Helena Seget – Thoughts

What's on Helena's mind today?

Spring Salon – Sunday 29th March 2015 10 am – 5 pm

I’m looking forward to seeing you all this Sunday! Yes, it’s time for the 36-Lime-Street Studios ‘Spring Salon’ again – when lots of us at the studios open up our workplaces to the public, and (as usual) put up certain select items for sale at special prices.
I’ve decided to really go for it this year and sell a LOT of my stock. I’ve been working on a big commission over the last few months, which is taking up a lot of room; so I need more space!
I’ve even decided to sell some of my moulds as well as some one-off pieces… getting more space is now the priority for me.
However, the main thing is to see you – so, if you fancy popping by, the studios-complex is open 10am-5pm on Sunday (29th March), and you can expect a big welcome.
PS – bring some Spring sunshine with you..

.Stitched porcelain collar                   Porcelain place names

Our spring salon sale

Well, whatever else anyone may say, for me the first day of Spring will be Sunday 23rd March!
It is the day of the Spring Salon Sale, which is taking place at the 36-Lime-St-Studios (from 10am-5pm) – and I’ll be taking part.

Memo pads - in porcelain.

Memo pads – in porcelain. Pencilled scribblings can just be washed off – to start again

The idea is that everyone in the complex will be opening up their studios, each trying to exhibit a range of work that might include ideas for some unique gifts.
After all, the event comes shortly before Mother’s Day; and just weeks before Easter for that matter.

In my studio (on the complex’s third floor) I’ll have my usual range of: ceramic shelves, porcelain jewellery, porcelain furniture and homeware (including my porcelain stationery range) – but I’ve been experimenting with variations on the forms, so you’ll see twists on themes that you haven’t seen before.

Paw prints for everybody

One experiment I’m quite excited about is paw-print casts in porcelain.

Last year someone asked me for an item made of pottery which would be a permanent reminder of their pet for them… so I persuaded their dog to place a paw into some wet clay – and I made a single, beautiful tile with the impression of the paw print in its middle.

Paw-print tile

Tiles showing the paw prints of Hamish, a Lhasa Apso dog

The fact that the print came from a real creature, one that had a name and a personality, deeply appealed to me.
Anyway, I’ll have examples of some of those tiles (from different pets – including rats, dogs and cats) on display.  If you too are interested in a paw-print tile, I will be on hand to explain how it can be made to happen for your pet.

I’ve also been developing my range of porcelain table-settings.  I have a set of place names now which features images of animals (a tiger, bird heads, and swallows from the blue willow pattern).  They are re-usable of course, as one just writes the name of the guest on the place-name setting – which can be then easily wiped off when the meal is over!

As I’m into table decoration right now, I think I’ll also display my ‘Crime Scene’-design plates, which feature silhouettes of dead animals.  (It’s a vegetarian angle…)

Origami

It’s always interesting to be asked to work with a creative company, and I’ve admired the work of the Newcastle firm Folded Square Origami for a long time – and now we will collaborate.

Folded Square creates rather amazing origami papers and kits (many of them in shapes of animals).

Origami rat

One of Folded Square’s origami rats

I’ve also been photographing the fur of pets (ones whose paw impressions have been used to create paw-print tiles), re-interpreting the results as graphic art, and printing off the designs on to paper.
So,  Folded Square will then create the same animal in origami (it could be a cat, for example) using the printed paper I supply.

Olive the Cat paper

This image was designed from a photo of the fur of Olive the cat – who was very patient in the photo session! I then printed it on to origami paper

Thus, side by side, the paw-print tile and the origami figure will be a form of portrait of the animal.

Folded Square will also be exhibiting for the first time.  They will be putting on a display in my studio of fantastical origami insects – which I can’t wait to see!

Animal theme

Do you know, now I look back at what I’ve written, I realise I hadn’t been aware that such a strong animal theme was emerging in this show.  I don’t know how I could have missed it.
Amazing what the subconscious can get up to…!

For more details about our Spring Salon event, nearer the time, see: 36 Lime Street Studios News

Some paintings, from the past

Recently I have had a look through some of my old watercolour paintings.
Some of my friends were surprised to learn that I once had quite a passion for watercolours, but I trained in art, so it’s not that surprising.

I suppose I mostly painted in times when I had little else to do.
In fact, most of the works reproduced in this post come from when I lived for a few years in Poland teaching at Wroclaw University.  This was twenty years ago.  I would spend the weekends and holidays with my aunt, who lived in a small town a few miles away.
The painting helped while-away the winter nights there – which are long and cold!

I don’t know why I brought them out of storage, but friends have been kind enough to say they like them, so I have been exhibiting some of them.

