Homegirl London pays homage to Jenny Sibthorp. Jenny designs and hand screen prints blank greeting cards, linen and leather purses for women, tote bags and linen cushions. Jenny’s subject matter is inspired by her idyllic Dorset surroundings which include lobster pots, bass and clams along with beef cuts, dry stone walls, nettles, lemons, pheasants and dressage. Jenny screen prints onto premium materials like Irish linen in bright bold colours. Her wares make kitsch and thoughtful gift ideas for women. I caught up with Jenny Sibthorp to find out more.
Leather Zipped Purses
Meet Jenny Sibthorp
Jenny explains her somewhat unusual and untraditional background – “I didn’t start off taking a course in design as one might think. I actually studied Politics and Anthropology at the University of Sussex in Brighton. After that, I then moved to London and worked for the NHS in mental health and addictions. I’ve always been creative and needed an outlet so whilst in London, I took upholstery classes. It was great because I could combine my love of working with my hands and using fantastic fabric.”
After six years in the city, Jenny wasn’t satisfied working in a nine to five office job, so she upped sticks and moved back to Dorset where she’d grown up. This is when her design talents came to the forefront, she reveals – “I started drawing onto fabric and wanted to find a way of making this scalable. I’d screen printed in the past and always loved it so I took a course at Bournemouth Arts Institute to refresh my skills. After working on a few commissions I decided to take a risk and launched my business in December 2013. I’ve always wanted to work creatively using my hands but never found the confidence to pursue this dream in the past. When I left London it was a chance for me to reflect and plan my future in a different way. A good friend was really supportive and motivated me to take the plunge. After saving up some money, I became self-employed in late 2013 and haven’t looked back!”
Leather Coin Purses
Jenny works largely by herself with some help from a seamstress. She’s based in Dorset on a farm with her studio overlooking fields. She tells me – “I’ve had some very sweet lambs for the company these past few months. I find the open space, the richness of colour and the beauty of my surroundings incredibly inspiring.” Jenny enjoys the freedom and independence her venture brings. However, she does say – “It’s been the steepest learning curve of my life, but every day is different and pushes me in ways I didn’t think were possible. When I wake up in the mornings I can’t believe how lucky I am. I get to meet interesting and inspiring people regularly too, at markets and online which is a wonderful facet to owning your own business. Also hearing great feedback from customers is amazing; I recently heard from someone who gave their friend some of my ‘Clams’ cushions for a surprise sixtieth birthday, apparently, she cried she loved them so much!”
Jenny Sibthorp Collection
Jenny is passionate about Dorset, she explains – “Creatively, I’m inspired hugely by my locality. The Isle of Purbecks in Dorset is a beautiful setting with rolling countryside, seaside, and the Jurassic Coast. I also draw inspiration from the regular charity shop and car boot sale trawls, particularly vintage books and fabrics. Instagram is incredible for ideas where I follow creative talents like illustrators and artists. They influence my design process and give me ideas for developing things a bit differently. It’s a great lifeline to a creative and diverse community.”
Lemons and Clams Cushions
Jenny talks me through her products – “The current range spans blank greetings cards, linen and leather purses for women, tote bags and linen cushions. I’m currently developing a leather jewellery range too. I screen print onto Irish linen and leather using bright colours and bold graphic designs. My work is often described as bold, colourful and maybe a little bit kitsch! My designs are simple and striking. Once I’ve decided on what I want to print next, I will spend hours drawing it in different ways, simplifying the image to make it as bold and graphic as possible. I’ll explore possible colour-ways with gouache and then I will test the designs out by hand-cutting stencils to screen print with.”
Nettle Blank Greeting Card
Dry Stone Wall Design: “Whilst largely inspired by my locality, I also love to explore an image that may be underrepresented in the design world. My ‘Dry Stone Wall’ design came about from many long walks in the countryside, lots of photographs and a desire to share this beautiful age-old practice with others. Using bright orange provided a modern twist on the traditional subject matter.”
Dry Stone Wall Zipped Purse
Lemons: “My favourite colour is yellow and my ‘Lemons’ print was a combination of wanting to explore two colour prints and also a love of the use of food in design. This is something I find fascinating too, turning an everyday item into something beautiful and a bit different, something that might make people smile or pique their interest.”
Lemons Tote Bag
Beef Cut: “I tried my hand at some butchery last summer; studying old recipe books and visiting my local butchers. It was a fascinating insight into the various cuts of meat that just aren’t available in supermarkets; hence ‘Beef Cut’ was formed!”
Beef Cut Blank Greeting Card
Bass and Hook: “This was formed from a desire to try to highlight the relationship between man and beast, something I find fascinating. As consumers, we’re becoming more and more involved in where our food comes from. I thought it would be interesting to explore this further in design.”
Bass and Hook Cushions
Clams: “Sometimes inspiration comes from unusual places. ‘Clams’ came about as I was preparing for my first trade show and a friend was texting me to try and keep me calm but misspelt calm as clam. It became a bit of a running joke and I decided to make him a leather clam to hold onto in times of stress. It came out beautifully which set my creative mind whirring to develop the design further; it’s been one of my most popular prints to date.”
That’s just some of Jenny’s work, she admits – “I find it difficult trying to curb my desire to always be creating new prints! I had to enforce a self-imposed ban on new designs for a few months following my first trade show in May so I could focus on other sides of the business!” Jenny is always seeking out new and interesting ways to use materials in her work like printing onto leather and using leather tabs and name labels on her products.
Buy the Jenny Sibthorp Products
If you fancy your own clam cushion or a cut of beef to keep your money in then go to Jenny’s website at Jenny Sibthorp. To give you an idea about prices – £3.50 for blank greetings cards, purses, and tote bags are £18-65 and cushions £30-45. Overseas shipping is available. If you’re looking for something unique, Jenny takes on commissions which can be very varied and only limited to your imagination!
Author: Homegirl London. Photography: Yeshen Venema. Thanks: Jenny.