ABOUT THE ARTIST
Helen M. Stevens was born in Belmont, Surrey, her early years spent travelling with her father in the RAF. Later educated at The County Grammar School, Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk she studied the history of textiles and design informally during her early secretarial career.
In 1981 she established her Studio, True Embroideries, since when her original embroideries have become internationally well-known and are now in collections worldwide.
She has exhibited widely, both in one woman exhibitions at a variety of venues and with the Society of Women Artists, initially at the Westminster Gallery and more recently the Mall Galleries in London. Other early venues included the Harrods Art Gallery, the Stanley Gibbons Gallery in the Strand, The Mary Rose exhibition, The British Museum “Making of England” and the Palace of Westminster. Overseas exhibitions have included shows at Olympic Park in Sydney, Australia, the Camberley Brown Gallery in Louisville, Kentucky, USA, St. Johns, Newfoundland and taking part, in absebtia, in events in France, Italy, South Africa, Russia and the Middle East.
Her total of twelve books published to date in the UK is increased by the number of their re-prints and overseas editions:
The Embroiderers Countryside
The Embroiderers Country Album
The Timeless Art of Embroidery
The Myth and Magic of Embroidery
Helen M. Stevens’ World of Embroidery
Helen M. Stevens’ Embroiderer’s Year
and the Masterclass Series:
Embroidered Flowers, Butterflies, Birds, Animals, Gardens and Landscapes.
Sadly many of these titles as now out of print, but copies of early editions reach high sums with collectors, and with the advent of the digital age, Helen’s writing career had diversified into e-books and patterns.
During her long career, teaching and lecturing has been an important feature. Helen has always felt it important to share her skills and knowledge, and has undertaken lecture and teaching tours to Australia (x3), Canada (x3), the USA, the European continent and throughout the UK. In 2015 she decided to step back from this aspect of her work to concentrate once again on original artwork, but still enjoys worldwide interaction with her devotees, with nearly 7000 followers on Facebook, demonstrations on YouTube and a willingness to engage in any events online which help stitchers to follow her techniques. To this end, she has created an unique interpretation of her signature techniques: “ONE SIMPLE STITCH”… which encourages even the most inexperienced embroiderer to enjoy exploring and working in her now immensely popular style.
As well as her popular contemporary signature style of artwork, Helen has been involved in research into and the recreation of Anglo Saxon embroidery techniques. Working with the York Archaeological Trust, together with post-graduate students from Cambridge University, her interpretation of 8th/9th century embroidery was exhibited and featured by the British Museum and the North European Symposium for Archaeological Textiles, who published her paper on the subject.
Helen lives in an early Victorian cottage in the medieval market town of Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk where the history of the town and the ever present flora and fauna in her garden provide endless scope for interpretation. Passions, apart from textiles, include her home and garden, poodles, cats, amateur theatre and folk dancing, not necessary in that order!
About her work and inspiration, Helen has this to say:
“You are never stumped for ideas when you live near the countryside. Nature is so beautiful and ever changing. I have always tried to capture it in a way which is representative – so detail is important – but also a little quirky! I like there to be something going on in all my pictures, even if it is as simple as a bumble bee approaching a flower, there needs to be some little story happening! I believe that narrative is important in all art – and in embroidery it is as old as the art itself. In Anglo Saxon textiles there was a strong vein of storytelling – the Bayeux Tapestry was only one (and a late one, at that) in a long tradition of representational masterpieces.
If I can do two things I am happy: firstly to engage the viewer with the image – capture their imagination – and then draw them in with the detail and, often, amaze them by the fact that the picture is worked in a medium which they did not expect.
Textile art is layered – literally and metaphorically. There is more going on in any embroidery than can be seen at first sight!”