Meet British landscape artist Helen Hallows

Helen Hallows, artist, British artist

Meet the Maker: Helen Hallows

British landscape artist Helen Hallows has a close connection with nature. As she explains: “When nature stops me in my tracks – be it a birdsong, a flower or the sound of the wind – and I remember how small I am in the hugeness of life, that’s where I find my call to create.” We caught up with Helen to discover more about her nature-inspired art, learn about her journey from woven textiles to mixed media artist, and catch glimpses of her breathtaking studio with idyllic views of her garden and chicken coop…

Can you introduce yourself and describe what you do?
I’m Helen Hallows and I’m a mixed media artist with a close connection to nature. I’m inspired by the landscape and my garden to capture a moment that resonates with my soul. I create my originals with paint and ink, collaged papers and machine stitch.

Helen Hallows, artist, British artist, landscape painting

I’m inspired by the landscape and my garden to capture a moment that resonates with my soul.

How did you find your style?
My work is naive and colourful. The symbols I use have been there since childhood… little houses and lollipop trees! In my third year at university I started drawing in an intuitive, naive way to create studies to support my woven textiles. It felt very natural and my style built from there.

Helen Hallows, artist, British artist, sketchbook, artist sketchbook

After graduating, I worked as a commercial designer for industry. As the industry modernised and became digital, I designed on a computer but missed creating original designs by hand.

Can you tell us how you came to be where you are now?
I did a degree in Woven Textiles at Loughborough College of Art and Design. After graduating, I worked as a commercial designer for industry, mainly creating embroidered textile samples for home and fashion. All the work was made by hand and I loved the variety of the work I did. Later, as the industry modernised and became digital, I designed cards and giftware on a computer but I missed creating original designs by hand.

Helen Hallows, artist, British artist

The symbols I use in my artwork have been there since childhood… little houses and lollipop trees!

After a long time working with an agent, selling my work around the world, I moved from London to the Midlands. I had my fist child and then sadly my agent closed her business during the recession. I didn’t know what to do! There were so many changes in a short time. I designed cards for a while but didn’t feel I could express myself. So I started making and crafting. I did some tapestry weaving and produced some collages as a way of playing with pattern and colour. I created a landscape and entered the paper study in an open exhibition at a local gallery. They loved it and asked for more. I gave them four and there was no looking back! It was a hard time as I was at home with my young family but my art gave me great joy and my business grew slowly and organically.

Helen Hallows, interview, british artist,

Craft is about seeing the seed of an idea and slowly growing and nurturing that seed until it flowers.

Who are your design heroes?
I’m mainly influenced by artists. I love the work of Mark Hearld and the paintings of Elaine Pamphilon. I’m inspired by mid-century design, designers such as Lucienne Day and Sonia Delauney.

Helen Hallows, British artist, landscape artist,

When nature stops me in my tracks – be it a birdsong, a flower or the sound of the wind – and I remember how small I am in the hugeness of life, that’s where I find my call to create.

What or who else inspires you?
So much! I love pattern and colour. I love Indian art and textiles. I love a good junk shop with piles of dusty book jackets. But mostly I love to be stopped in my tracks, in my busy suburban life, by nature. When nature stops me in my tracks – be it a birdsong, a flower or the sound of the wind – and I remember how small I am in the hugeness of life, that’s where I find my call to create.

Helen Hallows, British artist, landscape artist, sketches

I love pattern and colour. I love Indian art and textiles. I love a good junk shop with piles of dusty book jackets.

Does where you live influence your work?
Yes. I live in a suburban environment but close to some beautiful open spaces, and I’m less than an hour from the Peak District. I’m lucky to have a big garden and my studio looks on to it, so I feel a part of nature.

Helen Hallows, India Hobson, Revealing Craft, chicken coop

My studio is my sanctuary. It’s very light with doors across the front and looks out on to my vegetable plot and chickens.

