We found Helle on Flickr. We love Flickr. It is a supreme archive/musem/flea-market of creative human enthusiasms. Every committed flea-marketer has a story of some Amazing Thing they found buried in the bowels of some vendor's "rubbish". Helle is our Amazing Thing. In 2006, just after we posted our first-ever photos of crochet reef forms, we decided for a lark to see what a Flickr search of "crochet sea creatures" might bring up. We only half expected to find anything. What we found was Helle, who had herself, just days before, posted her own Flickr set. Helle's creatures were astounding - they were clearly made from plastic yarn. Where did this yarn come from? How could it be acquired? Who was this person?
Helle's crochet sea creatures:
Through Flickr we sent her an email and to our amazement learned that she lived on the northern beaches of Sydney. We called her up and were thrilled to hear kookaburra's laughing in the background. As children growing up in Brisbane, we used to leave bits of mince-meat on the verandah for the kookas who lived in our yard. Helle, we found, was a former research geneticist - she was one of the first people in Australia to work with gel-phoresis - now she was working as a horticulturalist and, increasingly, as a crafter. To her craft she brings the tools of her scientific past - especially a love of natural forms and processes, and a keenly observant eye for detail. Much of Helle's work is on a miniature scale and is inspired by natural structures such as corals and flowers. Her coral pieces are made from what she fondly refers to as "pre-loved tapestry yarns," of which she has an enormous stash. For twenty-odd years Helle has been buying discarded tapestry sets from thrift-stores and has thereby accumulated a vast and various pallet of subtly-shaded tapestry wools. These she recycles into crochet art-works. In addition to crochet, Helle embroiders, draws, tends a succulent and cactus garden, and dreams about taking up surfing again - a past-time she pursued as a teen. More of Helle's delicately amazing work can be seen on her blog:
Helle's "gooseflesh" blog:
But what about the plastic? It turns out Helle is an inveterate scavenger. In her daily walks on the beach she collects both the trash and treasure the sea has washed up: sculpted pieces of driftwood; chunks of sponges and kelp; she once tried to drag home part of a whale carcass, thinking she might do something with the bones. Sadly the sea's bounty increasingly includes plastic: cigarette lighters, toothbrushes, toys, synthetic rope, pegs, and cocktail twizzlers. She carts all this home too and arranges it into its spectral hues. What to do with it, but to use it also as grist for her aesthetic mill? Along with the plastic bags she collects. And there is no end of those on the beach.
Helle's beach detritus:
And so two of her passions were united: the sea and collecting "trash." The result of this union was the crochet marine forms we had seen on Flickr, made from plastic bags cut-up finely and turned into yarn. We knew immediately that Helle was the woman who Must Make The Rubbish Vortex. We put it to her. She said Yes. It is in process. It will be unveiled in New York. We cannot wait. Here is a taste of what's to come:
The Rubbish Vortex in process:
Here is Helle's step-by-step tutorial for making plastic-bag string. We highly recommend this to everyone who would like to make their own plastic-bag crochet forms.
How to make plastic-bag string:
Here is what Helle says about herself:
I was born in Denmark and spent most of my childhood there. I migrated to Sydney, Australia when I was 13 years old.
As a child I was always making things and studying everything in the garden. I was a magpie collecting many things and still do. One of my greatest inspirations was my paternal grandmother, Agnes Jørgensen, who did exquisite embroidery, tatting and crochet. I used to love to watch her making things. I inherited a lot of her work and these pieces are very precious to me. Other things that inspire me are time, light, the natural world, the ocean, the beach, the bush, my garden, patterns, textures and shapes in Nature. I love to work at pre-dawn when the house is quiet, the possums are running across the roof on their way to bed (a Dragon Blood tree that I propagated from seed) and the birds are waking up. This is the time when I'm very focused and my mind is clear, full of energy and desire to create. It's just me and the kookaburras.
I studied Biology at university here in Sydney and worked in scientific research for approximately ten years, always feeling like a fish out of water. I really wanted to make things and decided to become a Carpenter. Unfortunately, I was unable to find an apprenticeship, so decided to retrain as a Horticulturist. I now have a small horticultural business to which I dedicate 2-3 days a week. The rest of my time is dedicated to my art. How lucky am I? Moving from Science to Art was a personal transformation for me and I have gradually become more interested in creating and studying Drawing and Art in general. I have been exhibiting my work for the last six years.
I feel the Crochet Sea Creatures are the culmination of my interest in the Natural World, Art, Craft, Science and Mathematics. All my skills and interests have merged to create these and I finally feel as if I have found my niche.