Monday, June 6, 2011

British textile maestro Jo Dennison creates allegorical wall hangings

Jo Dennison with Ariadne, 75 x 170 cm (2010)

In the latest chapter of her richly textured life as textile artist, Jo Dennison of Cómpeta, Spain, stretches her imagination and talents into the world of classical allegories.

Self-taught, Dennison, who has lived and worked in Spain 22 years, quietly toils away hand and free machine stitching about 20 hours weekly constructing her nearly three dimensional hangings.

The latest, the story of Persephone and the Birth of the Seasons, debuted in May at the Salon de Actos in Cómpeta in a group show by members of an arts group,

Starting point: sketch by Jo Dennison of "The Fall of Lucifer"

It took at least 6 months to complete. 

Another new work, The Fall of Lucifer, nears completion.

Born and reared in the UK midlands, Jo as a child knew she owned keen artistic abilities. 

But in her household, the strong work ethic prevailed. 

She loved art, wanted to go to art school. Instead, she prepared herself as a primary school teacher (up to age 11) and taught in the midlands and south England for about 35 years.

Persephone, by Jo Dennison, 260 x 150 cm (2011)

“I wouldn´t call myself a trained artist,” she says. “But I concentrated on art and teaching. In primary school, you could apply art, literature, drama, use puppets with young children.”

“It´s the freshness of young children, not feeling that things have to be like grown up drawings or paintings; there are no pre-conceived ideas but allot of enthusiasm,” she explains.

Mudejar Inspired, by Jo Dennison, 200 x 850 cm 

The artist, who has shown her works in 13 group shows in the UK and Spain, has little time for self-promotion. “How would I have enough time for my work, then?”

Jo reminds me of the fabled convent nuns who supposedly went blind making petit point fire screens and hangings and tapestries.

Her intensity of concentration remains high.

Two of Jo Dennisons´s palettes hanging on studio wall, photograph by Stefan van Drake (2011)

She started dabbling with oil paints, drawing, and the basics. People recognized her talent and she won various “distinctions” and awards for her work while in school and university.

Working with stage costumes, she began playing with fabrics, hand and then free machine stitching, developing her techniques.
In her studio, tucked into a spacious street-level, airy space along the twisting old Moorish streets of this white-washed Andalusia mountain village, allows her to first draw her idea, such as the Fall of Lucifer, then paint it in gouache the size she wants.

Studio installation, untitled, Jo Dennison, photograph by Stefan van Drake (2011)
Then she pulls out swaths of various colored fabrics from boxes, each box a color, and each containing various options in palette and fabric.

She builds background, textures and shadows, and constructs detail laboriously as she would a painting.

“Photographs failed to show the texture and embroidery,” she explains.

So I shot a couple of ArtTraveler videos so you could see her explain how she creates her works.

Rock on and practice peace and love.
Stefan, the ArtTraveler™

Check out a sculpture or mosaics workshop or walking tour in our beautiful mountains. See:

"Sierra Sky," photograph by Stefan van Drake (2009)

Contact me at or by calling(34) 951 067 703; from the UK at BT landline rates, 0844 774 8349.

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