’Portrait of a Maker & Crafter’, the third in this series featuring our friends who are part of the Cockpit Arts family here in Holborn. Here they share their creative journeys and inspirations and the connection with making things, things which build a narrative and an emotional resonance.
Tell us how you ended up at Cockpit Arts?
I studied Ceramics BA Hons and graduated in 1995, set up a studio in North London then moved to the fantastic community at Cockpit in 2008. I returned to study for my Masters at the Royal College of Art in 2015. I now make fine porcelain works that have illusionary qualities. My space at Cockpit has great natural light and I have goods views of buildings and the sky, this is a bonus for feeling energised and inspired.
How did you come about your beautiful signature?
From exploration during my Masters, I use methods of layering colour either with screen-printing coloured clay or inlay. I often polish my work to gain a purity and refined delicacy. I work with a certain ambiguity and elements of surprise in my ceramics. This comes from playing and questioning materiality and processes. I have worked in many ways with plaster and clay for nearly 30 years and it still continues to amaze me with its possibilities.
What or who inspires your work?
Bridget Riley has always been someone whose work I am fascinated by, she has an ability to create paintings that can engulf your physical existence and alter perceptions. I also admire Gerhard Richter, he uses paint like a three-dimensional material. Every day I spot details or scenes, often whilst riding around London on my bike. Changing light from the weather or the different times of year can invigorate me.
What is the best thing about being your own boss and least favourite?
Best aspect - being a free spirit, flexibility and not having to answer to too many people, seizing opportunities that can only enter the life of someone who isn’t bound to time or employer rules. The worst part? Sometimes not being able to switch off and leave things ticking in someone else’s hands.
Helen’s snapshots of London
What are your favourite go-to spots in London?
I enjoy views from high up so will always explore new heights wherever I go if I can. Frank’s roof top bar in Peckham, very close to where I live is a stunning spot to watch the sunset. I also like travelling through the streets of London, finding as many new ones as I can. I cover a lot of ground each day on bike or on foot and will often take a new route to somewhere - you never know what you’ll see, find or discover.
List three words that best describe you?
Curious. Risk-taker. Imaginative.
Textures of Time 030/121345 photographed by Sylvain Deleu Lippard Necklace
What is your favourite piece?
I make illusionary surfaces in ceramic and they vary each time. My textured, sometimes lenticular porcelain pieces continue to make me excited, imagining where they could develop next. I have made large flat pieces for the wall and sculptural forms. One piece I have made in particular looks as though it has tiny numbers in the surface, like binary code, but it is just pure abstract pattern. I do have a particular soft spot for that one.
You can view more of Helen’s work here.
Photography by Alun Callender, Helen Johanssen and Ejing Zhang Studio