Anna Hergert, Art & Design

In the Spotlight: Guest Blogger Hélène Blanchet

In 2012 my path crossed with Hélène Blachet’s for the first time. Hélène was my cheerful and efficient assistant in a very full Kantha Workshop during Quilt Canada in Halifax. We have stayed in touch and exchanged emails off and on. I have been observing her success at the Grand National Quilt Show and was immensely surprised and pleased that she attended Art Quilt Campus 2014 in Muenster, SK. During one of the countless one-on-one consultations that week in July I came to fully realize Hélène’s high skill level and her strong focus on striving for excellence. When I approached her about a guest blogger spot she graciously accepted. I am pleased to introduce to you Hélène Blanchet, currently of Calgary, AB.

BIOGRAPHY

IMG_20130622_201956I am a self-taught textile folk artist working with cloth to make fine art quilts and traditional hand-sewn textiles. I have been dabbling in fibre ever since I can remember only I didn’t know it was art. I made little pictures for myself in high school and for my kids later on. My first love has always been handwork – and colour, lots and lots of colour. I was fortunate enough to have been able to travel widely through my husband’s work while homeschooling our three children. This gave us access to wonderful libraries, museums and art galleries and, of course, regional textiles. So I studied and practiced and learned my craft.

In 2007, we became empty-nesters and I turned my hand full time to the fibre arts. I had decided that I wanted to make a go of being a practicing artist full time. So I busied myself experimenting with a variety of materials, styles and techniques and began entering juried shows; locally, nationally and internationally, for which I won several ribbons.

In 2009 we moved off-grid to a cabin in the woods in the Cape Breton Highlands to get our bearings and figure out what the next chapter in our post-children lives would be. During this time I continued to develop my quiet handwork surrounded by big nature, and joined local quilt guilds for the first time. The camaraderie of the women and the tranquility of the deep woods contributed greatly to my well-being and sense of self. With renewed confidence, I began to make a series of small landscapes depicting our immediate surroundings and my individual voice as an artist began to emerge. I had always thought of myself as a folk artist first and so I approached local folk art galleries to see if they would show my work. They did and continue to support my efforts.

This is the type of work I did when we moved to our cabin in the woods.

Photo 3This is a picture of our neighbours Anne and Joel when they taught us how to cross-country ski.

Photo 2Our cabin

In 2011 we made a temporary move to Calgary to make our second fortune (having spent our first) which will allow us to return to Cape Breton and build our dream home and studio, and manage our acreage in the middle of the wilderness. The first thing I did when I arrived in Calgary was join the Fibre Arts Network (FAN), a group I had admired from afar for years. I entered my first show with them “From Away”. This inspired me to document our stay in Calgary through a series of quilts depicting our day-to-day.

Photo 4This is a picture of me arriving in Calgary. It’s called “The CFA”

INSPIRATION

I draw my inspiration from everyday life and whatever strikes me as funny. Often it is the title of the piece that comes to me first, then the beginnings of the image materialize in my head. I write lists. Lots and lots of lists on scads of tiny bits of paper which I often lose. It doesn’t matter. The action of writing helps me retain the information.

I’m not much of a sketcher or doodler. This photo is of a typical sketch. Just enough to give me an idea about composition.

Photo 5Once I’ve auditioned my fabrics and have the basic background made up I begin to fill in the detailed applique, quilting, embroidery and whatever else feels right at the time. I work by hand so the process is slow and the image evolves as I work.

Photo 6 “The Apartment Building” in progress

It might take me two months to finish an 18” x 36” piece. During that time of slow hand-work the story emerges in the details. I think it is these details, this story-telling, that turns my work into folk art. Not just the bright colours and simple materials and techniques, but those too.

Photo 7

“The Apartment Building”

This is where we live in Calgary. It’s a picture of us and our neighbours. We’re the couple in the top right hand.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my first attempt at blogging. Thanks so much Anna, for this opportunity to share with your many followers.

