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Lancashire Times
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Caroline Spalding
Features Correspondent
5:45 PM 20th July 2020

Artistry Of Lancashire: Helen Naylor – Pocket Wren

Helen Naylor is the artist behind the playful, whimsical and quirky papercuts that form the basis of her artwork produced under the name Pocket Wren.

Originally a professional illustrator working within the children’s book market, Helen still incorporates illustration into her work. For her the main appeal of papercutting is the simplicity of the artform – requiring a mat, a knife and some paper; yet this does not go far enough to outline the thought processes and creativity that lead to the end result. Helen creates cards, homeware, stationary and murals, each showcasing a design that is heavily influenced by the landscape and nature of her surrounds: if she is not in her studio, she’s likely to found up a mountain, on a beach or lost in the wilderness, accompanied by her trusty sidekick Barley the dog.

Helen enjoys the physical process of papercutting, from first design through to finished piece. Her work as a children’s illustrator was very digitally focused, often waiting up to 12 months on publishing houses to see her designs reproduced in print. Under the banner of Pocket Wren, she is in charge throughout. The process begins with the design, which can be as complex or as simple as desired. She draws heavily on her illustration skills; her pieces often show the dexterity of her drawing skills. Papercutting requires her to think more in terms of silhouettes – everything is manifest through paper and holes, rendering negative space very important. The tricky part is often in the design – the end result must hang together without pieces dropping out.

Helen studied art and design at university, enabling her to hone her skills in a variety of disciplines: photography, graphics, illustration, printmaking and sculpture. She subsequently worked in primary education alongside her part-time career as an illustrator. She has recently left her educational role to develop her art career as a full-time occupation, but she still combines her love of both art and education by running art classes in schools and workshops for adults.

Inevitably the workshops and classes she provides have paused due to Covid-19 but she has used the break to channel her creativity into new designs and new ideas for the future. For Helen, it’s been a period in which she has been able to take a step back – a time to pause and reflect. Art and craft has always been an activity in which she can relax and switch off the outside world and its concerns, and she feels the general public have taken to this notion themselves during lockdown. She has seen a rise in sales of her “DIY Craft Kits” – perhaps inspired by TV programs like Grayson Perry’s Art Club and Kirstie’s Keep Crafting and Carry On.

Lockdown has also reminded her how lucky she feels to live in Lancashire. Originally hailing from North Yorkshire, having made the “controversial” move across the Pennines, she has indulged her love of wildlife through lockdown walks, often spotting deer, foxes and kestrels on her local walks. Her Lancashire home is ideally placed, with the coast, the Lakes, the mountains and the Dales all within an hour’s drive; it is understandable why, as a creative who draws inspiration from the beauty of nature, she feels blessed to have such a wealth of natural resource.

It is seldom straightforward being self-employed but Helen takes comfort from the fact she earns her keep through doing something she loves and which, in usual times, allows her to share her passion and skills with others. Sometimes her creativity conjures so many ideas she finds it hard to prioritise, and she finds self-promotion a challenge; something not uncommon among artists. But she continually strives to improve herself, and her advice to anyone setting out on a similar journey would be to take each day as it comes, have self-confidence, and better still, shout loudly for others to hear about you and your artistic endeavours.

Helen hopes that her art will bring a smile to those who encounter it. Her work remains whimsical and influenced by the illustrations she made for children’s literature, but, despite it being a “little more grown up” she believes it retains a naivety and simplicity that could appeal to your inner child.

She draws inspiration from renowned authors and illustrators such as Helen Cooper, Beatrix Potter, Dr Seuss, Axel Scheffler and Nick Sharratt: their drawings embellish the prose so delicately. She’s also drawn to the work of paper cutter and screen-printer Rob Ryan.
As lockdown restrictions ease, Helen hopes to resume her workshops in time for the autumn. Her adult workshops are usually held at various venues; you don’t need any previous experience or particular artistic skill; it is just an opportunity to while away a day or half-day with friends or alone, consumed by the process of crafting. Helen has previously offered private events: perhaps an unusual Hen party or Baby Shower – she works to tailor the event to your expectations, and, of course, your budget!
She sells her work through various independent shops across the county and she is part of the Lancashire Makers: a not-for-profit Community Interest Company which enables creatives across the North West to showcase and sell their work. They currently have a shop based in Churchtown, Southport where you can find a wealth of art and craft, including textiles, ceramics, jewellery, photography, wood and soap – perfect for an inspired gift.

Helen sells her work via her Etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/PocketWren or you can contact Helen to request commissions or discuss her work via Facebook, Instagram or her own website:
www.pocketwren.co.uk
https://www.facebook.com/HelenNaylorIllustration/
https://www.instagram.com/pocketwren/