A Portrait in Objects: Jeanette Sloan
Today we present a new kind of designer profile. We’ve asked Jeanette Sloan, whose modern lace designs are featured in MDK Field Guide No. 15: Open, to share a bit about herself through objects from her home, studio, and life. What objects would you choose to share your life?
—Kay and Ann
Hmong embroidered blanket
I bought this blanket in Sapa, a town in Northern Vietnam, in 2006. It was only a couple of months after I finished breast cancer treatment, but I was there on a trek to raise funds for the Maggie’s Centre in Edinburgh which had provided me with such incredible support throughout that really stressful time. I was part of a group trekking up Mount Fansipan. We didn’t have much time for sightseeing, but you can see what drew me to this blanket. That color! Our guides on the trek were Black Hmong and most of their clothing was deep indigo blue but with flashes of the most vibrant color and intricate cross stitch and embellishment. The trip up the mountain was actually pretty dangerous (at one point we had to drop down a sheer 30 foot rock face on nothing but a rope) but our guides really took care of us and made sure everyone got to the top. I can’t describe the feeling when I looked over into China from the summit, just weeks after finishing chemo. When I saw this blanket I wanted something that would connect me to that moment and those people. It adorns the chair in my office so I sit on it every day.
Picture of me with my Mum in Laduma hat
I’ve got very a daft sense of humor but my Mum is actually quite a serous person. She’s been a huge influence in my life, having taught me to knit, so I love this picture of her looking impish and happy. I was round at her place one day making her a cup of tea and when I walked into her room I found her wearing the Laduma hat I’d bought in New York at Vogue Knitting Live earlier this year. It was so out of character it made me belly laugh, so I had to take a selfie of us both (I’m in the mirror). She’ll kill me when she finds out it’s on your site.
Mum’s silver and gold sequin evening bags
Mum’s influence again. She was a great knitter and sewist when we were kids and always had a fantastic sense of style. In the 60s and 70s, when she’d go out dressed up for the evening, she’d use these cute little bags. I think this may be where my love of beads and sequins started. Bling, bling and more bling!
Garden seating area
This is where I’ve spent much of lockdown: working in the corner of my garden. I’m fortunate to live just three minutes from the sea in Hove (next to Brighton, England) so over the last few months this has been my outdoor office. Being able to gaze out over my garden has been so calming, especially since I hit a wall with my knitting. Previously I’ve always been able to knit my way through illness or stress but not this time; I turned to gardening and mindfulness instead. Proof as if it were needed that these truly are weird times.
Charlie Harper bird wall
I first came across the work of Charlie Harper on a visit to the Tate Modern in London. I went to see a Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition with a couple of girlfriends from art college and wanted a souvenir calendar. But, as there wasn’t one, I ended up buying one by Charlie Harper instead. I love the way he places line and shape and of course as a textile designer am drawn to his playful style and use of pattern. I bought these birds at the Arnolfini in Bristol although I wasn’t sure what to do with them at the time. Months later when we renovated the house they found their rightful place on a wall in our open plan living/dining/kitchen space. They make me smile every time I look at them and attract a lot of admirers.
Touch Me swatch
Ha ha, this swatch! Back when I worked as a technician I was renowned for drumming into machine knit students the importance of tension/gauge. I taught machine knitting for many years and particularly loved helping 2nd year BA Honors students get to grips with the basics of the Dubied hand flat machines. It can be tricky balancing tension/gauge with the yarn you’re using, particularly if you want something to drape. I’d often give them advice when a sample was too loose or—more often—too tight. Some students took to it quickly. Others found it hilarious when their scratchy samples made me wince. Two in particular (yes you Bonnie and Jess) sent this to me anonymously in the post, in the style of a ransom note. I knew who it was instantly and love them for making me cry with laughter.
When I worked in Edinburgh as a design consultant for Rowan Yarns, I became friends with a fellow DC called Julie Marchington. She was a great mentor to me, helping me to learn the job. After a couple of years she left to realize a lifelong dream of opening her own yarn shop. She was a complete natural, and her store HK Handknit became a destination for crafters in the Bruntsfield area of the city and beyond. Very sadly she died suddenly just a couple of years later and I inherited these knitting belts from her when her husband asked me to help clear all her knitting books and accessories from the house. Although I’ve never used them I know how dear they were to her, and they have a place on the wall behind me in my office.
Left: HK Handknit painting
After Julie’s death I eventually took over the business, which I ran with the help of friends Carol Meldrum and Rachel Henderson, who gave me this beautiful painting of the shop when I married my husband Sam. It’s by Rachel’s friend, artist Kate Green, and really sums up what a warm, friendly and creative space HK Handknit was. It was fun but also unbelievably hard work.
Right: T and Kofi
Once again, something that appeals to my daft sense of humor. I picked up these beer mats at a pub in Hove and liked them so much I framed them.
Margo’s garland of tweed hearts
This garland of tweed hearts was made for me by my dear friend Margo. I love living down here on the south coast, but really miss spending time with her as she still lives up in the town of Scone, Perthshire. When I was packing to move down to England I tried to trick her into a large cardboard box so I could bring her with me. Sadly she guessed before I could get her inside.
Beetroot pattern repeat
Struggling for things to post on Instagram, I began creating patterns using the Layout app based on everyday pictures taken with my phone. Using the hashtag #thepattinrepeatgame, I found it was an interesting way of developing ideas and actually showed how you could literally take inspiration from anywhere and everywhere. Using a photo of homegrown beetroot as the source image, this particular pattern brings together my love of color, pattern, food and more recently, gardening in lockdown.
Me and Sam in Corsica
I’ve been married to Sam, a commercial photographer, for nearly 14 years and like me he’s not a fan of having his photo taken. To say that life’s been a rollercoaster would be something of an understatement, and I honestly don’t know where I’d be now without his support. Not just through my various bouts of illness but also as I take care of my elderly parents with his help. So before I get too soppy, this picture shows me and my best friend on the beach in Corsica in 2018, enjoying a rare holiday abroad.