'Potato Aunt' watercolour by Helena Seget

‘Potato Aunt’

This piece is called Kartaflana Ciocia (Potato Aunt in English).  I loved my aunt, and enjoyed painting her.
She had a habit of preferring natural remedies when she ill; and whenever she had a headache she would bind sliced potatoes to her forehead – which you see here.
It worked for her…

The Room next to Mine, watercolour by Helena Seget

‘The Room next to Mine’

My aunt lived in a nice old house.  This watercolour shows one of the rooms.  I call it – unsurprisingly – ‘The Room Next To Mine’.

Apples on Sunday, watercolour by Helena Seget

‘Apples on Sunday’

This work, Apples on Sunday (1990), is one of my favourites.
Every Sunday morning my aunt would attend the morning mass, and whenever I stayed with her, she insisted that I go too.
But, after a few initial visits, I refused to go anymore.   However, my Aunt was unhappy (to say the least) and would refuse to speak to me for the best part of the day.
To avoid her ire, I would stay in bed until after she had left for mass; and then I would get up and enjoy the morning.
This picture is one that I took great pleasure in painting on one of these Sunday mornings.

'Lake Otmuchów, Opole', oil-painting by Helena Seget

‘Lake Otmuchów, Opole’ – oil on cardboard

My job at the university was to teach English to the staff, and, very kindly, they took me under their wing.
Polish people love to go off on trips into the countryside; and my late friend, Jacek Krawcynski, and his friends from Opole, invited me to join them on a few occasions.  I took my paints with me one time and painted this view of Lake Otmuchów, which is in the district of Opole.

'Rzedkowice, Silesia', pencil-drawing by Helena Seget

‘Rzedkowice, Silesia’

One of my last efforts in Poland, before returning to England, was this pencil on paper image of Rzędkowice, which is in Silesia.  It’s another view, this time from the Krawa Piątka (Fifth Edge’).  I drew it in September 1991.

Question…

It has been interesting looking back at these works. I’m even wondering if I should take painting up again.  However, I am so busy with my porcelain commissions, I don’t know how I’d find the time to start.

So… I shan’t have to make a decision on that for a while!

Pop-Up Shop at the 36-Lime-Street

Image

At the weekend,  some of my porcelain work –  my notepads and shelves – will be on sale at the Pop-Up Shop at the 36-Lime-Street complex.
The shop has been organised by my friend Polly Westergaard of Y-I Designs; and features the work of a number of us designers including  Jamie Fry, Polly and myself.

It will be open Saturday 19th & Sunday 20th October (from 10am – 6pm both days).

It’s been set up to coincide with the bi-annual Northern Design Festival here in Newcastle – as you may have seen from publicity around the town.

I’m really looking forward to it. Polly is someone whose company I always enjoy, and I think she’s a talented designer too.
So, come rain or shine, I’m hoping to be enjoying myself! If you come along, please look for me; I hope to be around much of the time.

New work at the Late Shows



The recent Late Shows event, in mid-May, was really fun to take part in.
Lots and lots of people came along to look round the studios, including mine, at 36-Lime-Street, and I really enjoyed talking to everyone who visited.  Because the event always takes place in the evening, you see people you’d not usually see.
The idea is get the artists and general public to interact, instead of having the usual barriers, and it really worked.  I’m a great supporter of both this event, as well as a similar thing we do in the autumn called Open Studios.

Image

My studio got quite crowded at times!

This year, there was also an exhibition – featuring the work of the makers at Lime Street – in the complex’s foyer.
Our enthusiastic curator, Maggie Walker, thought it would be good to theme it along the lines of responses to the ‘Arte Povera’ movement, which flourished in Italy in the 1960s.  She gave us a complete blank slate for creating our reactions to the ideas of Arte Povera, which was both challenging AND exciting for me.

Who’s Kidding Whom?

If you were one of those who came along on the Late Shows evenings, you may have noticed some artificial flowers embedded in the cracks along the pavement outside the studios building.
That was one of two such concepts I put together for the show, the other being a plot of rye-grass growing inside the main exhibition.

Image

The plastic flowers lined the outside walls of the Lime Street complex

I thought it was a way to reflect Arte Povera ideas, because AP was very much an anti-consumerist movement.

On the one hand our demand for low prices for our food and other products encourages the manufacture of poor-quality, garish, artificial flowers.   Yet the natural appearance of the growing rye suggests something different – a purity or wholesomeness.

Image

The rye sprouted very quickly, even in the exhibition space, it grew quite tall before we eventually took the show down

However, do these products actually differ?  They are both produced to maximise profits – even the rye is a commercially developed, thus ultra-economic, plant – and the result is the decimation of our natural environment.

And – can any of us honestly deny our own complicity in this consumer-led demand for quick, fast, cheap products?
Which is why I called the two works: ‘Who’s Kidding Whom’?

Birtley map on show soon


I received a lovely email recently from Yvonne, who chairs the Birtley Heritage Group.  Birtley is a small district near Gateshead, and has a thriving community sense, partly because of its mining past I suppose.

