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At 10 years of age, Jan and his family moved from the Philippines to live in the
United Kingdom. They chose Basingstoke for its job opportunities and being a
great place for their family to grow up in both urban and countryside

“I am bilingual as I was born in the Philippines and speak two languages; English and Bisaya. I can also speak a little bit of Tagalog, one of the official languages of the Philippines. I have grown up here for 15 years, so have now outlived my time in the Philippines.

At school in the Philippines, my teacher recognised I was good at drawing; my creative interests did not come until I was at secondary school. I enjoy anything to do with using my hands and anything creative, including graphics, textiles, and cooking.

When I was younger my favourite place was The War Memorial Park, I always felt safe there and it’s where most of the events happened. The first event I remember was the air balloon festival held in there, as well as the car shows and the fair.”

After his gap year, Jan attended the University for Creative Arts - Royal School of Needle Works, undertaking an embroidery degree, based in Hampton Court Palace. Jan will be graduating in 2022 due to the challenging times of the pandemic.

“I would like to thank the whole team of staff and teachers of Queen Mary's College, especially my college teacher Alexa Allen who recommended the needlework course. She saw something in my embroidery that I didn’t, she recognised my passion and encouraged me to push my limits because I have the talents and skills. Her reassurance allowed me to do things outside my comfort zone.  It was Alexa Allen who recommended me to go to university. This really interested me as I like to break the idea that men cannot choose needlework; I was the only male in my class which did initially seem intimidating. 

During my time at University, I met Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, who visited during the first or second year. She said, “You’re a brave little man”, and shook my hand. She was wearing gloves and had a large team of Security with her. I also, by chance, spoke to the Queen of Malaysia or Singapore, she was due to walk past our studio, but she dashed into our studio when she saw me working. She asked about my heritage and work.

At university, Jan stayed in Kingston and described it as a mixture of rural and urban living, much like Basingstoke and Deane which felt comforting. He spent his free time at the Victoria & Albert Museum for inspiration.

“I had a Membership to the Royal Academy of Arts,  for a full experience I would make notes for my projects for some inspiration. I would take part in workshops to improve my knowledge and skills. I felt it was a once in a lifetime opportunity, so I wanted to make the most of my time in London to explore exhibitions that really inspire me.”

Back home from university in Basingstoke, Jan finds lots of local inspiration for his creative work. “I find inspiration at the Willis Museum; for example the Lego exhibition gave insight of what people can do with LEGO. It has inspired ideas for me; an embroidery effect fusion with LEGO and textiles. The space helps to inspire how I can put my work in a similar way.

I attended the Whitchurch Silk Mill light and sound trail; I enjoyed the historical story behind it, I found it to be quite inspirational, I would like to go back again to find out more about weaving.”

In his downtime, Jan likes to explore his local area on foot; he feels it gives him the opportunity to really soak up his surroundings; taking photographs of the ever-changing seasons and landscapes provides so much inspiration for his art .

“I encourage everyone to have a walk around your local area and see the constantly changing landscape and document your discoveries. Basingstoke is a mixture of everything; there is always something new to discover here.

Jan took the opportunity in 2022 to join Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council as part of the kick-starter scheme and has taken a real interest in local events and community groups.

“Being a part of the local council allowed me to be open-minded and encourage myself to think differently to see the bigger picture and appreciate all the council teams and their services to always improving (results) to benefit our local community. In my experience, it is encouraging that the whole community can make a difference in their local areas just taking part/participating in the organisation events, regardless how great or small it makes a difference. As an artist being part of a team has widened my creative ideas, and hopefully, I can translate them into existence.

So what’s next for Jan?
I have recently discovered BasingstokeMakerSpace; it’s exciting to find out what are they going to do next within their community. Once I join, I am excited to find out how I can make the most of being in that space.

I am going to attend the monthly meetings with Basingstoke Creative Stitchers and I’m also interested in joining the Basingstoke Art Club. I’d love to take part in the community and to be a part of these like-minded creative groups.

Jan, July 2022