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“I need to live up to 200 years, otherwise I won’t fit everything in”

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.”

Now that she’s officially retired, Janet can explore other outlets for her creative talent.

Illustration is the latest interest of a gifted career that started more than 60 years ago, when Janet finished her studies at the Foley College of Fine Arts and Design in London, where she met her husband Tony. When Tony was headhunted to move to New Zealand, they both decided to come and started working as designers in the carpet industry.

Janet ran the design studio for Lawrie Embroidery for 12 years. After that, she and Tony decided to open their own business, creating both corporate and fashion and bridal designs. Janet is very passionate about her side of the business, specially the wedding designs. She's worked with some of the most famous fashion designers in New Zealand.

Janet loves creating custom-made bridal designs like this one.

For Janet and Tony it was very important to be able to bring their work machinery along when they 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.”

Janet does her designs on the computer, and her embroidery machine creates them automatically on the clothing.
She is currently creating bookmarks with one of her gorgeous designs.

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 60 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 won the National Designer Award in the UK with a handmade doll of Fagin, from Oliver Twist

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.

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