A few years ago, Jo developed a passion for painting and watercoloring. After taking one of Helen Dealtry’s watercolor workshops, Jo felt inspired by her artistry and wanted to feature her work at Magnolia. This season, we are showcasing Helen’s rich, cobalt blue designs throughout our spring collection, specifically in our prints, cloth napkins, berry bowls, and pillows.
We recently connected with Helen to learn more of her story, where she goes to find new inspiration, and why she believes that spontaneity is the best way to create with joy.
Q + A with Helen:
Magnolia: How would you describe your work?
Helen Dealtry: My art is largely inspired by nature, fluid, and organic!
What was your journey as an artist? When did you feel called toward the type of art you are creating now?
I studied printed textile design at university back home in Britain. From the beginning I was very interested in textiles for interiors. I love pulling patterns, color, and objects together. Life took me in a different direction when I got a job in 2000 designing prints for fashion in New York City. The textiles I designed were all painted by hand, so I really honed my craft by picking up the brushes every day. Textile designers have to constantly adapt to the changing trends and seasons, which requires experimentation in all different styles. It’s also a fast-paced profession. After many years of practice, I found my speed and comfort zone lay mainly in the arena of florals. These days I spend more time on individual paintings, but in the process I nearly always imagine them ending up in a textile application.
A few scenes from Helen Dealtry’s studio:
When or where do you feel most inspired to create?
A change of scenery always stimulates my creativity. Exploring new surroundings when I travel is a great place to start. That could mean discovering a new town near where I live in the Hudson Valley or visiting another country for the first time. The light, colors, smells, and atmosphere of a place are always thought-provoking to me. I am also very fortunate to have a studio space to call my own. Sometimes if I just refresh my setup there with new inspiration boards, found objects, and remixed color palettes, I am in my own little heaven—‚ ready to paint!
Can you walk us through your creative process?
My creative process has definitely evolved over the years, but some parts of it always stay the same. With the past year of restrictions on travel I’ve had to find new ways to bring the outside inside.
I like a mood board and find that before I start a new project, collection of artwork, or collaboration, it’s important for me to spend time planning ahead. Mood boards don’t always have to be flat for me—sometimes it’s a collection of textiles, objects and color threads that I play with to create a mood.
Even if I’m lacking inspiration from those sources, I’ll sometimes give myself restrictions in color or technique to push myself out of my comfort zone and just paint! For example, I recently wanted to do something more textural with paint. I used only a small roller to smush the paint around, then I collaged the pieces together. ‘Play’ continues to take me in unexpected directions. I think that will always be a very important part of my process.
Why did you choose to share your work through Magnolia?
Collaborating with brands I love is so much fun, and it’s a big compliment to boot. That’s part of what I dreamt of as a young textile designer. Seeing marks that started with my brush end up on something that lives in another person's home is truly a privilege!
To be in the mix of the Magnolia team is such a treat because I know how much consideration goes into their beautifully curated line.
How do you hope that individuals grow through your workshops?
Anyone who wants to make art can and should do it. If I’m able to introduce new tools or techniques to help people express what’s inside, then that’s all I can hope for. In my workshops I encourage everyone to try a looser way of painting and mark-making. We find beauty in the ‘messy’ bits, in the experimentation and the joy of leaning on the mediums to do the work. We have to allow ourselves the freedom to let loose. Play is the best way I know of creating joyously, and helping others discover that feeling is what I love about teaching.
Over the past few years, so much has changed in terms of how we communicate with each other. What do you hope your art communicates to the world?
When I need to meditate, I get out into nature. It clears my mind and opens my heart. We are all spending more time inside these days, so I hope that people who bring my artwork into their home can still find some of the benefits of being in nature. I always strive for my art to communicate that ‘deep breath’ I feel when I’m outside.
What does the next year look like for you and your projects?
I’m itching to talk more about the year ahead because I’m taking an interesting pivot! There will still be flowers, there will be a lot of painting, but there will also be some challenges and exciting growth as I dip a toe or two in a new direction. Stand by and get your brushes ready!