Helen MacRichie calls herself a textile artist because she combines lots of different techniques including felting, embroidery, lacemaking, sewing. She has been selling and exhibiting her work for seven years but has been crafting for many years. As a five year old in Scotland, she was obliged to write a daily diary. She soon discovered that a drawing filled lots of space to pad out a little text. Helen always did art at school but listened to her mother who said there was no money in art and continued with science. She earned a PhD in pharmacy and worked in pharmacy research. When her husband moved the family to Switzerland, she stayed at home with the kids because her german was not good enough to continue working. To assuage the boredom of being a hausfrau she undertook the City and Guilds, long distance embroidery design course. When the family moved to Australia in 2004 Helen continued the City and Guilds course which has become the inspiration as well as the method of much of her current practice.
Helen’s work is mixture of nuno felt, boiled wool, felt made before and then cut and pieced into jackets, dresses and bags. She uses merino felt, silk, velvet and chiffon appliquéd motives, free motion machine lace overlaid on felt, embroiders on top of silk and adds cords. The design course taught her to make sketch books with photos, drawings, words associated with mind mapping and ideas. She uses found objects eg bark as something to print with then manipulates the images to make patterns. The prints inspire fabric manipulation to make textiles and then garments. She uses water soluble fabric to build up patterning on base fabrics as well as to make lace.
One example showed how she took photos of magnolia blossoms, drew obsessively from the photos, selected a shape, simplified it, made it asymmetrical, added lace in the centre, then the outside. Helen then layered the motifs, inspired by Anish Kapoor’s exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, to add light, shade and movement to image of her son. This wall piece on transparent cloth is Transience, as photos of children just catch a fleeting impression of the child.
She used the same shapes in the felt of a jacket, appliquéd others onto the felt and made the sleeves from transparent fabric made up of many of the shapes machine sewn together on a base of soluble fabric. In another shift she used a soldering iron to cut the middles out in the motifs. Recently she has laminated tissue paper, muslin, scrim together with acrylic wax or bees wax. The tissue paper or fine silk nuno felt can be run through a printer to add text. Helen adds stitching to tie the design together.
Her work will be exhibited at the ATASDA exhibition in August in Palm House.