At the age of 12, I had the privilege of exhibiting an oil painting alongside Duncan Grant – a celebrated member of The Bloomsbury Group. This wonderful experience encouraged me to pursue my dream of becoming an artist. So, after completing an A-Level in Art at the tender age of 15, I began exhibiting my work and accepting commissions. Several years later I studied Creative Embroidery at Brighton Technical College – a course which, at that time, existed under the auspices of Goldsmiths, University of London. During this period I became enamoured with Oriental, Egyptian and Greek Artwork and Mythology, and began exploring these themes in my painting and embroidery.

Martin Kidman Knitwear (Brighton Museum). Embroidery by Jessica Coote.

Martin Kidman Knitwear (Brighton Museum). Embroidery by Jessica Coote.

Shortly after the birth of my eldest daughter, my family and I left England in search of a better life in Provence. We settled in the small rural village of Rustrel, which was surrounded by breathtaking countryside and bathed in beautiful light. Inspired by this extraordinary landscape, I began using my embroidery to capture its beauty. Following a succession of successful exhibitions, I began to receive regular creative embroidery and textile art commissions.

After many years living in Provence, I returned to Sussex and settled in Brighton. Between 1997 and 2002, I worked for the Brighton based fashion designer, Martin Kidman. The multi-coloured outfit shown in the photograph to the right is from the Autumn/Winter 2001/2 Collection, and is on permanent display in the Brighton Museum. It is one of many outfits that I had the pleasure of working on for Martin. From time to time I still enjoy working on bespoke outfits and bags for designers.

Returning to Sussex allowed me to rediscover the richness and beauty of the South Downs. Since childhood, I have been inspired by the changing moods of South Downs, and fascinated by the diverse range of flora and fauna which thrive here (including rare birds, snakes and lizards, butterflies and grasshoppers, and many species of fragile native plants). To my delight Hilary Benn (Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) announced on the 12th of November 2009 that the South Downs had received National Park status, and confirmed its boundary. The South Downs National Park officially came into being on the 31st of March 2010. My project, Textile Landscapes of The South Downs National Park, is a celebration of this important event.