Projects at Poepke: PoyserPoyser

April 8th, 2014


This Thursday, we welcome a new Project to Poepke: intricate and unexpected jewellery from artist Helen Poyser. Here, we speak to Helen about her home, her creative process and what to expect from her PoyserPoyser Project at Poepke.


You’re a painter as well as a jewellery-maker. Could you tell us a little bit about your different modes of practice and how you’ve come to be doing the things you are now?

My practice involves drawing and painting in watercolour. Before jewellery I worked on small sculpture projects, but I never really exhibited the sculptural work, it was definitely for my own and my partner’s enjoyment. I created rough little “gods” and effigies using whatever I had at hand in my studio – which since I’m an op shop pillager included all sorts of second-hand craft materials, wool, thread, feathers, beads, etc. And clay. The sculptures were designed to inoculate or guard against various ailments like customer service fatigue, Sunday lethargy, troublesome real estate agents – whatever might be bugging our souls. The god statues morphed into something that could be carried out of the house and they became jewellery.


You’re based in the beautiful surrounds of the Blue Mountains. Has this had an effect on your painting and jewellery-making at all?

City air seems almost solid, especially in Sydney’s inner west where we lived before moving up here. Being able to breathe definitely helps me with my work, it’s easier to view things from a less rigid perspective when you have space and air. I’m also more comfortable on the outside, observing when I feel like it, rather than being frantically involved in the thick of things. So the mountains are perfect for my practice and their beauty is always motivating.

So you share this home with your partner, who is also an artist and a musician – is that right? Are you involved in or do you feel a particular connection to each other’s work?

My partner has been showing at gallery9 in Darlinghurst for the past 7 years. We both work and live on top of each other in the same house. I tell him when his paintings are finished and he does the same for me, although I’m much more stubborn and don’t always listen – to my own detriment sometimes. He plays classical guitar providing our daily soundtrack of scales and arpeggios hour after hour which I think helps maintain the rhythm of jewellery production.


All of your jewellery is handmade, but can you tell us a little more about your process?

I made all the pieces in the collection myself, they developed intuitively without any kind of preconceived design – which is how I usually approach painting as well. Often I’ll have someone close to me in mind while I’m working, forming the piece in my hands while it forms around their neck in my imagination. Production involves lots of digging around in op shops, then de-stringing, beading and lots of winding. I use a hair thin needle most of the time and I’ve got some useful callouses.

What materials do you use? Is reusing materials important to you?

Every piece in this collection is made using at least 80% reclaimed materials. I’ve focused on glass seed beads and embroidery thread mainly with the odd semi precious stone accent. Practically all of it comes from charity shops but occasionally I’ll find someone wanting to get rid of a private stash on ebay. I’ve found the best fabric to use as an underlying structure to bead over is old t-shirt cotton, which fortunately I have in abundance already. The ethics of recycling appeal to me very much, I’m a hoarder and I love to hunt and gather but the limitations and challenges of this approach are very stimulating too. Having boundaries placed on my creativity is incredibly helpful, the structure helps me focus.

What can we expect to see as part of your Project?

I aimed to imbibe all the pieces with a sort of life force of their own. I want them to feel like talismans, as if they could give you super powers. Expect to see loads of colour, intricate detail, loose patterning, sort of wearable pagan Pop Art .


The Poyser Project begins this Thursday 10 April.

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