Helena Lynch is an artist and maker from Norfolk. Having trained in textiles and design, she started her career in London working as a fashion designer. More recently Helena’s love of decorative arts has led to an inevitable partnership with interior designers, who can easily find loving homes for her unique, colourful felt appliqué chair designs. She describes her designs as expressive and fun and this is exactly her appeal for us. Helena has created one-off chair designs for Charlotte Street Hotel and Ham Yard Hotel. This week we caught up with Helena to hear about her inspiration…
1. What struck us about your designs was the vibrancy and sense of humour displayed through the colours and patterns. How did you get into this style of working? And where did you learn appliqué?
I have worked with interior designers, seen many interiors and thought furniture needed to be reconsidered, made fun. The style of my designs is to look purposefully freely-drawn, without formality or restrictions. I want to produce playful one-off pieces that make a dramatic impact in an interior space. Being familiar with using the sewing machine and handling fabric, I found the application of cut-out fabric an easy method to translate my designs onto furniture.
2. What are your key influences and why?
I am always attracted to work by artists who paint in strong, bold blocks of colour, with freedom and wit. The work of Picasso is important to me. Often, themes and ideas are influenced by whatever or whoever I’m most recently enthused by.
3. How do you begin to create a new appliqué design? Does it evolve or do you have a process?
I see the surfaces of furniture as canvases for designs; a chair is a 3D canvas waiting to be transformed by shapes and colour. Quite often, the shape of a piece of furniture can be the starting point and I make a specific design for it. The shape of the furniture is integral to the design.
4. It is clear to see that you love colour and shape; do you have a favourite colour combination? If so, what is it and why?
Bright pink and orange colours are dynamic together, almost clashing. Put next to black they are even more striking. It’s exciting to use these colours together on furniture.
5. In your own words, what makes your designs different?
I think every designer, artist or maker has a unique ‘take’ on their creativity – I hope this is what makes my chairs stand out. My style has developed over time as my tastes and influences change.
6. The art of craft is something that is deeply important to us, in recent years we have seen a resurgence of craft as an art form. What does craft mean to you and how do you think we can best support this art form?
In a world that is driven by mass production, I think there is a special place for the designer-maker. There is an interest and an appreciation for hand-made things with a degree of skill involved. The best support for craft is to give a platform to showcase the work of artists and makers.
7. In the world we live in today, it is becoming increasingly rare to find one-off pieces. Creating something bespoke must be very rewarding. What does this mean to you?
I started out as a fashion designer and quickly realised there was limited satisfaction in mass-produced fashion, so I steered away from this to concentrate on making unique, one-off pieces. My interests later led me to adapt my skills to designing for furniture. I am always surprised and delighted to find that other people like the things I make, and their enthusiasm has given me confidence to continue in this way, as a profession.
8. Do you have advice for anyone wanting to get into craft?
Practice and experiment. The more you do, the more likely you are to arrive at a style of your own making. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes – the more mistakes I make, the better I become.
9. We find ourselves in very strange times, the world has slowed down and people are turning to craft for entertainment and stimulation. Making something is a fantastic way of using your hands and your brain. Would you recommend appliqué to those at home right now? If so, how should they begin?
I would certainly recommend that people engage in any form of creativity – so many of us lose touch with the simple pleasures of making something. Anything hand-made has a certain charm, whether you are proficient or not.
It is such a great pleasure working with individuals who have honed their craft and make things that are truly bespoke. It takes persistence and time to create something like Helena does and the results are always impactful.