Friday, 30 October 2015

Introducing the Canvas Collection . . .

After months of build up I can't quite believe that MADE London has already come and gone.  As my first show after a 2 year break while I concentrated on commission work, I was a little nervous about delving into the world of shows again.  But MADE certainly did not disappoint.  Held in the beautiful One Marylebone it showcased 4 floors of the most fantastic makers and I am so thrilled to have been selected as one of them.  My thanks go out to Tutton & Young for organising such a great show.

I launched my new Canvas Collection at MADE (which I fondly refer to as my wiggles).  Incorporating borders made from french knitting which have been woven into the scarves, the design is a follow on from the scarves I developed for the Cambrian Mountains Wool exhibition (which is currently touring the UK and on show this weekend at Made by Hand in Cardiff).  The colourways have been inspired by some of my favorite artists; Sonia Delauney, Peter Doig, Howard Hodgkin, Patrick Heron and Per Kirkeby.  The colour combinations are bold and blended, while woven structures are subtle so as not to detract from the statement meandering knitted tubes.  A harmonious hybrid of knitting and weaving.


The collection received lots of attention at MADE, including the eye of actress Emma Thompson who bought a 'Kirkeby' as a gift for a friend.  If you want to follow Emma's lead and get some wiggles on this Winter the collection will be available to buy online very shortly for £175 each.  If you can't wait, email me your order to

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Countdown to Peru . . .

At the end of next week I'm off to Peru for 3 weeks.  To say the least I'm rather excited as it's my 1st holiday abroad in about 12 years! But all work and no play makes Helen a dull girl.  I'll be visiting some fantastic sites; Lima, Machu Picchu, Cusco, Lake Titicaca and the Amazon rainforest.  I've just bought a massive new memory card for my camera so expect to see a lot of photos on my return! But before the off I've got a commission to do, my new collection prep to finish and find time to learn some Spanish (eek)! Adiós!

Fabulous colour blocking from these ladies on the Uros Islands, Titicaca, I should fit right in!
 Image from here.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Meeting HRH The Prince of Wales . . .

For a little while now I have had to keep a secret.  It's not something I'm particularly good at doing! But apart from spilling the beans to a few of my nearest and dearest I managed to keep schtum.  And now the secret is out . . .

For those of you who follow me on social media you may have spotted that on Friday I met a very famous face, HRH The Prince of Wales!

At the beautiful Nanteos Mansion just outside of Aberystwyth, Cambrian Mountains Wool were hosting a private view to celebrate the work produced for the 'International Design and Make Challenge 2015' project.  I am one of 37 designers who produced work for the challenge. At the event on Friday I was able to meet the fellow makers (one of whom had even traveled over from the USA specially for the PV), the organisers and associates of Cambrian Mountains Wool.  We were told in advance there would be a special guest in attendance but nothing more, but when we were asked for extra information in order to carry out security checks it soon clicked who the very special guest might be!

The Cambrian Mountains Wool Project is part of the Cambrian Mountains Initiative, of which His Royal Highness is President.  It's one of the many projects HRH supports associated with promoting wool. The Prince launched the Campaign for Wool in January 2010 as an initiative to expand the market for British and Commonwealth wool and promote awareness of its environmental benefits.  Wool is my absolute favorite fiber to work with and it was the sustainability of wool that I spoke to HRH about when we met.

photo courtesy of

Now the day is over it feels quite surreal that it actually happened but it was an amazing experience.  A huge thank you to Cambrian Mountains Wool for making me part of their project and allowing me this unforgettable opportunity!

Read my previous post to learn more about my work for the challenge

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Collaborating with Dot One . . .

Last year I embarked on an intriguing commission with product designer Iona Inglesby for her Masters show at the Royal College of Art.  Iona had taken her families DNA and transformed it into a series of bright colour block designs which I then wove using a double cloth.

Now Iona has now set up Dot One, offering up her unique design services for commissions.

Dot One translates your genetic data into understandable colour patterns creating your own DNA 'tartan'. The design embeds trends of inheritance, similarities between siblings or records the merging of two families. All you need to do is a simple cheek swab and let your DNA do the designing!

