Helen is another artist I’m super lucky to know personally.
I met Helen the same way I met Lynn, through working at Oklahoma. Helen and I bonded over our love for cartoons on our shifts together at the weekends. Helen has now broken free of the monotonous shift working life and become a full time artist, setting up workshops in Horsefall in Ancoats and at The Whitworth Gallery. Helen is currently working as an artist assistant which she absolutely loves.
So, Helen we’ll start at the boring part… where did you go to uni and what course did you take?
HN: Well, I started by doing a Foundation course with the intention of going on to do a Graphics degree because I wanted to be an illustrator. But I just felt too self conscious about my drawings and couldn’t get that thought out of my head. So I started a Multimedia course which I was told was abit of everything that would also help the illustrator side of things and it just sounded like the right thing to do. But it wasn’t like that at all, it was mainly film processing and web design which I wasn’t interested in. I did a year of that and knew it wasn’t right for me so I started a Fine Art course a year later.
What made you choose to focus on ceramics as your main discipline?
HN: I didn’t really do anything with clay until I left uni. In my last year of uni i was creating installations using video tapes, I liked the tactileness of the tape to create things with, but I kind of lost the love for it towards the end of my last year. I was in my studio and I had a bucket of clay so I just started playing around with it making little marienets. But I was still in the mindset of having to use it in conjunction with tape and sound that I’d already been working with. And it was like a lightbulb moment when I realised I didn’t need to combine it with anything! I could get what I wanted from just the clay.
I decided then to do a 6 week ceramic course, where they taught me the basic skills, pinch pots etc. But what I will say is that I never realised how much stuff like that cost, the resources that are available at uni are incredible and they’re free! I wish I’d taken advantage of everything even if I never used it again! You just don’t realise how much it all costs when you’re funding it yourself.
How would you describe what you’re working on now?
HN: I’m in a little bit of a transitional period at the moment, I want to find out about the material process. Like what does my process mean? What do people get from my work? It’s that tactile theme again really. My work is very organic, raw, it’s not polished and I think when people see texture in an object they immediately want to pick it up and explore it! Which I like and want to know why my objects have that effect…
I don’t even have a set process in the way that I make each piece. I have a slab of clay, I cut it into a random shape and build coils on top of it to see where it goes!
Who would you say influences your work?
HN: *thinks for a while* ahhhh! It’s so hard to think when you’re just put on the spot! Erm, Jesse Wine I really like at the moment. He creates ceramic everyday objects like shoes etc and they’re really cool I like them alot. Barbara Hepworth influences me alot, her work is very organic with natural forms and it’s like they have their own unique language they all have this individual voice. She’s just amazing. But to be honest most of my inspiration comes from reading! I love reading and read all the time, I think it’s like a form of research you have to constantly research and read to keep your brain active. Research has to be done to feed your brain.
Helen and I did this little informal interview in a bar in Manchester over whisky and beer. We started talking about me looking for a summer job when uni finishes in May and how hard it is to find anything in the art sector and Helen said something that I think resonates in any situation
“You have to put the work in, you have to find it, you have to send emails asking everyone if they need help in any department. You have to put yourself out there to gain the experience cause at the end of it that’s what everyone wants. Experience.”