Helen is Course Leader for the BA (Hons) Contemporary Design Crafts and BA (Hons) Jewellery Design courses at HCA and has been teaching craft for the last 15 years. Much of that time was at Falmouth University where she was responsible for teaching across all levels of the Contemporary Crafts degree. As well as being L4 co-ordinator and the main tutor for Ceramics, she developed a detailed Professional Practice module, which helped students prepare for life after university and to identify and plan their individual post programme trajectories.
With a Masters in Creative Education, Helen is now working on a practice-led interdisciplinary PhD looking at Communicating Archaeology through Digital Craft Practice. In the last few years, she has presented and published a variety of conference papers, perhaps most notably at The British Museum; Royal Danish Academy School of Design, Denmark; Magdalene College, Cambridge; and the University of Oslo, Norway.
When asked what she enjoys most about working at HCA, Helen said, “I really appreciate the scale of the institution, everyone knows everyone else and of course, this includes the students. It’s warm and welcoming, friendly and enthusiastic. I feel really fortunate to be working in this unique and special environment. Having lived in the depths of Cornwall and miles from anywhere, I also appreciate Hereford’s central location. I have beautiful and varied countryside on my doorstep but am still only an hour or so from Cardiff, Bristol, and Birmingham, and London is a pleasant train journey away”.
Still in her first year at HCA, Helen says she has already observed that there are many wonderful ideas being generated and worked on throughout the institution, describing the college as having “a constant buzz”. Helen feels that students might well value the more personal scale of HCA and points out that sometimes personal engagement gets lost when institutions become larger and overly complex.
“One body of work which has knocked my socks off is by MA Contemporary Crafts student Matt Day, whose final pieces were innovative sculptural prosthetics exploring the space between craft and impairment. I love to see how craft can be used to enhance people’s lives. The concept opens up a world of possibilities in encouraging individual prosthetic design and customisation”.
Through the use of the digital, Helen’s own practice encourages a new understanding of heritage through shifting existing perceptions and creating new narratives. Bringing together a variety of materials, Helen creates sculptural works which frequently allude to function but are purposefully fraudulent. “I borrow and abstract meaning and significance from both domestic and ritual objects in order to connect the past and present”.
Helen not only utilises the digital in her own practice but sees it as a tool of increasing importance for her students, pointing out that it can enable multiple complex approaches to design and production in a range of materials, particularly useful for jewellery, textiles and product design. She says, “Digital processes are uniquely placed to encourage innovative ideas through collaborative working. Some of the most exciting works are hybrids, which acknowledge and utilise traditional tools and materials alongside the digital”.
Helen’s private passion is travelling the world to scuba dive, “I love to be in the blue silence supported and surrounded by ocean. As an advanced diver qualified to reach depths of more than 30 metres, I have experienced some unforgettably euphoric moments in the silent company of sea sharks and Manta, as well as those camouflaged and barely bigger than a grain of rice, like the Pygmy Seahorse”.