Friday, May 20, 2011

The Interview As Art

My name is Helen Derici and I live in Cornwall in the United Kingdom.

Cornwall is the most beautiful county - it is at the bottom of England and surrounded by the most beautiful coast-line and countryside. It is a place that cannot fail to inspire. It is also a place that has a very rich historical connection with the arts. 

I have been making jewellery for the last few years and

Here is a picture of St.Ives where I grew up, the home
of many artists because of the amazing light
 quality and where Barbara Hepworth lived and worked.
silversmithing for the last couple of years. I am enjoying so much being part of the TADA365 group - it really does give me a kick up the butt to work on some aspect of what I am working on at the moment every day. I am the world's worst procrastinator. It has also made me plan out my year loosely - to experiment and 'play' with materials for the first 6 months of 2011 and then to work on building a couple of 'collections' for the end of the year. Being part of TADA365 has also given me the chance to explore new materials -- one being wood. Using wood has opened my eyes to what I can do with it -- the possibilities are endless. Anyway, thank you to all who are taking part in TADA365 alongside me 

-- you are all an inspiration to me.
4/5/11 Zebrano Ring as Miniature Garden Sculpture TADA365 No:222
Presently, I am working with a
new material to me -- wood -- and it is working with this
 medium that I have seen how much
 Barbara Hepworth has influenced me subliminally,
 without me knowing

1. What was your first work of art and how old were you?
I had to think quite hard about this and two very vivid memories came to mind - one of painting on an easel with lovely bright red paint on white paper outside my grandparent's house on a beautiful sunny Summer's day - I would have been about two years old. My second memory was when I would have been three years old, I went to a Nursery School (Kindergarten) that was run by nuns from a local convent. I remember being given a piece of white paper and a pencil. I drew on it a stick man - a very fat belly, a big round head with eyes and a mouth and sticks for arms and legs. I was just so proud of this drawing and I couldn't wait to show it to the nun who had given me the pencil and paper. She didn't say'...Oh, what a lovely drawing...' or seem in any way pleased with the drawing that I was so very proud of and even remembering this as I write, I can recall the enormous disappointment that I had felt, aged three, that my drawing had not been appreciated. Having spent 15 years working as a Primary School teacher over here in the UK, I can honestly say that I have always, always taken the time to talk about every single picture presented to me with pride by a child, even just a series of marks on paper drawn by a three year old or the more detailed artwork of an older child.

Current TADA work
2. What did you do for fun when you were a teenager?
Hmmm - what did I do for fun when I was a teenager? I spent most of my teenage years practicing the violin and piano or, at least, looking back at it now, it certainly feels like it!!! Don't get me wrong - I loved practicing - I practiced, practiced, and practiced violin and piano for four, five, or six hours a day from about eleven years of age until I was twenty years old. I started playing in orchestras and string quartets at age twelve and my love of orchestral playing has never gone away. If my health was better, I would still be playing in orchestras today. I am making myself sound a very serious teenager and I wasn't really :-)

Apart from all that practice and my love of classical music, I also loved drawing and painting, pop music - punk and the mod-revival scene music (The Sex Pistols, The Stranglers, The Clash, The Jam, The Specials) clothes, make-up, boys, going to discos and clubs, drinking and smoking behind my parents' backs and I found out last year that they knew all the time and that made us all laugh - all of those in no particular order!!!
*I must point out that the British attitude towards alcohol is very different than the American attitude towards it. Drinking over here is seen as very much a teenage 'rite of passage'.*

3. What and when was your first job?
And having said what I have just said, my first job was working in a pub at 19!!! Run by a tyrannical land-lady called Brenda who put the fear of God into me :-)

4. What was your first work that really pleased you as an artist?
The first piece of work that really pleased me as an artist was painted when I was 15 years old - a still life of a jug and some fruit, painted in acrylic paints for an exam submittal. I remember adding layer upon layer of paint, I began applying the paint with paintbrushes and then I started using my fingers to apply the paint. It just felt so natural to get the effect that I wanted - and I loved the tactility of daubing the paint onto the canvas with my fingers. My painting was displayed in our school art room and I can remember feeling very proud of myself.

Barbara Hepworth Sculpture
'Three Uprights with Circles'
5. Who was the first artist to influence you?
Barbara Hepworth is the very first artist who inspired me without me knowing at all and her works still inspire me to this day, probably more than I realise. Barbara Hepworth is a world-famous sculptor and a contemporary of Henry Moore. She lived and worked in St. Ives, the small fishing village where I lived as a child. In the 1940s and 1950s, St. Ives had become an artists colony known as 'The St. Ives School of Artists'. Barbara Hepworth's works were displayed in various spots all over St. Ives - in the library, just where you checked out your books was a small sculpture over which I ran my hands every Saturday when I took out my new books for the week. I don't know the name of this piece but I loved it. There is another sculpture placed outside The St. Ives Guildhall called 'Dual Form'. As children, on 'Feast Day' we ran round and round it, chasing each other. It is one of my favourite sculptures. There are various other sculptures positioned around the town. There has always been one of her works that I wanted to see so badly - a piece called 'Four Square Walk Through' - I had only ever seen photos of it. You would expect as I live in Cornwall that I would have actually been to 'The Barbara Hepworth Museum' - created out of her workshop and her garden where she placed many of her pieces amongst the plants in a deliberate fashion. We had Australian friends come to visit last year and we decided to go to St. Ives and just happened to decide to visit the museum. I walked into the garden and guess what was positioned right in front of me - the sculpture that I had always wanted to see and experience 'Four Square Walk Through'. I was absolutely awe-struck and now I feel so priveleged that I can go and see Barbara Hepworth's sculptures any time I feel like it!!!

