Janie Lightfoot Textiles
Published: Thursday, August 22, 2019
Janie is an accredited conservator and an expert at restoring church textiles.
Janie Lightfoot Textiles, a member of the National Churches Trust Professional Trades Directory, is a restoration and conservation studio based in North West London that gives a new lease of life to textiles of all kinds. You can see some of the studio's recent projects in a photo-gallery at the bottom of this page.
The studio’s most recent church project saw its eight-strong team of conservators restore two carpets by William Morris and a 1907 Edward Burne-Jones tapestry of the Adoration of the Magi. Both were made for St Andrew’s, Roker, near Sunderland, a Grade I listed church known as the Cathedral of the Arts and Crafts Movement.
The Morris carpets lined the main aisle and Janie was pleasantly surprised to find they were in reasonable condition, a tribute the quality of the workmanship. Her conservators spent months cleaning and repairing them before putting them back on a very fine quality padded underlay to protect them from the cold, abrasive stone underneath.
The years had not been kind to the Burne-Jones tapestry above the altar which Janie says was so filthy that its lovely image was barely visible.
She continues: “The tapestry required a lot of surface cleaning. As the colours were unstable it was decided to take it to Belgium where a very specialised steam clean was undertaken. This was very successful. Not one colour ran. When it was reinstalled last year, nobody recognised it.
“We fitted the tapestry back in the frame and it looked fantastic. Together with the Morris carpets, the whole of the nave was transformed.”
Janie’s interest in textiles began at an early age. She learned first from her mother who was a seamstress. From making and selling clothes she switched to conserving textiles. She served an apprenticeship at a textile gallery, then with a maker of Turkish rugs. In 1977, she started her own business undertaking a range of work and completing courses with the textile conservation studio at Hampton Court Palace.
Today, Janie is an accredited conservator and encourages others to follow in her footsteps. She opens up her private textile archive to assist students, employs an apprentice and welcomes interns from around the world.
Janie is an associate lecturer at the University of the Arts, London, a regular speaker at conferences and a consultant for several institutions. But nothing beats the thrill of rescuing something unique.
St Bridget’s church
In 2013, she returned a medieval, embroidered hooded cope to its home at St Bridget’s church at Skenfrith, Monmouthshire, after supervising its year-long restoration. The Skenfrith Cope had been mounted in a box on the wall and was badly affected by damp, dirt and mould. Dating from around 1500, it had been hidden during the Reformation then used as an altar frontal. Janie’s detailed inspection established that it was largely intact and may have included work by a royal embroiderer.
Recalling the service to celebrate the cope’s return, she says: “At the end of the day I was really, really happy. It was a fantastic job. From an extremely sad object, there it was: the beautiful colours, the clarity of the embroidery, the spangles and the gorgeous red velvet. It looked very, very proud in its new box.”
Profile written by by Elena Curti