Helena Seget – Thoughts

What's on Helena's mind today?

Category: artworks

Birtley Heritage Map

At last the ceramic plaque community-project that I was working on six years ago has come to fruition!

Though it was all finished by the beginning of 2012, the problem was securing the place for it to be displayed.
At first, we thought it might be in a public garden, but the authorities at Birtley (near Gateshead) have worked hard to get the permissions and find a suitable site for it, and it is now proudly presented in Birtley Library.

Rather than me rabbit on, here’s the official press release:

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Artwork of Home

An artwork that remembers some of the great icons of Gateshead’s past is now on permanent display at Birtley Library.

Working with a professional artist, Birtley Heritage Group members came together to create the piece, which records their personal feelings about the history & landscape of their district.
The group’s chairperson Yvonne Armstrong said: “We are absolutely delighted that the Birtley Landscape artwork is at last on display in our own local library. Thank you to our councillors, whose community fund helped us to get it installed.
“This map was our first-ever project; we were so new, we were so naïve! But we learnt so much.

Birtley Heritage Group with Helena Seget

Birtley Heritage Group with Helena Seget (Helena holding the flowers)

The artwork is made up of porcelain tiles, all forming a map of Birtley district.
Fired into the tiles are depictions of aspects of the area that the group members thought were important to them – such as its coal mining industry, the Royal Ordnance Factory [originally the site of the Projectile Factory, which operated during the Great War], and historic houses such as Birtley Hall built by John Dobson in 1815.
Yvonne said: “We hope that by depicting only a small range of Birtley’s history on the map, it will jog memories and promote discussion about other aspects of Birtley’s fascinating and unique heritage”.

The group worked with Helena Seget, the award-winning Newcastle ceramic artist, whose works can be seen in galleries across the world. Helena said: “It was an honour for me to work with Birtley Heritage Group – to learn about the town about which they’re so passionate and to share with them my passion for art.
“I hope that the map not only inspires more memories, but might encourage an interest in ceramics too – and also exploring creativity in other ways.

Birtley Heritage Map in Birtley library

Birtley Heritage Map

Community artworks such as the Birtley Heritage Map arose out of Gateshead Council’s Arts Development Team 2010 ‘Soul Soup’ project (itself a response to the ‘Generations Together’ initiative, originally set up by the Department of Education).
‘Soul Soup’ was a way to bring communities together: to build trust, promote well being and also to address negative perceptions of age, through arts activity.

Issued by Soul Soup: June 2017

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I must admit it was a happy time working with the ladies and gentlemen, and I learnt a lot about life as well as ceramics.

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Thanks to Denise Envy, the Birtley Library manager for the photos.).
For more details, see the Birtley Library website – http://www.gatesheadlibraries.com/your-local-library/birtley-library

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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

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!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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

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.

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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.

Enter another world via the Tyne Tunnel

If you get a chance I would recommend an immediate visit to Sunderlands’s NGCA gallery.

LEGION - LEVIATHAN

Kelly Richardson‘s mesmerising installations there make for a wonderful,  alternative day trip.

Square Head

I often found myself thinking about the differences that might exist between design and art, and also between art and design and functionality. If there are any.  (I think a lot too about sustainability, but that’s a slightly different matter).

Imagine my surprise – and admiration – when I saw an article about this piece: The Square Head (La Tete Au Carre).  The Square Head is… a monumental sculpture, a working library building, and a beautiful item – all at the same time!

The piece was designed by Sacha Sosno and is sited in Nice, France.  Quite an achievement. Image