Iona and I recently met up in London to talk about her latest commission and are now hatching a plan to combine our design skills to produce some limited edition products collaboratively.  Sampling is currently taking place and we hope to have more information about this exciting work very shortly, so watch this space!

 Images courtesy of Dot One

Sunday, 7 June 2015


This year marks 10 years since I completed my BA at Winchester School of Art and 5 years since I finished my MA at the RCA.  As my distance traveled since graduation grows ever longer and now I'm a lecturer and business owner I can't help but feel reflective of my own graduation experiences. I certainly did not get the most from the experience the first time I graduated (or maybe even the second) but I was young and boy did I learn from my mistakes.  But now I'm older (and hopefully wiser) I want to pass on some pearls of my wisdom.  So here are my top 10 tips for new (textile) graduates:

1.  First things first, update your CV.  It might seem obvious but it's such an important part of the first impression you will make with a potential employer.  Get it looking slick and make sure it's not too wordy.  You need clear formatting, bullet points rather than paragraphs and a couple of great referees (make sure you get their permission 1st).

2.  Know who you are contacting. VERY IMPORTANT this one.  There is nothing more frustrating to an employer than getting contacted by someone who didn't think to look up their name and it screams GENERIC EMAIL.  If someone can't be bothered to go on my website and read my blurbs to find out a bit about me, then I can't be bothered to read their email, let alone write back.  Simple.

3.  Hand in hand with point 2, if you are applying for jobs make sure you are a) responding to an advert (if there isn't a position to fill your wasting your time and spamming companies), b) know where the business is based (don't apply for something miles away if you have no intention of moving and c) have the right amount of qualifications (if they ask for 2 years industry experience or more, you're probably going for a job you're not experienced enough to do, find something more appropriate).

4.  It's a small world. Good word of mouth is essential, but similarly bad words spread too.  The impressions you have made on your tutors/internships/employers are SO important.  It's amazing how connected this industry is, don't forget that.  Most of the jobs I've had over the last 10 years have been from recommendations by people I've met along the way.  Internships turned into full time employment, good word of mouth manifested in lecturing jobs and commissions turned into collaborations.  It's a rolling ball, keep it rolling!

5.  Stay friendly with the contacts you have already made, they are your foot in the door to the industry you want to be a part of.  Just make sure you maintain professionality throughout and don't overstep the mark.  If you start asking questions you could just have typed into google you may find yourself skating on thin ice.  Make contact during business hours and whatever you do don't confuse them with your best friends and send them texts in the middle of the night!

6.  Make sure your social media content is impeccable.  Recruiters will look up facebook profiles (I've done it myself!) so make sure your private life stays private.  Change your security settings for your personal profile and think about setting up a 'page' for your professional profile.  I love linking up with my past interns via facebook but not every employer would want to be this informal.  Linkedin is a great alternative in these cases and I've also known people to get headhunted through the site, so make sure you have a profile set up.

7.  Be someone worth knowing.  You may have been a large fish in a small pond while you were at college but there are thousands of other people graduating at the same time as you and that ponds about to become an ocean! Find a way to stand out from the crowd.  It's not all about the innovation in your collection, being wildly cutting edge or the fact you just secured yourself a First.  When studios are looking to take someone on it is often more important to find someone who will integrate smoothly into a small team.  Be genuine, be polite, be dependable, become indispensable.

8.  If you love being a practical designer find a way to access the equipment you need in order to carry on working after college.  Does your college offer alumni access to workshops or are they part of the Artists Access to Art Colleges scheme?  There are also opportunities to join studios where you can access shared facilities or other perks like the Cultivated program at Unit Twelve Gallery. What is there available in your local area?  I also found the HOTHOUSE scheme the Crafts Council runs to be incredibly helpful when I first started my business, applications for their next intake open in July.

9.  It's alright to not know exactly what you want to do, it takes time to find your path and it may change along the way.  It took me almost a year to get my 1st full time job in the industry after my BA.  I worked as a Sales Assistant straight out of college until frustration drove me to throw myself back out there into the textiles world.  The sales world definitely wouldn't miss me the way I missed weaving! And since then I've dabbled in a few different roles.  It's because of the varied experiences I've had I know more clearly where I want to steer myself with the next 10 years of my career.

