Thursday, 21 April 2016

Memory Lane

When I turned forty I felt a need to understand myself. I felt the need to look back, to ask questions and to find the pieces of me. Last year I read a book called 'The Rescue Man' by Anthony Quinn. It was a book I wouldn't have usually chosen for myself ( I read it with my book group). I found myself transported to Liverpool in two tales that intertwine. My own tale begins in Liverpool, the city of my birth, though I moved away when my parents moved south when I was two. So I have only abstract memories of the place I was born and no solid connections there now that my grandparents have passed away. And yet in reading of Liverpool in the 'Rescue Man', I felt a yearning to visit the place that I had been born to. So at Easter we had a family break there and I walked in the footsteps of my parents and grandparents.

The house my parents built in Liverpool

Mersey Avenue

I have asked myself what relevance this trip has had to me and to my work. And it turns out to be about time. I stand at the midpoint of my life, and in journeying alongside my children, I have looked back to my own roots and formative years. I've realised that life speeds up and that time slips away, memories are not solid and my life is not even a blink of an eye in the history of humanity. Somewhere along my journey, I discovered what I am good at and what I love to do. I became 'me'. In choosing to make art (or art choosing to make me) I decided to try to stop time. I decided to stop, to look, to listen and to create something tangible out of the transience of life. My landscape art is about connecting to the earth on which we all stand. It is about capturing a moment. I want others to stop and notice.

Although my work is rooted in nature, I love to travel to cities. I find them stimulating in their architecture, culture and colour. I love art galleries and quirky shops, world food and independent cinemas. Liverpool has them all.

In Liverpool, I found a part of my jigsaw that was missing. I felt very at home. I found the people to be warm and friendly with a sense of humour I recognise in my family. It is a vibrant city that is rich in history and culture. I felt that Liverpool is on her own journey and there is much there to notice.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Featured Maker at

This week it's my great honour to be Featured Maker at and to celebrate I'm offering a discount of 20% off all sales in my Folksy store. I've got some new products too, including this Notebook Set and a set of Landscape Art Cards. There are new prints in the range too so please stop by for a look. To get the discount you'll need code Springsong16.

Me! Click the photo!

Spring notebook set

Sketch. Write. Create.

Landscape Card Set

Towards Dawn

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

In waiting

There's a stillness just before Spring bursts forth, and that is where I am, in that stillness. I'm waiting with the trees to put on a fandango of colour! As the days have drawn out I've enjoyed a couple of trips Lincoln and to Oakham to visit galleries (find me at Itch Gallery in Oakham) and to seek out the new.

My bid to give up plastic for lent has led me down some new paths too. I've been enjoying home-made bread and home-made yoghurt. Shopping has become a different experience and I've sought out interesting farm shops and markets. I've also had a deeper appreciation for the handmade and hand mended. It's important to me to create art that is made from the heart with processes that tread lightly on the earth. 

As I have crossed the landscape I have been inspired by the bare trees, layered up. Some conceal what is behind them. Some cast shadows. Some play with the light and create a dance of negative and positive shapes. It has been a fruitful time creatively and I have felt at peace with my creativity.

But now I'm looking forward to the growth, the colour and the energy that comes with the longer days. I'm looking forward to being outside soaking it all up. I'll be sharing time in nature and my creative techniques and response to nature on my Summer Sketchbook workshop on Saturday May 21st in Long Eaton. And in July there's my Back to Nature art holiday when you can join me for three idyllic days in the hills! And I've a Mark Making studio day on Saturday June 25th. I hope you can join me!

Over Easter I'm looking forward to getting my seeds planted. I have been shirking my responsibilities on the allotment but already Mr Hallows has some lettuces popping up in the polytunnel. I hope we get some warm days and to be able to get out on some new adventures. I'm taking part in 100 Happy Days to bring my attention to the small, joyful details of my life. There are many but I need reminding to stop, to look, to appreciate. You can follow my #100happydays on Instagram or Facebook where I'm also having a give way!

