Describe what you do as a creative.
I design and make table mats, coasters and other table and kitchen wares. Some of the designs are my own. I also work with a number of designers and artists to bring joyful and attractive products to homes around the world.
Tell us briefly about yourself.
My ancestors on one side of the family were Huguenots, French Protestants who fled their homes to escape persecution between the 16th and 18th centuries and dispersed to non-Catholic Europe, including England. They brought with them skills which included weaving, silver smithing and watch making, becoming master guildsmen of their industries.
Another line of the family was from Kent, the family goes back 6 generations in Westgate-on-Sea and I was also born in Thanet. I left for a number of years and have been drawn back to the area by the call of the sea.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I had a strong interest in photography and set up a darkroom at school with the wonderful support of our physics teacher. Photography was my skill for my Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award and I remember carrying a really heavy Nikon with extra lenses in my backpack during my 40 mile overnight expedition. The photos with the infrared film that I chose to use were a great way to capture the beautiful landscape of the Brecon Beacons. Luckily I was able to pursue this career and studied photography before working in studios producing still life imagery.
How did you begin doing what you do?
The table mat business came about because my Mum asked for mats for Christmas – I scoured the shops looking for something for her. On a visit to the photo lab (it was 1999) I saw a sign saying ‘have your pictures made into coasters’ and the connection was made. I sourced a quality UK Melamine manufacturer and the journey began.
What turns on your creativity?
I am often engaged by the beauty of the world that surrounds me – both in the real life of the present and place, also in artefacts, crafted items and homewares.
What do you like best about your work?
It is the same, but different every day! There is always something new to explore and learn.
When were you most satisfied in your work?
I love the feeling of releasing a new collection of designs and seeing them come to fruition and make their way out into the world to be on peoples tables.
Describe a memorable response to your work?
It’s always really lovely when people come especially to see me at a fair, or send a written message, saying how pleased they are to have Jenny Duff mats. One customer wrote to me by letter from Australia to thank me for them.
What is the most exciting part of your work at the moment?
Being able to get out into the wider world again has been a great joy – there’s something so rewarding about meeting clients and customers and hearing their Happy Dining stories.
What is your dream project?
I’m really lucky to have made mats for royals and famous people, but my dream project is always to give customers an added layer of joy at their mealtimes.
Which artists / creative people are your heroes/ inspiring figures?
I’m currently very keen on the Huguenot weavers. The designs have inspired me to make new drawings this year, which have now translated into a set of table mats and a tea towel.
Your idea of happiness
Happiness is my caravan, a beautiful beach, good weather, an inspiring book, working at my allotment and making with my hands – drawing, knitting and stitching.
What art/creativity related book should everyone read?
I’ve really enjoyed reading The Old Ways by Robert Macfarlane and Swimming With Seals by Victoria Whitworth, both of which transport the reader to another place and create visual imaginations to stir the mind, whilst exploring history, relationships and experiences.
Tell us a lesson life has taught you.
Whichever path you choose, everything will be alright.
Anything else you would like to add
I feel very lucky to be surrounded with inspiring, loving and sharing family and friends.