10.  Don't expect an easy ride.  Despite my good fortune at times along the way, there have also been crushing blows.  I know exactly what it feels like to be rejected, I've had more applications refused than accepted, I've been made redundant, I've gambled money on shows and lost.  It hurts. BUT the only thing you can do is pick yourself back up, dust yourself off and carry on.  Success isn't instantaneous.  You have to be tough and you have to work bloody hard for it.  So why rush? Remember your building a career.  I know I'm in it for the long game!


all images from google.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Cambrian Wool Challenge . . .

Back in March I was accepted to take part in the Cambrian Wool Challenge 2015Cambrian Mountains Wool is an initiative of the Cambrian Mountain Farmers CIC, supported by its patron, His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, in order to raise awareness amongst consumers about the unique, natural and sustainable benefits offered by wool.  Encouraging collaboration between the community of wool producers, designers, retailers, manufacturers, artisans and interior designers living within the Cambrian Mountain region of mid-Wales, the Campaign aims to educate producers and consumers about the versatility of wool, and reconnecting them with its myriad uses.  The challenge was set for emerging or established designer-makers to create products using 100% Cambrian Mountain wool.  The aim: to demonstrate the versatility and beauty of their wool.

From over 100 entries, 35 designers were selected to take part and very luckily for me, I was one of them. 

I wanted to develop new work that would intersect the disciplines of weave, knit and stitch.  This is something I have been keen to explore for quite some time and touched on whilst studying my Masters.  Breaking away from my usual style of working with highly colourful yarns, I chose instead to work with the Cambrian wool in its natural tone.  The creation of the fabric was concentrated around the development of texture and unusual 3 dimensional effects.  Having looked at intricate cable knits, macramé and rope knotting techniques for inspiration, I developed some fabric samples which combined French knitted tubing with finer spun yarns on the loom.  The ideas for the formation of the two scarves then grew from there.  The first scarf, which is the more complex, had over 20 meters of French knit woven into the piece.  The cord weaves through the cloth and then links back on itself, snaking its way through the entirety of the scarf.  A central cable was added into the scarf once it had been cut from the loom, which runs from a central knot, through the loops created during the weaving, down to the ends of the scarf.  The second piece concentrates on creating a complex textured border as a highlight on either end of the scarf.

The creations of everyone who took part in the challenge are now going into an exhibition which will tour for the next year.  The shows first destination is the Hay Festival which opens at the end of next week.  I'll be popping down to have a look so expect some photos soon. Further dates that have already been announced include; The London Welsh Centre during the London Design Festival and Made by Hand Wales in the Autumn.  The full listing of venues and dates is available here.  For more images of my process please see the full album on facebook.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Buddying Heather Shields . . .

I've been kindly asked by the Crafts Council to act as a 'buddy' again this year and have been paired up with Glasgow based weaver Heather Shields.  I'd met Heather briefly last year when she attended the 'LOOM' seminar I curated for Stroud International Textiles, so it has been lovely getting to know Heather and her work better.  Combining playful colour palettes and bold patterns, Heather creates vibrate contemporary fabrics and homewares.

Heather's strong affinity with weaving began at art school where she immediately became fascinated with the physical practice and endless possibilities for experimentation and innovation.The meticulous nature of weaving challenges and satisfies her drive for technical perfection and quality.  She currently works on a George Wood peg loom but is just putting through an order for a new loom which will help her to take her business to the next level.

Heather started on the Hothouse program just over a month ago and has already been busily traveling around the UK to attend events.  She is part of the fifth run of the program which provides selected emerging makers with targeted creative and business support.

I caught up with Heather a couple of weeks ago in Glasgow where she showed me around the city and Glasgow School of Art (where she also works as the weave technician).  I had such a lovely day 'geeking' out with Heather in a constant chatter about all things loom, weaving and beyond and look forward to spending more time working with her over the coming months.  Her fabrics are truly stunning and she is definitely a talent to keep your eye on.  You can follow Heather's development on twitter, facebook and pinterest.