Monday, 12 January 2015

A Tribute to Jane Lemon

Jane Lemon died last week and, in many ways, this feels like the end of an era. I am proud to have had Jane Lemon as a friend and colleague and am very sad at this great loss. 

Her contribution, not only to ecclesiastic embroidery but also in the secular field, has been huge. Her books on constructions such as boxes were immensely popular – not many people know that Jane once made a box for the Queen. 

The one below, which she called The Drip, not only shows her talent but also her sense of humour. She gave me an image to use in my ‘Putting on the Glitz’ talk and it always raises a laugh.

She led the Sarum Group of Embroiderers through the making of well over a hundred pieces of work, from alms bags to very high profile altar frontals.  St George’s Chapel, Windsor was one of their high profile clients.

My favourites will always be the Salisbury Cathedral frontals. The Festal frontal - see right - with its message of water flowing, like blessings, from the cross to the believer. 

Also the Energy Frontal, below, with colours that picked up the great Prisoners of Conscience window above it. 

She loved to talk about her days as wardrobe mistress for the Saddlers Wells Theatre Ballet Company and as a costume designer for television. This form of design gave her the ‘eye’ to work on the scale and tone which produced such outstanding designs for the altar frontals.

Upon her marriage in 1962, Jane resigned from the BBC and became involved in the Women’s Institute. Needless to say she soon began giving talks and leading workshops.  This brought her to the Embroiderers’ Guild, where she served on the Executive Committee for many years.

She was invited to join the Practical Study Group, (now the Textile Study Group). She became well-known for her books on embroidered boxes and metal thread embroidery. A lecture tour of Australia and New Zealand confirmed her front-line status.

In 1977, Jane met with Dr Sydney Evans who was looking for designers for Salisbury Cathedral and the die was cast. The Sarum Group, led by Jane, was formed in 1978 and the commissions kept coming. They included work for churches and cathedrals not only throughout the UK, but also in America. Their work is held by the cathedrals of St Albans (shown below), Exeter, Salisbury and Wells, plus Bath and Sherborne Abbeys. 

This talented group worked very well together and became close friends. Jane produced the designs and decided on the interpretation but members all provided their own special skills and these were much valued by Jane.

The frontal shown below, with detail on the right, was made for a church in Houghton, in memory of Mollie Collins - a Sarum Group member.


Jane had a strong faith and a vivid imagination but she also had a great sense of humour. She liked to make the work relevant to the church family and always made a point of reading the church notice-board before she began designing.

Jane and I had a wonderful time on Val Campbell-Harding’s Historical Heirlooms City and Gulids course at Urchfont Manor in 2006. I think we were the worst students ever and caused as much havoc as we could. However, we both admitted that we learned an awful lot.

Jane was the President of West Country Embroiderers for many years and took an active part in running this lively group. The fact that she talked me into taking over this role two years ago is testament to her gift of persuasion, although I admit that I enjoy the group and their fellowship just as much as she said I would. 

In 2011 Jane produced a series of panels for Amnesty International.  The theme was Prisoners of Conscience and celebrates the 50th anniversary of Amnesty. The series was displayed at Salisbury Cathedral and I reviewed this for Workshop on the Web. 

You can see the review by clicking the link below. 

For the last few years, I have caught up with Jane at a group that meets at the Kingcombe Centre in deepest Dorset. She has been a wonderful asset to this group (as she was to the other groups that she attended) and was always ready with ideas and suggestions. She was also inclined to give a prod if she thought you were slacking and neglecting your work!

Clive and I often went out for a pub lunch with Jane and were due to do so later this month - so sad to think that will not happen now. We shall all miss Jane immensely but I think it is safe to say that she was a tour de force who will not easily be forgotten.


Julie said...

I didn't know Jane but I feel your loss poignantly and appreciate the great legacy she has left both visually and in the knowledge and expertise she has passed on. RIP Jane x

Heather said...

