Artist: Helen Breil
Business name: Helen Breil Designs
Location: Guelph, Ontario, Canada
Website: Helen Breil Designs
Helen, how do you describe your gorgeous work?
I work in polymer clay and recently launched a line of Focal Art Beads. I would describe my work as contemporary. I like bold but elegant. I love color and texture. I am more interested in design rather than technique.
What is your creative process like?
I am often driven by some element that has inspired me. For example if I have a new texture I want to use, I play with various shapes and colours to create something that really shows off the texture in the best way possible. I love buttons which I use in my work quite often. Often a button is my starting point. I experiment a lot and learn from my mistakes.
If I’m unhappy with a piece I keep trying to tweak it until I’m happy with it. Often I’ve been close to giving up on a piece but I decide to add a design element and then the piece feels complete. I love that feeling when all the elements come together. And when I’m done I try it on and make sure it works from a practical point of view. If it’s not something I’d want to wear I’m not going to sell it.
What kind of training did you have which helped you achieve your current level of artistry?
I’ve been working in polymer clay for over 10 years now. I started by learning from books and information off the web. The polymer clay community is excellent at sharing information. I’ve taken a few workshops by well known polymer clay artists which has been inspiring from the point of view of seeing how they work and appreciating their talent but I find I don’t tend to use what I’ve learned in these workshops in my own work. Experimenting on my own has been my biggest teacher.
Is there a tool or material that you can’t imagine living without?
That’s a tough one! There are so many tools related to working with polymer clay. Other than the usual polymer clay must-haves like a pasta machine I guess I would say my needle point tool. I use it daily in many ways.
What inspires you to create?
Everything! I love design and I see interesting design elements everywhere – ads in magazines, a chair design, the shape of a vase. I am often inspired by work in other mediums such as metal and ceramics. I keep a log both on paper and on the computer of pictures of things that inspire me and I look at it every day. I have never experienced a creative block. I always have a pipeline of ideas I’m eager to explore. Often they don’t work out but it was fun trying.
What inspires you to keep going when the work gets frustrating or tough?
I once attended a workshop by Dan Cormier – a very talented polymer clay artist. He has the most amazing patience and applies a very high level of perfection to his work. I try to remind myself of his dedication to excellence. That’s what it takes if you want to produce quality work. If I want to be successful and proud of my work I need to keep at it even when things don’t go smoothly. I try to take a break, reduce my frustration level and remind myself of the big picture.
What is your best piece of advice for those who would like to rise in their level of artistry?
Often I go through Flickr sites of peoples work and I will see a piece that has a real WOW factor. There is just one in that style and then you can see they have moved on to the next technique. My advice would be to find a style or technique that you love and stick with it for awhile. Really explore it. Try variations. Keep improving it. Create a collection of pieces in that style. Keep at it until you’ve exhausted all your ideas for it. You will learn a lot through the process and you will end up with something really special you can be proud of and that really reflects you.
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