Visit, and like, my Facebook page to enter the giveaway.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Sunshine and Showers

So Spring is teasing me with sunshine and showers. I can smell the hope in the air and I'm filled with a sense of purpose. The reflective time of winter has fuelled new ideas and I've been scribbling them down in the hope they will come to fruition this coming year.

My creative flow is amazingly balanced at the moment. I find that to be true in Spring and Autumn. They are my favourite seasons because of that balance between night and day, light and dark. I work best then. In the summer I tend to be a bit skittish and high energy and in the winter I feel like someone has switched off all the lights and find it hard to get things done. So the pace just now is just right. I've been enjoying planning my gardening year too. Last year I didn't grow much but found I felt disconnected from nature. This year I have already had my fingers in the soil and planted lettuces and beans in our polytunnel. I'm determined to preserve as much of our crops as possible. I've been challenged by a friend to give up buying plastic for Lent. It has meant a journey of self-discovery and a hunter-gatherer style of shopping as I skit between farm shops, markets and super-markets trying to find unpacked or paper packed goods. It has given me a new drive toward being more self sufficient. This week that has meant making marmalade and pickling onions. You can find my favourite recipes here. There's something wonderful about stacking up jars of coloured produce in the Spring sunshine.

Connecting with nature is fuelling my workshops too. I had such a wonderful day with my students on both the 'Rest with Nature' workshop and 'Spring Sketchbooks'. There was a real sense of enjoyment of process and having time to experiment and try new things. That's what art is all about isn't it?

If you'd like to join me for a workshop, I'll be running a 'Summer Sketchbooks' day on Saturday May 21st and a mixed-media 'Mark Making' day on Saturday June 25th. And don't forget that I'll be running my 'Back to Nature' Art Holiday in July. It'll be a total immersion in beauty and art - a wonderful treat for your creative soul.

Amongst the planning for workshops I'm creating a new series of landscapes. I'm currently exhibiting at the Ferrers Gallery and will be demonstrating my techniques and giving a taster of my workshops on Sunday 6th March between 12 and 3. Come along and say 'hi'!

Tuesday, 5 January 2016


Happy New Year!

I've been enjoying hibernating and reflecting on 2015. It wasn't an easy year for me and I've been looking forward to starting over with a new plan for 2016. I've been working through some online courses and books on creativity ahead of this year's workshops. On my workshop, 'Rest with Nature' on January 23rd, we will be taking some time for  creative reflection so I though I would do some of my own.

Over Christmas I read Elizabeth Gilbert's 'Big Magic' which is a great reminder of the wonder of creativity and to tap in to the joy of it. It's got good advice for moving forward with your creative work and for riding out creative block. It linked in well with another book I read not long ago called 'Playing Big' by Tara Mohr which deals with how we can often hold ourselves back. In that, there are some exercise for helping yourself to move forward. When I worked through these, the mantra 'Believe in Yourself' kept coming to me. I will be using that as my affirmation for 2016.

Coming in to this year, I worked through Susanne Conway's 'Find Your Word' online course to find out where I should focus my energy this year. I came up with the word 'Believe'. I usually choose a word for the year and in the past few years they have been passive. 'Acceptance' is one that has popped up, usually about accepting my dual responsibilities of work and family. This year feels like a move forward. My word is more active and hopeful. It's about believing in myself and the roles I juggle and also about believing in my creativity and being present - filling my creative well and feeding my soul. And its about believing in the future and working towards some new goals. I'm going to take the time to write as I find that I connect to myself and my creativity when I write and I'm going to take some time away from home to get lost and find new places.

And as I reflect on the word 'Believe', I keep coming to the words, 'Leave Be'. I'm reminded of the prayer:

"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

And so I am going to try to worry less, to stop battling with life and to be less hard on myself and to let it be.

Whatever you have planned for the new year, may 2016 be creative and fulfilling. x

Friday, 18 December 2015

End of Term

When you're self employed you have to make your own end of term fun. This year I took myself off to Yorkshire Sculpture Park for a dose of creative loveliness with my friend and mentor Fiona Pattison. She's helped me find my centre this year and reawakened my dreams.

