Helen Clarence

I am a bead artist and embroiderer who grew up in the North East of England but  now live in Limousin, France. My interest in fabrics and embroidery was inevitable as home life as a child was creative. I was one of those kids who watched Blue Peter (for anyone outside the UK reading this, this is a cult children’s tv programme – the longest running in world I believe, starting in 1958). I was waiting for the section where things were made, like the dolls house from a cardboard box, or the space rocket from a washing up liquid bottle. I just loved making things. But, I was lucky, both my mother and grandmother sewed and knitted and crocheted and embroidered so I watched, and tried, and asked questions and learnt.

Then came the question “what are you going to do when you grow up”. The practical side of me – you know, the one that meant a sensible job, lead to degrees in education and a career in teaching. I loved the teaching bit, it was creative and I need that to function. However with time I grew dissatisfied with the politics and being asked to do things I didn’t think were right for the children in front of me. I needed the challenge of something else.

The answer was to study a course of design and creative embroidery. For the first time I was studying a course just because I was interested. It wasn’t about being sensible on a career path, I was doing this for me. I didn’t know where it would lead, I was just having fun!

Twenty years later I still have the same passion for what I do. My work inevitably has moved on in that time as my preferences change, my style is tweaked and as I continue to learn and develop new techniques. However fundamentally my ethics are the same.

What inspires me? This is an easy answer, nature, especially birds and flowers. (its one of the reasons why I now live in the rural countryside of France), but also history, another passion of mine.

What do I make? Well here there is the mental tussle in my head. That practical side of me I mentioned before? I prefer to make my art into ‘things’ that can be used, hence the jewellery, bags, boxes, lampshades. When I am feeling frivolous then there are pictures or sculptures as well.

The medium I use in my art? The day I have to out down a needle will be a sad one for me and hopefully that day will never come. I am an embroidery artist and I combine it with bead weaving techniques,  bead embroidery and goldwork. I use techniques that have been used since the middle ages; solid, reliable techniques that have stood the test of time.  What is important to me is that what I make has to be properly done – sewn not glued and using only the best materials I can afford. This isn’t just about ‘the look’, what I make has to stand the test of time and be properly made or why bother?

All of the items I make, the jewellery, lampshades and sculptures are designed and hand made by me in my ‘atelier’ in France, using the highest quality materials and  each piece is unique.


For more information on this or for information about a commission then please send me a message using the contact page.