Jill W.

Part 1: History

Who am I and what physical path has your life taken?

Benkawa, 18 Lime Avenue, Leftwich, Northwich, Cheshire, England

January 25th 1963 (the coldest UK winter on record) 

I was born into the Oakes family, regular mum and dad, older sister Fran by 3 years. We lived at the same address, never moving house and my parents lived in the same house all their lives….both have past away now and the family home (having been built by my uncle and father) was sold and the contents duly divided up or sold on. 

Ages 0 – 10

Victoria Road Infant and Junior School

best subject- Art, Sewing

Favourite things-

playing in the garden, French cricket, making mud pies, building dens, making a ‘horse jumping ‘ course, playing ball, skipping, cycling, my chalk board (best thing ever), making a doll’s house out of card and scrap, sewing felt animals, doing cross-stitch on binka, comics, learning about animals, dressing up, going to grandma’s house, buying new shoes or a new out-fit. A poster I had depicting from across the world wearing their tradition dress, my collection of dolls in their traditional costume. Building with lego. My globe. Rifling through my mum’s shoes boxes, jewellery boxes on the hunt for secret finds. My puppets on a string. Choosing sweet from the penny tray. The nature table at school

Teenage years

Northwich County Grammar School for Girls

Sir John Dean’s Six Form College

Art School, Northwich

favourite things-

Listening to the Top 40 records, Radio 1, making plans to go out with, going to discos, shopping for clothes, making clothes, buying fabric, going on our annual holiday somewhere in the Mediterranean (exotic sights and sounds, people, food, architecture, historical places….catacombs, Pompeii, turquoise sea, foreign languages, the sun……

1976 - I started reading Vogue, Honey magazine, Cosmopolitan etc. I adored the fashion pages, loved the fashion shoots

spent time-

doing lots and lots of homework, being anxious about schoolwork andfriendships.

I would travel into Manchester or Chester train or bus to look at the shops and all the weird and wonderful things to see in the big city.

I liked to go places, see things, whether a garden centre, stately home, new city, new country. Anywhere was more exciting than home.

Quite the introvert I was happy in own company but needed to get out in the world.

Art School taught me to enjoy painting and drawing, I enjoyed making stuff and learnt how to compose with colour


2 -3 evening a week spent working as a bar waitress at the a local working man’s club – Thursday night bingo Saturday night bingo followed by ball-room dancing

Saturday shop assistant at Marks and Spencer department store came later.

I left home!

Ages 19 – 23

Leicester Polytechnic – BA(hons) Fashion and Textiles - first class honours

Central School of Art, London – Post-graduate Diploma in Textile Design

I was enchanted by looms, I loved the structure of them, the arranging of colours and textures, the process - selecting, dying and making a warp. I spent most of my time making cloth immersed in thread and colour.

1982 Contemporary Crafts….oh my goodness….I fell in love with all things hand-made…Michael Brennand-Wood, Lynne Curran, Mary Restieaux, Janet Bolton to name a few at the time.

I had a long standing relationship through this time with a boy who I cared for dearly and who travelled to Australia and never came back…..

Living in London was exciting and fresh…..I could spend hours in the Museum of Mankind, The Victoria and Albert museum and National Gallery. The British Craft Gallery, Covent Garden, Neal Street East (a place where you could buy objects from around the globe…I bought 2 chinese kites, 2 indonesian puppets, an indian painting etc. that were my firm favourites to decorate my bedsit.

Ages 24-31


Weaver, Madrid, Spain ( short 6 month contract)

Merchandiser, Wallis Fashions, London (1 year)

Self-employed Weaver, London (2 years)

1990 Re-trained as a Teacher of Art and Design, Manchester Polytechnic

1990 – 1998 Teacher of Art and Textiles, 11-16 Lowton High School, Wigan, UK

1991 – moved in to a flat share in Manchester - met David Walker (from Lisburn, Northern Ireland he was 25, I was 29 and my biological clock was ticking…….)

1993 We bought a house together in Moulton, Cheshire 3 miles from my parents

1994 - Married David Walker

1994 – First child born – Iona Francesca …I loved being a mummy.

During this time I tried to make a living from the skills I’d learnt on my degree but I quickly realised I didn’t have what it took to be a business woman and make enough money from selling woven items. I went through the motions of applying for grants and doing the run of fairs etc. but I wasn’t having a lot of success. I enjoyed my time using the looms at the London college of Furniture where I completed a City and Guilds Part 3 under Polly Binns and was awarded membership of the Society of Designer Craftsman by Embroiderer Constance Howard.

Moving back ‘up-north’ to re-train as a teacher, I had to live with my parents to do this and was to change me….I had seen what it was like in the big world and retreated back to the familiar and gained success as a teacher and found a husband at the expense of further intrepid explorations into the unknown. My life became planned and settled and although I dearly loved new family I channelledmy creative energies into teaching and home-making. 

Ages 34-41

Home life, Family Life, Teaching, Child-minding, a baby Boy Dillon…the family is complete.

Age 42

Dave’s business is doing well and I can pursue my own goals….

2005– Back to university

2010 – Graduated with a degree BA(Hons) Contemporary Crafts specialising in ceramic and metal, Manchester Metropolitan University, First Class Honours and The Dean’s Award for Excellence

Part 2: Process

How do I work and what do I love to do?

  • collect visual information in the form of visual studies, objects, words, poetry, ideas, memories
  • make connections through placement of objects, collections, compilations of collected objects, words and images
  • make drawings using all or some of above either as prints, collage, mixed media, pen and ink etc.
  • create series of objects / paintings / drawings
  • finished set of work includes initial collections, extended pieces, drawings as objects 2D and 3D pieces

Part 3: Content

What do I care about?

Memory of place is the connection between all the works I have ever produced. I am interested in representing the passing of time and my struggle involves finding ways to communicate the emotion I feel when finding hidden treasures and this could be a treasures moment in time or a precious stone or an old photograph even a treasured memory.

Surface connects us to objects, through touch we are transported back to a time, a place. Running a hand along an old table, turning a pebble over and over in our pocket or bringing a blanket up to our cheek.

I care about objects that have a history, a shared experience and a narrative. These are often the most humble of objects such as an old oil can or a tins of rusty nails that remind me of my dad working in his garage, or a fragments of a childhood book full of scribblings. 

I care about nature and the simple beauty of a stone, a shell a seed pod…. all beautifully formed, weathered over time, tossed in the wind tumbled in the waves.

To bring notice to the beauty of a bleached and worn fragment of shell creating an image evoking a fragment of memory like a dream piecing together two disparate ideas …a portmanteau….a metaphor…