Jill Bennett

Jill spent her childhood on an isolated cattle farm in Jamaica. There reading, drawing, and the world of imagination were very important. She came to England during the post war years and discovered the theatre. She studied Theatre Design in the 1950's at Wimbledon School of Art and at the Slade School of Fine Art in London. So began a life long study of historical clothes and the social history of the people who wore them.

After her marriage to Rodney Bennett, a television drama director. and, with two children of her own, she began to illustrate children's books. Almost the first book she was offered was 'Fantastic Mr Fox' by Roald Dahl. With over fifty books to her name she is a very successfull illustrator, including works by famous authors such as Dick King-Smith and Helen Cresswell.

Towards the end of the 1970s for relaxation from the many deadlines the books demanded, she joined forces with ceramicist and sculptor, Sukey Erland. Their children were at the same primary school. They became known as Bennett and Erland. Their first works were vignettes for ornamental use. This was in the days before dolls house enthusiasm in England had really begun. Then they had the idea to try to make dolls house dolls that could be repeated and were not expensive. As the movement grew, they even tried all metal dolls with moulded hair. These were too heavy and the wire used was too fragile.

When Sukey left London, Jill, still wanting to make dolls the shops would like to buy, joined up with Jamie Carrington and together they developed J Designs, combining porcelain heads with metal bodies. Jamie left to go on his own, and J Designs continued with the help of Tina Newman and Paula Shilson. Finally, Jill left London to live in Bath so Tina and Paula ran J Designs for another 10 years, finally passing it to Kate, Jill's daughter.

and Jill became just... Jill Bennett...

Over the next fifteen years or so Jill devoted herself to making 'one offs' . In 2009 Jill decided to stop making dolls as her eyes no longer had the facility for such very fine work. Ever busy, she now had time to write and illustrate some new stories and even give the odd talk. Sadly Jill died suddenly on the 15th September 2019 ending a life full of creativity that had given pleasure to so many.

Jill's dolls are frequently described as 'exquisite' - and exquisite they are. Whatever period, they are accurately and beautifully dressed. But they are more than decorative objects. Look into the faces and you will see a unique human being - adult or child, rich or poor - with a distinct personality, and a life going on. Indeed, Jill said she could only dress a doll when she knew who that person really was. The Comedie Humane of life, is the rich subject present in all of Jill's work, and forms her legacy for the future.