VFS Exhibition - Q&A with Helen Bullock

Helen, let’s clear something up, are you an illustrator or a designer?
Well I’m mainly more of a designer, but my illustrations and drawings influence my designs, and are a big part of my research process. I’ll gather images and draw from then, then I’ll take it onto fabric. I teach illustration, and it’s always something I’m trying to move into.

What was the inspiration behind your MA collection?
Well it started with a movie from the Sixties called Candy. At the end there’s a big festival scene with massive banners, really bold and billowing fabrics – it looked so amazing, and I knew I wanted my work to have that kind of strength and impact. I was also looking at Gordan Matta Clark, and some images I had from the Seventies that had skirts with rounded splits. I did some drawings from the photos, and that was the start of the arch print. And then there was Paul Klee’s hand puppets….so different to his paintings.

What are you hoping to achieve with your work?
Yesterday, I met someone who’d seen the degree show, and they said they were physically traumatised by the fact the front of the designs didn’t match the back! But I love that reaction –it’s meant to be awkward, and I love that kind of randomness.

What will you be doing now you’ve completed your MA?
That’s a tricky one. I’m looking for commissions from various stores, I’d like to collaborate with someone, I’ve been going to houses in Paris not just to sell my work, but also to work with them and develop my prints. As a textile designer, you often become quite anonymous, so I’d like to be more involved with the development process.

What are you hoping to achieve from the exhibition?
Coming to the VFS has been great, people have seen my collection but it’s been great to show that I can do a lot more than this. I’m really excited about the catwalk illustrations too… they’re not going to be beautiful, but hopefully they’ll work.

So challenging perceptions of beauty is one of the key themes within your work?
Well I hope there’s a beauty to my work, but I don’t like that kind of sugariness. What people understand as beauty is such a specific thing, but I see the beauty in what’s ugly…a lot of the time it’s marks and mistakes that make my work what it is. I like to challenge conformity!

Text: Victoria Loomes 
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