I really enjoyed the Jonny Hannah exhibition. Part of the St.Judes collective who always inspire. It's well worth a visit if you need a destination over the Christmas holidays. Combined with a winter walk and a bucket of handcut chips. Just what I needed!

I've also had the Tom Frost exhibition at Stafford's Shire Hall Gallery recommended and the room of unimagined treasures that Mark Hearld has curated at York Art Gallery. Let me know if there's an exhibition that you are heading off to see.

Have a warm and creative Christmas, Helen.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Looking forward, looking back.

It strikes me that wherever we are on our life's path, sometimes just putting one foot in front of the other can be the hardest thing. You (I) can build an empire (ok, a small one) but if there's a break in the flow, it's hard to move forward.

Looking back at 2015 it has been a strange year. At the end of 2014 my health took a nose dive and so I started the year feeling very run down. Winter is a reflective time, but the time I spent with myself was full of negativity and I knew I needed to make some changes. I felt lost and blocked; creatively and spiritually. There's that balancing act in life of the relationship with yourself, and the outer relationship with family, friends and the bigger picture of the world.

I started working with a mentor, someone who could be a sounding board for a head full of conflicting ideas; someone who put me at the centre of the picture who would help me shape my life according to my dreams. And so started a journey towards more self awareness.

In connecting to myself again, I learnt to prioritise myself and to care for myself. I started to write and to use positive affirmations to fuel my heart. I took my life and looked at each and every part and I came to a renewed understanding of being me. I went back to my centre. And in that space I was able to see clearly. From that place I was able to write about who I am creatively, my inspirations, and about how I connect to life. I found a resilience and a determination to use the gift of my creativity. With the encouragement of my mentor, I wrote from my heart about my connection to nature as my life force. I need my garden, my chickens, the sunshine, the landscape. So many of us suffer from nature deficit disorder and seasonal adjustment disorder because we are so disconnected from the energy of the land. So my journey became a project to express my needs, to express where my art comes from.

Listen to an extract here.

The CD that arrived as a result of these writings surprised me! It wasn't what I was expecting! I feel vulnerable sharing it with the world, saying 'Hello, this is me; this is what life feels like for me.' And yet, I hope there is inspiration in my words for re-connecting with nature, both to our own inner nature, and to the miraculous beauty of the world. In committing my response to the seasons into writing, and then as recorded spoken word, I found a new respect for myself, my creativity and the power of nature to heal. If we could all spend time with nature, spend time creating from our hearts, honouring our humanity I really believe the world would be a better place. Taking the time to honour my own needs has certainly made me better.

I invite you to share my journey this year in the form of the spoken word CD that was born from my reflections. On the CD I talk about each season. I notice the small details of my world, I talk of colour and the footsteps towards becoming inspired to create my art. I invite you to visualise the seasons, to dream and to imagine. And then there are some simple tasks for engaging with the outdoors - walking, collecting, noticing. In calling the CD 'I am Nature' I wanted to remind myself, and others of our own uniqueness, and the need to honour that creative voice.

So, looking forward to 2016, I am focusing my workshops on nature as source and running a series of seasonal workshops called 'Inspiration from Nature'. My workshops invite you, at any stage of your creative journey to come and put a foot forward, to have a beginners mind, to empower yourself that you can, to reconnect with your creative spirit and nurture yourself. They can be bought singly or as a series of four that will share the building blocks of my mixed media art. I will also be running an art holiday in the Derbyshire/Staffordshire borders on the 9/10/11 of July. Called 'Back to Nature', there are three days of walking, sketching and mixed media collage workshops. There'll be a supportive, creative, beautiful environment, including an outdoor hot tub experience in the shadow of the dynamic hills that surround the farm. It's going to be fun, creative and utterly restorative!

I'm ending this year on a high. I'm rested and reinvigorated and ready for all that 2016 has to offer.  I hope you can join me at one of my events or exhibitions.

Wishing you a warm and creative festive season.


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