All the Best,

Hélène

************

Thank you, Hélène! Your contribution is wonderful and I feel as if I am sitting next to you, listening to your story. I can’t wait to see more of your work in exhibitions and galleries!

I hope everyone else has enjoyed Hélène’s story as much as I have. Please feel free to comment and weigh in with questions. Hélène will be checking the blog off and on to provide answers and responses.

This entry was published on October 29, 2014 at 12:49 pm. It’s filed under Art, Design, Guest Blogger, In the News, Journaling, Special event, Special Project and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

29 thoughts on “In the Spotlight: Guest Blogger Hélène Blanchet

  1. Thank you for sharing your creative story Helene. I too homeschooled my 2 daughters but am not quite an empty nester yet. Although I’ve returned to full-time employment I am enjoying having more creativity and stitching time. Your bright folk art quilts are fabulous and I especially like how each piece is inspired by your everyday life.

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    • Helene Blanchet on said:

      Thank you so much Jeannette. I hope you’re able to indulge your creative self as much as possible even though life may not have slowed down much for you yet. Every little bit helps. Best of luck to you in your endeavours.

      Like

  2. judithkh on said:

    What delightful life/art synopses to accompany the photos of your charming art quilts Helene. Thank you very much for sharing yours stories and your art in response to Anna’s invitation, and thank you Anna for inviting Helene to be a guest blogger. I am inspired by the whimsical designs,vibrant colours, fibre choices, stitching and framing enhancements which all come together so beautifully in every single piece. It is easy to see why you have won such accolades for these truly winning compositions.Helene.

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  3. Very nicely done on both the blogging and your artwork!

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  4. Thanks Anna and Helene for the blog post. I met Helene at the FAN retreat in the fall, but I remember seeing her work in Halifax previously. Hearing the background of the art work adds to the appreciation. There are many beautiful hideaways in western Canada Helene, no need to consider moving back east.

    Like

  5. Dorothy on said:

    It is so nice to see your wonderful work again and get the story in chronological order. I had hoped to get to Calgary this fall and would have contacted you and Alison, but life got in the way. Best wishes, Dorothy Boran

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Like

  6. Helene – thank you for sharing your story and your work. To me it feels so uplifting and hopeful. I was particularly interested in hearing about your experience in beautiful Cape Breton. My husband and I have just purchased a property in the highlands with the intent of a slower and more creative lifestyle soon. I’m even more excited now!

    Anna – thanks for your great blog. It continues to be an unending source of wonderful information and inspiration.

    Like

  7. quiltaz on said:

    Helene
    It was wonderful to meet you at the FAN Retreat this fall in Edmonton. Your pieces are phenomenal, each one telling a detailed story of compassion and humour. Absolutely wonderful! I look forward to seeing more of your work.

    Like

  8. Carol Stadnyk on said:

    Great read Helene, thanks for sharing. I remember seeing your piece “from Away” at one of the exhibits. Sorry I missed you at AQC, as I was in the second week.

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  9. thanks for sharing Helene! I hope you will take up blogging, you are a natural!

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  10. Dianne Firth on said:

    I enjoyed hearing about the background of what is involved with the production of your work. I was fortunate enough to see your work live at the FAN retreat and enjoyed it so much. You make wonderful folk art. How nice of Anna to have you as a guest blogger.

    Like

  11. Helene Blanchet on said:

    It’s been a real pleasure. And we have Anna to thank:)

    Like

  12. Susan Davis on said:

    Helene, What lovely work! It’s delightful to look at and I appreciate seeing the work in progress along with the finished piece. I also loved the added painted frames on the earlier pieces.

    Like

  13. Vivian on said:

    What an idyllic life and what lovely work!

    Like

  14. Matilyn Clulow on said:

    Hi. Helene, I loved meeting you and seeing your beautifully detailed and executed handwork in Muenster at Art Quilt Campus. Wonderful to read your blog and see some more of your art work and your process. Thank you so much for sharing. Now I am really inspired.

    Like

  15. Bev Cooper on said:

    Thank you Hélène – for your story and your art!

    Like

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