using a vintage sewing machine.

Talented Jane Sanders creates the masterpieces of well-known icons such as David Bowie, Blondie, Billie Holiday, Robert Smith, Liam Gallagher and Amy Winehouse using a 1960s Singer sewing machine from her kitchen in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

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The single mum-of-two has gained an international following thanks to social media and her ‘stitchin in the kitchen’ portraits are now selling for £300 to £400.

The 45-year-old has created around 50 portraits of well-known icons over the last two and a half years as well as exhibiting at galleries in the north east.

Jane, 45, said: “In the daytime I’m a cleaner and in the evening I’m a portrait artist.

“I like to push textiles to its limit. It used to be seen as this ‘nanna’ thing to do now it’s become an art in its own right like photography or sculpture.

“Rather than making something like an applique cover I thought I’d make a textile picture and combine that with my love of musicians.

MERCURY PRESS: Amy Winehouse

“I make all of them in my kitchen. I’m a single parent and can’t really go out to a studio. It sounds a bit chaotic but it works really well.

“Everything is set up if I want to come down at 3am and work on something. When I start one I get obsessed by it so I do sometimes wake in the night and think ‘I’ll just finish off that hand’.”

Jane, who has two children age 21 and 15, did a degree in painting at the University of Northumbria and started to get back into art as her children got older.

Jane said: “I’d always been good using a sewing machine and had made costumes. Because I’m a child of the seventies when handicrafts was a big thing I’ve used the skills I learned then.

“My mum taught me to sew with her 1960 Singer Fashion machine. I actually use one of those today – one I picked up at a market 25 years ago.

“I’ve been doing it for about two and a half years. My first was a portrait of Amy Winehouse which was sold to my first follower on Instagram in Texas.

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“As an artist if you like flowers you’ll paint flowers and if you like cars you might paint cars. I love music and I love sewing so I put the two together.

“I find an image that will represent that person, then I do a drawing of the image on tracing paper and transpose it onto fabric – usually felt as that doesn’t fray. I use skin colour then using my iphone to blow up sections so I can see I slowly machine them with colour.

“One portrait takes about two weeks working for around two to three hours in the evenings.

“I always listen to the music of the artist as I’m making the portrait. It’s like you magically sew the music into the piece.

“I like to use different materials. For Boy George I used graphite, eyeshadow, blusher, glitter. What I use depends on the person.

“I try to get a different slant on something rather than just copying a portrait.

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“Another one I did recently that I really loved was Joe Strummer of The Clash. I really admire him and everything he stands for – the working man and working woman. I sewed some of the cleaning cloths I use at work on that portrait.

“I like to use materials that add to the narrative. I’ve used newspaper, cigarette cards, feathers.

“I’ll often pick up material when I’m out and about or people will give me things like broken necklaces. It could be rubbish to them but to me it’s treasure. I can see its potential.

“The one I’m working on now is of Nicky Wire from the Manic Street Preachers. I’m a massive fan and am interested in him because he wears these blazers with lots of patches. Sometimes fans send him badges and he’ll get them added to his jacket.

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“I asked Manic fans if they’d make me some or donate something to add to the portrait. I got an amazing response from people all over the world – beautiful cross stitch pieces with lyrics written on them and badges.

“I was really touched. I don’t think I’ll sell that one because it feels like it belongs to everybody.

“The response I’ve had has been brilliant. People like to see pictures of people that are recognisable to them and see their heroes represented in different ways.

“I love seeing people’s reactions and get so much joy from creating. The world is quite grey at the moment so if you can add a bit of colour to it and cheer someone up that’s a good thing.”

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