Drawing inspiration from the natural world, multidisciplinary artist Jane Wilbraham designs a collection of pocket squares for Drake's.
For the latest collection of pocket squares in our Artist Series, we’re very excited to have collaborated with multidisciplinary artist Jane Wilbraham. Wilbraham, a noted painter and sculptor, has created a series of squares that capture the motion, colour and delicacy of insect life.
Growing up in Shropshire, Wilbraham found art to have a natural appeal from a young age, and following high school she was accepted to study at Oxford University’s Ruskin School of Fine Arts. “At the time it seemed quite appealing, and quite a different cultural experience from the one I’d had up until then. I was there at the same time as our past Prime Minister, David Cameron, and Boris Johnson. So that was… an illuminating experience, to say the least.” Her time at Oxford was followed by two years at The Slade School of Fine Art, and then another two at Amsterdam’s Reichs Academy. Although for most of her education she was technically a painter, Wilbraham worked extensively with sculpture, and resists being pigeonholed as primarily one or the other. “I think now there’s much more acceptance of this today, because artists do tend to move across disciplines a lot more freely”, she says. “I don’t describe myself as a painter or a sculptor, I describe myself as an artist.”
Much of her work today is rooted in what she describes as a ‘folk art’ language; things that “don’t fit that easily into our idea of fine art; that are a little uncanny or odd or strange.” Much of her recent work has centered around intricate, whittled wood sculpture; something she began experimenting with after inheriting her grandfather’s woodworking tools. Indirectly, this new discipline also led to her recent watercolour work, featured on our Jane Wilbraham for Drake’s pocket squares. “Suddenly when working with the wood it became a seasonal activity. I was cutting the wood at a time of the year where I could use it green and obviously I’d like to sit outside to work on it. Working with wood, it takes a long time to get to the final pieces and it’s quite nice to have things that you can do quite quickly. So when I’d work I’d sit outside and do half a dozen drawings of insects. Not making them as etymological studies or in a strict botanical sense; they’re impressions of things. They’re moments of insects, if you like. They’re as insects are, doing what insects do.”
It was these impressionistic pieces that caught the eye of Drake’s Creative Director Michael Hill. “I’ve also done some work with Drake’s in the past about sourcing hanks, as patterns and textiles are other things that I love”, says Wilbraham. “We were having a conversation about them one day and Mike said “I don’t know why we’re not using some of your drawings as designs for pocket squares”.” It was an idea that connected with Wilbraham immediately. “There’s a noble tradition of artists designing textiles. I’m very drawn to the period after the war where all sorts of people like Henry Moore were involved in textile design. It’s wonderful to see how artists approach textile design in relation to their work. I’m a great believer in it; I think it’s a democratising way of allowing people to access art. Not everybody could afford a Henry Moore, but somebody could afford to do something with the fabric in their house.”
The final collaborative collection consists of four pocket squares featuring Wilbraham’s watercolour insects. “I think the scale of the drawings work well”, she says of the pieces. “They have a relationship to something as traditional as a spot. They’re a natural study, but also something that, I hope, is quite modern. It’s traditional, but it has a twist. And I think that’s what Drake’s do.”