Jane Lemon is quite irreplaceable but what a fine legacy she has left us, and for those who knew and worked with her she must have left many lovely memories.

stitchingswan said...

I had the privilage to meet Jane on several occassion and found her to be a very lovely person. My favourite piece of church embroiderey has always been the Energy Frontal in Salisbury Catherdral before I even knew that it was one of her pieces. She will be missed in the world of embroidery but will not be forgotten.

Unknown said...

I will miss seeing her most saturday's. What a lovely picture of her too

Gina said...

A lovely tribute Maggie

Wabbit said...

I'm so sorry for the loss of your friend, Maggie, and for the loss to the world of another wonderful embroiderer. You have written a lovely tribute to her. Wabs

Maggie Grey said...

Thank you all for the lovely comments. I will collate them, together with the Fb ones and pass them on to the family.

Anna - I love this photo of her and it was one she gave me for an article I wrte about her. So it seemed appropriate to use it.

Chickenmummy said...

I remember Jane Lemon from our Urchfont days. I was saddened to hear she is no longer with us..Love to her family and friends xx

Viv said...

A really lovely tribute Maggie Thanks for presenting both sides of a well loved friend. Lovely to share all the Urchfont memories. Our machine embroidery group will miss Jane terribly.

Lynn Hornibow said...

Thank you for your tribute Maggie as you rightly say it does feel like the end of an era. I remember being on a course at Missenden with both Jane and Val,naughty schoolgirls, and great fun in the class but always so dedicated to pushing embroidery to another level. She will be very much missed.

Maggi said...

A lovely tribute to a very talented lady.

Charlie Scrase Dickins said...

Dear Maggie

I am Jane's next of kin, her trustee and executor of her will. I have loved reading your blog and the super comments below it. Janie was really quite extraordinary and no-one will really ever know exactly everything she contributed to the world in her 85 years. I shall try and epitomise all that she was in my eulogy but, however crafted I am, I will fall far, far short. I would love to hear a couple of anecdotes from you, not least about your naughtiness on the Urchfont / Missenden courses (Lynn Hornibow, you too!)to illustrate what I will say. It might also be a nice idea to publish exact funeral details on your blog for those who missed the Times and Telegraph announcements. How can we make contact?

Maggie Grey said...

Charlie - please email me.

Maggietextiles said...

What wonderful memories Maggie, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I met Jane briefly twice, once in Durham and another occssion in Harrogate at her stand during the Madeira Show. She talked passionately of her love of goldwork and how she wanted the exciting new gold threads on the market to be explored and experimented with in more contemporary ways. I found her so inspirational.

valerie flook said...

I "Googled" Jane Lemon today because last night I was reading her book on box construction prior to restarting such activities after many years. It was a shock to find she had died. One of my happiest memories are a whole day spent with Jane being shown all the work she had done for Salisbury Cathedral. She was so generous with her time. As a teacher/mentor she had the rare skill of being very strict in support of the highest standards but with the gentlest manner and kindness. Year ago I used to meet her regularly on the EG executive but have not seen her for over 20 years. I think my last contact with her was on the death of her husband. The photo you used brought tears, it was a so typical pose and showed so much of her warm personallity. Yesterday evening I was reflecting on how detailed her books were and how it will be impossible to cut corners if I want to produce boxes that look half as good as those in her book. Now I wish I had spent the last 20 years just practising. Thank goodness for her legacy, particulary in Salisbury Cathedral where it will be carefull looked after and treasured. Val

Ruth said...

I have just returned home from a visit to St Albans and a walk around the Cathedral. The building is amazing and impressive and then I crossed behind the shrine of St Alban and stumbled across an altar front that stopped me in my tracks. Returning home I had to find out who had created such an amazing piece of work. Stunning! It stopped me in my tracks. Of course I now know it was created by jane Lemon.

Yolanda Bentham said...

I shall be in Salisbury cathedral for some hours on Thursday and will take time to identify and linger over Jane's work.

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