Helen is a woman who inspires us through here way with nature and her connection to her craft! Helen and her husband, Soren, reside here in the Ojai Valley and spend their time in communion with the natural world. They collect rocks from the land, tan their own hides and weave together beautiful one of a kind jewellery! We got to spend an afternoon with Helen amongst her garden and workspace and watch her creations come to life!
Have you always worked with your hands? Where did the calling to create begin?
Sort of, but not artistically until much later. I come from a family full of engineers so I have always been fascinated with and enjoyed the mechanics of things—the puzzle of how something is put together, how something works, or how to fix something. So now every time I finish a piece it’s like a victory of putting something together, like solving its puzzle.
Creatively, I first became passionate about photography. But in my late 30’s I decided to take a drawing class at Santa Monica College to prove whether or not I was able to draw. I found out I could draw, but it was the hardest thing I ever took in school. My drawing teacher was really emphatic about my continuing with art, which I thought was mad, I told him, “I’m 37, there’s no way I’m going back to school!” But he pushed me into this really amazing art mentor program at the school. I very much fell into being in school full time taking just about every art class they had to offer because I felt like I had no idea what I was doing and I loved every second of it. It was a truly glorious time being able to sample so many mediums. This is where I learned I loved working three dimensionally.
What is your intention behind The Natural Free Human Beings?
It’s who we believe people really are and how people are happiest, so it is both a goal and a reminder of who we were long ago, our true human nature. People are happiest when they are free to be connected to and in rhythm with the natural world. People are happiest when they can enjoy the dignity brought to them from making and growing things with their hands and when they can enjoy abundance, which is the law of nature. Civilization has complicated things like a bad infection, it is a construct separating our relationship to nature mentally and spiritually. So it’s been a long time since we have had mostly natural free human beings. Soren, my husband, came up with the name, he got it from a book about a Lakota man who wants to blow up Mt. Rushmore.
The work we make is to help reconnect ourselves and others to the natural world. They’re like talismans of the earth’s support.
You mentioned that each stone carries a story, can you share a little more on that?
It’s like how we each carry a story as a person. I see them as beings, they have spirit and power to them. I think about how long it took for them to come to me, what they may have looked like to begin with, what they have been through, and what they would like.
Then I see a relationship occur between a piece and a person. More often than not someone will gravitate to a piece, they will put it on and it’s a special meant-to-be connection. The pieces often seem to have intended people. It’s an honor to see it happen, it’s quite palpable. The stones have their own journey and work they are doing. And the relationship is often really strong, the way a person feels about the piece.
How has creating these unique jewellery pieces inspired your connection with the land and nature?
It greatly deepens my connection and relationship to nature, as well as to other people and to myself. I feel more compassion because these connections diffuse ideas of separation. And I have far more respect for everything through this work because it encouraged me to slow down and to see more. I see more beauty. And I have more appreciation for what it takes to make or grow anything.
I get to work with the most beautiful materials and be a conduit for beauty, healing, and connection. It’s a dream come true to do this work and live this way.