Helen is a historical costumier who lives in Eastleigh and works at The Sorting Office. Helen has worked with us leading our One Stitch At A Time classes in creative sewing for supporting better mental health before lockdown happened and we had to postpone.
Helen's costume design business has grown out of her own passion for historical costume. A graduate of Wimbledon School of Art, she has worked in theatre, including with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and has an MA in historical textile and dress. She is also a member of the Hampshire Regency Dancers who have a reputation for historically accurate costume. Recently, she created a series of pieces for contemporary dance artist Hayley Barker, taking her work in a new direction. She spoke to The Point’s Suna Imre.
Q: How did you get into making historical costumes?
A: I taught myself to sew when I was a teenager. I bought a sewing machine with a friend and went to some evening classes. I was amazed by dress patterns and how a flat 2D shape could become a 3D item of clothing that fits a body. I’ve always loved history so it's been a natural evolution really.
Q: What inspires you to carry on making?
A: It really is about the pleasure of creating something; I get itchy hands if I don’t fiddle with string, a piece of paper, anything….so creating things is a constructive use of needing to fiddle. And when I’m making, let's say stitching, I can drop into a space that feels mindless, and switch off from the world. I really zone in and get into a flow.
Q: What you mean by flow?
A: There is a rhythm to sewing as the needle moves in and out of the cloth, and as the rhythm continues it feels restful. It frees my mind and also liberates me from the mundane. Or sometimes it enables me to switch off all the noise and worry and anxiety of the world and go into an imaginative world of stories and pictures in my mind while my hands are busy with something mindless – and this can feel really freeing.
Q: Do you notice a difference if you don’t have a chance to make?
A: Yes, I don’t feel satisfied, it can make me feel that life is a bit futile if I’m not creating something. I feel I lose my mojo.