6. Who were your favorite movie stars growing up?
Immediate answers to this question; I didn't have to think at all - Cary Grant, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Elizabeth Taylor, Humphrey Bogart, Gregory Peck, Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, Busby Berkeley movies, John Travolta, Marlon Brando, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Martin Sheen, Charlie

Sheen, - the list could be endless :-)

7. What were your favorite TV shows growing up?
Bill and Ben, The Flowerpot Men, Bagpuss, Roobarb and Custard, The Magic Roundabout, The Clangers, Camberwick Green, Swapshop, The Virginian - I actually really didn't watch much TV. I spent my time upside down in the garden doing handstands, reading books as well as practicing, practicing and practicing the violin and piano.

8. Has your work gone up in price compared to when you first started?
I am fairly new to silversmithing - I am working with a web-designer to create two web-sites - one for my more serious art jewellery work and one for my 'Dolly Allsorts' jewellery which is big, bold and funky beaded jewellery. I was selling my 'Dolly Allsorts' jewellery in a couple of shops and I felt like the customers were being ripped off, as was I. My work will be competitively priced. I do not agree with under-pricing jewellery as I feel that it then becomes artistically under-valued and that is never going to be any good to the jewellery artisan world.

'Violin Girl'.
At university we were told to make a
figure that reflected ourselves - hence 'Violin Girl' 
9. Where do you get your ideas?
My ideas come to me all the time wherever I am. I have a one-track mind where jewellery is concerned :-) I carry around a notebook to jot down ideas or materials. I draw on the backs of envelopes, anything I can lay my hands on whenever I have an idea. Everything i faithfully stuck into my journals. I use everything around me as inspiration - I pick up rusty washers off pavements, thinking how I can use them. I always have a camera with me to 'point and shoot' anything. I am having to 'rein' myself in as I plan to build a couple of collections in the second half of the year, the first half of the year has been devoted to 'play' :-)

10. Who do you think is the best business artist in the world?
Damien Hirst, without a doubt. He is worth 215 million pounds, a phenomenal amount of money earned in any arena, never mind the fickle world of art.

11. Do you think that there are any art movements now?
I actually don't know - we could be in a post- this or a pre-that - it is difficult to know what we are in the middle of whilst we are in the middle of it - if you understand what I'm trying to explain ;-)

Here's a picture done by
the grafitti artist, Banksy
12. Do you think kids should get grants to decorate subways?
Absolutely - Graffiti Art is a recognised genre so why not? It gives kids something positive to do and an asset to their communities. Human beings have decorated their environments since Stone Age times - what's different now? In the UK, there is one very famous Graffiti artist who resides in Bristol where he has created many of his works. His name is Banksy ('google' him) but no-one knows who Banksy actually is. He has been able to remain anonymous, protected by the arts community. He had a sell-out exhibition at The Bristol Art Museum and it was kept under-wraps until its opening. Only the Head Curator knew anything about it - what a great idea!!!

13. Have you or anyone you know been involved in street art?
The answer is 'No' ;-) 

The first ring that I ever made -
you can see the 'miniature sculpture'
idea even here
14. Do you ever think about politics? 
Very frequently - it's very hard not to follow politics when I listen to or watch the news and political issues headline every programme. I just wish that here in the UK, we had one party not a coalition party. I just wish that politicians could be honest to their electorate.

15. What is your favorite color?
I can never decide - white, black, grey or red - yep, those will do.
16. Do you do all your own work, or do you have people working for you?
All my work is done by my own fair hand :-)



  1. fantastic!! i was really hoping u'd be nxt Helen..i really enjoy our online interactions and seeing your creative process unfold. i know i'll be coming bk to re-read ur interview..was in London last year July..and was very disappointed to not be able to see any graffitti..till i was told of Banksy and his also duly retold by you..I missed seeing it that had googled..if i ever go bk to London..i know seeing his work will be top priority

  2. Pallavi, I'm glad you enjoyed reading my interview. Banksy is from Bristol ( my son is at university in Bristol - he graduates this year!)If you want to see Banksy's works, you'd be better off going to Bristol :-) You could come and visit me too!!! When we went up to Bristol last year, I saw my first Banksy art-work on a wall whilst travelling on a bus :-) There are not many of Banksy's works in London. Apparently, Westminster Council cleaned up several of his 'pieces' by mistake, worth thousands of pounds - oops!!! I can recommend a good book of his work. I'll send you the Amazon link. I think that you'd like it. I bought it for Gary and he loved it. I've only done half the interview - I seem to have a lot to say ;-)

  3. Super interesting interview, Helen! St. Ives looks and sounds like a wonderful place to grow up.

  4. Helen, so interesting to hear about your life and where your inspirations come from!