Sitting in the sunbathed conservatory at her villa, Janet is working on her latest project. She’s sketching the drawings for a children’s book inspired by one of her grandchildren. “She wanted her guinea pigs to jump like horses, but I told her that, of course, this was impossible. So, I suggested that we could make them fly.”
Illustration is the latest interest of a gifted career that started more than 40 years ago, when Janet did her studies at the Royal College of Fine Arts in London, where she met her husband Tony. They were both headhunted to move to New Zealand, where they started working as designers in the carpet industry.
Janet devoted her career to embroidery, and she’s worked with some of the most famous fashion designers in New Zealand. That’s why it was so important for her to be able to bring her work machinery along when she decided to move to a retirement village seven years ago. “We had visited every village in Auckland. A friend of mine invited us for coffee at Pakuranga Park, and we had a look at this villa. We realised that it was big enough to include a business, so we signed the following day.”
Although she’s officially retired, Janet still does some freelance work as a designer. She’s also a very social person who thrives in a retirement village like Pakuranga Park, with plenty of activities and social gatherings to choose from. “My son says that I need to live up to 200 years, otherwise I won’t fit everything in.”
Janet’s talent was first recognised more than 40 years ago when she won the National Designer Award in the UK for one of her handmade dolls, inspired by the works of Charles Dickens. Since then, she’s made about 40 of these gorgeous dolls.
Janet loves showing her dolls in exhibitions or talks, but she’s never thought about selling them. Once she was approached by a gentleman that wanted to buy the whole lot for five thousand dollars. “Oh no, it’s just a hobby and they’re not for sale.” replied Janet with her warm smile, incapable to part from her unique creations.