The group had asked me to work with them on producing a ‘map of Birtley memories’ – planned as a mix of the realities on the ground and of internalised impressions of the area. Psycho-geography, some call it. It was a fascinating project – which I thoroughly enjoyed working on with them -, and out of it came a porcelain tile-map (you can see in the picture below a detail from the map).

008

The group were so happy with the work – as were the Gateshead authorities – that plans soon were put in place to have it erected in the Birtley Library garden as a centre-piece there.

I have even been able to create an additional large tile (which depicts the members of the group) that is ready to be put up alongside it – so the whole installation will be a permanent tribute to the group as well as the district.

Because the work was finished off in my studio, I am looking after it, so I was daily expecting a call to take it over there to be installed.

Image

However, the planning system is nothing if not complicated, and it has taken over twelve months to get approval for the project…

But – thank goodness! – Yvonne says she’s confident now that all the hurdles have been jumped, and we may even see the piece in place in the next few months.

It will look fabulous. Of that I’m sure.

Link: Birtley Landscape

Paw Print Tiles


It’s always nice to see one’s work turn up on review websites, but even I was surprised to see my ‘paw-print tiles’ turn up on a home-interiors publication in America.

My paw-print tiles were designed when I was working a while ago with a rat (a real rat).  I encouraged him to run across some wet clay, and the tiles were the result. They’re intended for bathroom or kitchen floors.

Image

I even extended the idea to make it open to commission.  Some pet-owners liked the idea so much that they want to get me to work with their cats (for example) to produce personalised tiles.
I enjoy working with animals so I find creating this product a great deal of fun.

America

And now the Remodelista site has come across this work (I don’t know how!) and written a very favourable review. Thank you, Remodelista.

And then, in the way that these things do on the web, it was then picked up by an American animal-lovers site, Dogster   and an Australian blog, Sydney Life

Wow – international fame!

For more about my paw print tiles, see Helena Seget’s Paw Prints Page    

Coral by Bridget

There are a number of artists from this region whose work I admire, and one of them is Bridget Jones.

She works mainly in architectural glass; and her designs weave together image, pattern and colour.
 However, her interest in pattern also means that printmaking is an important part of what she does.

When we exhibited together, as a part of  a group, at The Granary last November (see my previous post titled ‘Berwick’s Burrell Collection‘), I really admired the way she had taken on the task set by the gallery.

In fact, to be honest, I so liked what she did – a lovely print on hand-made paper – that I had to have a copy myself. It was an extravagance, but, I thought, it was a sort of Christmas present to myself.

Image

Bridget’s print is a way of responding to a detail in one of the Burrell Collection’s oldest paintings, The Lady in Black (c.1638). The detail that had fascinated Bridget was The Lady’s coral bracelet.
Coral is worn in many cultures to protect the wearer and ward off evil spirits.

In fact, in Chinese art coral is one of the eight ‘treasures’, symbolising longevity, good fortune and happiness. In the 18th and 19th centuries, coral was a very popular element in wallpaper and fabric design, and prints of coral were common.

Bridget’s print draws from images of coral and its structure. It takes colour as a central consideration, using greys, blacks and sombre tones along with skeletal trees and big horizons.

I’m very proud to have her work in my home.

Talk at Berwick’s Granary Gallery

The Granary Gallery in Berwick invited me to talk about the way I’d dealt with the challenge of responding to its famous Jacob Maris painting ‘The Washing Day’.

As I mentioned in this blog a couple of posts ago, I had created a porcelain piece which echoed the way the painting showed linen-sheets undulating in the breeze.
Now, my piece was being exhibited in the gallery alongside the original.

A9Cb1n8CAAADIWf

I concentrated in the talk on the problems that come up when working with porcelain; and a couple of people mentioned how surprised they were about the the difficulties in making these seemingly simple pieces – but then, I do like to challenge my clay.

Porcelain Collars at Open Studios

One of the reasons I had great fun at the London Design Festival (see 26th Sept post) was because I wore one of my porcelain collars there. Lots of people did a double-take looking at it, thinking at first it was made of fabric… and then, when they realised it wasn’t, said how much they liked it.

I took advantage of the fact that, as with my porcelain stationery, it could be written on, so I penned my name on it – allowing visitors to my stand to identify who I was.

Collars for Open Studio too

I’ve decided to put a range of the collars on show at this year’s Ouseburn Open Studios event.

Every one is different: some can be stitched onto a dress or top, others worn on a chain or a ribbon.  I’ve used vintage buttons as well as vintage yarns on those which have a running stitch around the edge.
Hard to picture? Then you must come and see them.

The event takes place this year on Sat 24th and Sun 25th November, from 10am-6pm, with a free bus around all the Ouseburn venues.
I’ll be in my studio (on the third floor of the 36-Lime-Street complex) on both days. Please come and introduce yourself!

See: http://www.ouseburnopenstudios.org/venues/36-lime-street for more details.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.