Profile: Jane Perkins

From childhood, I have always enjoyed being creative; drawing and embroidery mainly. After a career as a nurse and 10 years as a full time Mum, I took a degree in Textiles, graduating in 2006. During this time, I discovered a passion for working with found materials. I enjoy using materials which have a history, and love art with an element of fun and the unexpected.

From Brooches to Portraits
In 2005, the inspiration for my final year degree project came from religious festival headdresses from Ecuador, decorated with a bizarre mix of broken jewellery, shells, dolls, light bulbs, coins etc. I loved them!
I started making hand-stitched brooches from adding found objects to antique braid. Some were mounted on beach debris or driftwood to become a piece of art for the wall. I also made ‘memory brooches’ from clients’ own collected items; odd earrings, broken jewellery or childhood treasures which could no longer be used but which the owner could not bear to throw away.


While making these brooches, I amassed materials which were too big to be used. After finishing my degree, the idea of making them into a portrait just came into my head. The first successful result was Made in China; The Queen, made in 2008.
After many portraits, my next theme (from 2010) was Plastic Classics, re-interpreting Old Masters, giving them a contemporary twist. The 3D nature of Van Gogh’s thickly applied paint which he squirted straight from the tube, lends itself perfectly to interpretation using found materials. Van Gogh painted 17 different versions of his famous Sunflowers. I have made several versions of the more popular ‘Classics’ - each one is unique, according to the materials found at the time.

Re-interpreting work by previous artists is nothing new. Centuries ago, artists learned their craft by re-working paintings by their predecessors. Picasso famously copied works by many artists, creating 44 studies of Velasquez’ Las Meninas alone, in his unique style. Da Vinci’s iconic Mona Lisa has been re-worked many times by artists including Marcel Duchamp who gave her a beard.
My third theme is The Unnatural Natural World - a series of animals and birds, created from mainly plastic objects. I also take commissions.
I use any materials of the right size, shape and colour: plastic toys, shells, buttons, beads, jewellery etc. No colour is added – everything is used ‘as found’. The works need to be viewed in 2 ways: from a distance (to see the whole image) and close-up (to identify the materials.) They work rather like ‘Pointillism’, the late 19th century painting technique used by artists such as Seurat, where dots of colour were applied close together but not blended. As the viewer steps back from the picture, the colours are blended by the viewer’s eye to reveal the complete image

Some frequently asked questions
Where do you get your materials?
Mainly from Boot sales and donations of materials from friends and neighbours.
How long does it take to make one?
Hard to say. I tend to live with a piece for a while to make sure it works. Often I run out of a particular colour and have to go out searching in order to finish a piece.
How do you fix the materials?
I use a hot glue gun initially, so that I can pull things off and move them. When I’m happy with the final result, I paint the whole work with a layer of diluted PVA glue.