Where did you study?I did 1 years art foundation at Cumbria college of art and design and then went on to study printed textiles at York St. John university.What inspires you?Animals mainly and everything that I see around me. I love nature and I store scenes in my head ready to design with.Have you always wanted to be a designer?Yes….. It was in my blood to be creative.What collections are you working on?Currently working on Autumn/ Winter 15/16 and adding to my existing collections. I am having a lot of fun with the new designs.Are you going to develop your designs and in what way?My designs are always developing and I am looking at other products that will suit my work. I am also developing a bespoke range.You design under Michelle Gemmel and your company is called Memelou? Where did the name come from?My family call me Meme and my middle name is louise so the 2 names just fit together. : )Have you plans to create other products?Yes! I want to expand into stationary, wall stickers, children’s books, mugs. Its all very exciting!!Tell us what you love about Autumn/Winter?I love how everything around me is golden and crisp in Autumn. I like wrapping up warm and being cosy inside with the fire on in winter. It makes me happy.Find Michelle Gemmel’s Prints here on Amelias Barn http://www.ameliasbarn.co.uk/designermakers-31-c.asp
I studied at Loughborough College of Art and Design after a Foundation Course at St.Albans College of Art and Design. I enjoyed experimenting across the creative spectrum but I specialised in, and gained my degree in, Woven Textiles. After graduating I worked as a freelance design for a textile agent selling embroidered and appliquéd textiles to the US for home ware and children’s fashion.
What inspires you?
I’m inspired by the small things. I love colour and texture in the small details of life, tomatoes growing in my green house, the daily laying of eggs by my chickens, the way light cuts through a line of trees and makes them shimmer and dance.
Who inspires you?
People who are able to live passionately and stand in the truth of who they are. I’m drawn to those who have made their love into a business. Creatively I am inspired by artists such as Elaine Pamphilon and Mark Hearld.
Describe your creative process?
My work tells stories. I am struck by a narrative, usually when I am in nature and there’s a change of light or a shift from day toward night. There might be shapes that I notice echoed in the landscape and want to capture their relationship. Or I might become aware of the sounds of nature, of birds going about their busy-ness. I connect to those moments, realise how similar we are, these different species who share this planet. I want to tell that story of connection.
Tell us the moment you said YES this is me – This is my style?
There’s an ebb and flow to creativity and sometimes there are ‘YES’ moments where the work comes from a place deep within and I feel like I’m releasing part of me into the world. That has always been there, right from childhood. I drew in a very direct, naive style then, as now. After having my family I started to create work from my soul, rather than the commercial direction of designing for industry, and again found that place of ‘YES’. Sometimes I forget to acknowledge it, I look at what everyone else is doing and think they are better, more talented and have to remind myself of the gift of ‘me’. In my workshops I try to show other people how to see their own unique creativity and honour it.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a collection of pieces that are inspired by folk art motifs and the stories that nature tells. I’ve just created a piece called ‘Tree of Life’. It is a celebration of the diversity of life and a reminder that we are all Nature. It’s leading in to a series of work about trees. Trees are homes to so many species and they are also a mirror for us as humans. They breathe in what we breathe out. It’s a symbiotic relationship. We need to celebrate the trees and learn from them. The new work will be exhibited in the new year as part of an exhibition called ‘The Wood from the Trees’ at Ferrers Gallery near Ashby.
You have recently changed direction, tell us about this process?
My direction change is more a coming back to centre. My work has always been about a spiritual connection to the environment. I love exhibiting and seeing someone else understand the story of the piece I have created and be able to understand the emotion of the piece. I love that connection to others through creativity. I’ve been developing my workshops to try to develop others connection to their inspirations and how to express themselves. I’ve been validating my experience of my own creativity and expressing the connection of creativity to my soul. Because I am better understanding my creative process, I am enjoying it more and the work is becoming more colourful. It is very much grounded in the seasons, as it has always been but I am finding a solace in working with the seasons and feel more grounded in my life. This extends to enjoying growing my own food and eating seasonally. It is about living and creating holistically.
Tells us about ‘I am Nature’ that you have recently launched with Happy Press?
‘I am Nature’ is a spoken word recording. It is a series of readings about my connection to each season. They came into being when I started to use my journal as a place to write about my dreams and aspirations for my work. Through connecting to myself I could see how inspired I am by the small details of nature around me. I feel alive when I am growing my own plants and vegetables. I feel alive when I eat those foods that I have grown. Last winter I struggled with my health and wellbeing. Allowing myself to rest with nature and follow my instincts to hibernate was therapeutic. Coming out of that hibernation into the light was awesome! The recordings are taken from my writings at the time. The CD marks the shift in my work and my understanding that I am inextricably a part of nature. I hope that others are take comfort from the CD and can connect to nature through their creativity and connect their wellbeing to their soul’s desires.
What is your favourite season?
Autumn. I love the palette of the season. I like the return to a routine after the freedom of Summer. The melancholy in me likes the tinge of sadness as leaves drop and Winter creeps in. I love the harvest from my garden and celebrating abundance.
You are developing your business and creating other products tell us about this?
I have been creating with the seasons and the limited edition prints I have published are a reflection of the journey through the year. I have realised this year that to fully express myself I needed to connect to my creativity in different ways. Putting Nature at the heart of what I do has replenished me. Although I am a visual artist, my work has become about all of the senses. It is about what I hear and smell. It is about how I collect ideas and connect to my self. Writing a journal has become an important part of tracking my creative journey. I have created a journal in the hope of inspiring others on their creative journey, seeking a deeper connection to self. This will I hope form part of a range of beautiful sketchbooks and journals. I am currently working on a book that celebrates my connection to landscape which will be published in 2016.
What workshops have you got coming up?
My workshop ‘Shine Like the Sun’ takes place in October (in Long Eaton near Nottingham) and is a mixed media workshop that will use the imagery of late Summer to create a piece of artwork that can become a warming reminder of the sun’s energy during the cold Winter. I demonstrate the collage, paint and print techniques that I use in my work and talk about the symbolic elements. There’s a drawing warm up and plenty of inspiration and support so you can create your own unique collage. I am also running a day ‘Grow Your Own Art’ workshop (at Focus Gallery in Nottingham) inspired by the Autumn and the trees and leaves and rich colours of the landscape. Taking inspiration form folk art, I am running a weekend workshop in Hebden Bridge ( hosted by Buttercup Home) to create a fantastic decorated chair. Using symbols from nature and inspiration from the seasons, I will guide attendees through the stages of using paint and collage to create a unique piece of furniture. All workshops are fully supported with materials provided so that you can relax and get the most out of the day (or weekend).
Find Helen Hallows work on the website here: http://www.ameliasbarn.co.uk/designermakers-31-c.asp