Maker in Focus – Helen Foot

With a strong sense of colour and a passion for keeping traditional skills alive, textile designer Helen Foot’s work is all about juxtaposing nostalgic handicrafts with rebellious contemporary aesthetics. When designing her scarves, she strives to create playful yet timeless pieces. Helen has been a member of The Guild for 3 years.

What did you want to be when growing up?

I think I changed my mind a lot over the years. I started out wanting to follow in my mother’s footsteps and become a nurse.  Then I was interested in teaching.  For a time I wanted to act but lacked the confidence to really go for it.  I was interested in many subjects during my teens but being dyslexic I always struggled with the academic outcomes.  Art and design were my constants the whole time.  I loved setting myself projects and learning new skills.  When I realised I could actually turn my love of textiles into a career there was no looking back for me.

When did you realise that you wanted to be an artist / maker?

I think a part of me had always wanted to be an artist or maker but it wasn’t until I did my A-levels that I had a teacher who really encouraged me to keep pursuing a future in textiles.  With her backing I went to do an Art Foundation course and met another fantastically inspiring and encouraging tutor who helped me on my path to university.

What training have you been through to get where you are now?

After my Art Foundation course I went to Winchester School of Art to do a degree in Textile Design.  After a couple of years working in the industry I then went to the Royal College of Art to study a Masters in Textiles, specialising in weave.

What does your average working day look like?

There is no average working day which is what I love about being a maker, it keeps everything exciting and fresh.  Sometimes I’ll be working on commissions for other people.  Other times I am designing for myself.  Then for a month or two I might be solidly in production mode, making for upcoming shows or to stock galleries.  In between there is all the admin.

Best thing about your work?

Getting to have full control of what my products look like.  I love getting absorbed in designing new collections, testing colourways and pattern combinations.

Worst thing about your work?

The admin.  I don’t like getting stuck behind a computer screen for too long at a time, especially not doing things like book keeping.

Who or what is your inspiration?

My inspiration is drawn from all sorts of sources.  I will very often start my designing by looking at colour palettes.  These can come from images I have taken or fine artists work that I admire. I like to mix these palettes with patterns inspired by traditional textile techniques such as cross-stitch, patchwork and fair isle knitting.

Please share details of one other craftsperson / artist whose work you really admire.

Picking just one is so hard.  I love the whole community of craft makers and so many makers are now great friends of mine.  I’m so pleased to own some very treasured pieces of craft which I’ve gained from swaps or just couldn’t resist at shows. I think one of my favourite things that I own is a jug by Vicky Lindo http://www.vickylindo.co.uk/. I’d really admired her work after having a stand next to her at the Contemporary Craft Festival in Bovey Tracy and a few years later when we were both doing Made London I couldn’t resist adding to my ceramic collection with one of her jugs.

What area of your work is challenging you most at the moment?

Knowing that I am going to have to take some time away from the loom as I embark on my next adventure as a mother.  I find working at the loom to be so meditative and I am going to really miss it while I have my hands full.  Hopefully the baby will be able to join me for sessions at the studio in due course.

Have you worked on any special commissions recently?

The last commission I did was a bespoke scarf for the leaving present of a company’s CEO.  It was designed to be in the colours and branding style of the company.

Have you got any events coming up?

Right now I’m waiting for the arrival of my first baby which has halted work in the studio for the time being.  I’m planning on being back out at shows in the summer, with the first event in my diary being the Guilds show at Rodmarton.

What do you do to take time out?

My perfect way of kicking back is taking my very lively springer spaniel puppy Tess out for a walk up the Malvern hills.  She always puts a smile on my face as she bounds about on our walks.

If you weren’t an artist / maker, what would you be?

A gardener.  I’ve been working towards an RHS diploma in Horticulture for the last couple of years after becoming completely addicted to growing my own fruit and vegetables.  I also love that this hobby has been the perfect accompaniment to making because it gets me outside in nature when I otherwise spend long periods of time working away on my own in the studio.