Where is your studio and what’s in it?
My studio is purpose built at the bottom of my garden. It’s my sanctuary. It’s very light with doors across the front and looks out on to my vegetable plot and chickens. I have wrap-around desks, a huge plan chest and lots of books. I collect lots of small items to use in my product photo shoots, so there’s a lot of clutter. And I have lots of work pinned up: inspiration, print samples, sketches. Then there’s the practical stuff for framing and mounting work. It’s a busy place and rarely tidy!

Helen Hallows, artist studio, India Hobson, garden studio

I have wrap-around desks, a huge plan chest and lots of books in my studio. It’s a busy place and rarely tidy!

Is there anything in your studio that you couldn’t live without?
Ooh, good question. Books. As much as I love Pinterest and the internet as a resource to discover new things, I still love my art book collection and the smell and feel of a good book.

Helen Hallows, artist studio

I have lots of work pinned up in my studio: inspiration, print samples, sketches.

How long does it take make a Helen Hallows piece and what’s involved? 
I get asked that question a lot, and it’s a hard one to answer. There are so many processes in my work. I sketch and research a piece and come up with composition layouts that start to tell the story I am trying to tell. I spend time working out a colour palette and creating a pile of painted and printed papers to use in my work. I paint the background to the piece – trying to evoke the energy and mood of the landscape. Then I paint in the details before collaging in the shapes. Finally I stitch the piece using freehand embroidery on a sewing machine to fuse the layers and add a final drawn line.

artist sketchbook, india hobson, helen hallows

I try to evoke the energy and mood of the landscape in every background I paint.

You also run workshops. Can you tell us more about those? 
I run one-day art workshops at a local arts centre, and this summer I’m running my first art holiday on the Derbyshire/Staffordshire border that will be a sublime, creative getaway in the hills. I also go into schools, colleges, universities and art groups to mentor, run workshops and share my ideas and techniques. I started teaching when I was invited by a gallery to run a workshop and really enjoyed being in a creative environment and sharing my art with others. I love encouraging people on their creative journey and helping people find and appreciate their unique style.

Helen Hallows studio

I’m lucky to have a big garden and my studio looks on to it, so I feel a part of nature.

What’s the best thing about being creative for a living?
The best thing is probably the variety of work. No two days are the same. And I can fit my work around my family.

Helen Hallows, artist, India Hobson

I wish there was more investment in craft and design. Taking expressive arts out of the curriculum will kill the design economy that we should be investing in. I’m proud to be an artist and hope that the opportunities I have had remain open to my children’s generation.

How does it feel to be part of the UK craft scene?
The UK has such a fantastic craft scene and an amazing design market. I just wish there was more investment in it. Our design training is the envy of the world and we have wonderful small businesses across the country. I think that taking expressive arts out of the curriculum will kill the design economy that we should be investing in. I was at the V&A last week and we have an amazing cultural heritage. I’m proud to be an artist and hope that the opportunities I have had remain open to my children’s generation.

Helen Hallows, British artist, landscape artist

Spend time being you – don’t try to be someone else. Develop your own style and think about how you’re going to develop a business.

What would you say to someone thinking about selling their work?
Do your research. Spend time being you – don’t try to be someone else. Develop your own style and think about how you’re going to develop a business. Selling your work is as much about marketing it as creating, so make sure you have the skills and wish to do it!

British artists, Helen Hallows, garden studio

Selling your work is as much about marketing it as creating, so make sure you have the skills and wish to do it!

What does craft mean to you?
Craft is creating with my hands from my heart and having control over the whole process. It’s about seeing the seed of an idea and slowly growing and nurturing that seed until it flowers.

Sunrise, mixed media, painting, helen hallows

See more of Helen Hallow’s artwork in her Folksy shop 

Get 20% off Helen Hallow’s art with code Springsong16 (only valid for a limited time)

Photo credits: Helen Hallows, India HobsonLyndsey James and Craig Shaw

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1 Comment

  • Reply April 18, 2016

    Karen Howarth

    Great article Helen and beautiful photos. I too love my garden studio and nature on my doorstep.

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