FEATURED ARTIST: HELENA CURRY
Since the launch of my Featured Artist series and brilliant interview with oil painter Jennifer Gennari, I decided to head a little closer to home for my next source of inspiration. And when I stumbled across the incredible work of Helena Curry, I knew I’d discovered an artist with a talent that I simply had to share…
Helena is a sculptor and special effects artist who has worked on a variety of unique and intriguing projects over the years, including TV & Film prop and puppet restoration! I first discovered her work after seeing one of her stunning dog sculptures on Instagram, but quickly learned that she also offers bespoke pet paw casting services from her studio, just a stone’s throw away in North Buckinghamshire. After browsing her website I was left feeling blown away – her skill and talent for capturing the canine form is unrivalled, with every detail of her subject captured in beautiful bronze resin – easily the most sophisticated castings I’ve ever seen! You can clearly see the amount of care and craftsmanship that goes into each piece, with her beautiful knowledge of texture and form.
I was lucky enough to meet Helena for a chat over a cup of tea (not forgetting the chocolate digestives!) to find out more about her work and her passion for sculpture…
How did you get into sculpting/casting?
I was always making things as a child and I never really stopped! I was always fascinated with puppets on tv and in films, in particular Labyrinth! I loved drawing caricatures and watching Spitting Image. I would make little figures for friends and draw comic strips for them, often in a school lesson I wasn’t particularly keen on!
I went on to do a BTEC foundation in art and then a degree in Character Creation & Model Making. From there I went on to work as a freelancer for figurative sculptors and within the SFX industry. For the past two years I have been cutting down on my freelance work in an effort to spend more time on my own sculpting work. Within the SFX industry I did a lot of lifecasting and always loved that you can capture a living form in such beautiful detail. This is also when I began the life-casting side of the business and now I work between different projects which I love as it means I get to work on something new every week!
Who or what inspires you?
There are so many people who inspire me, it would be very hard to to specify and I wouldn’t want to inadvertently forget someone! Over the years I have been very fortunate to work for some fantastic sculptors and special effects studios and met many makers who have inspired and influenced me and really helped me on my path and continue to do so. I get excited talking to other artists and makers about the projects they are working on and find different tools and techniques fascinating. If I’ve been working alone for a while it can be lovely to reconnect and it often inspires me and fills me with motivation for a new project.
How long does a sculpture/cast typically take?
It’s quite hard to say as it really does depend on the piece as they are all so unique and often there may be unforeseen challenges that come up on a project due to say a new material or a material not reacting in the way it should. There is a lot of troubleshooting behind the scenes! I am also a perfectionist and often find it hard to leave a piece alone. The best feeling when completing a sculpt is putting that first layer of silicone on as it means I can’t fiddle with it anymore! For the paw casts I want the absolute best quality for my clients. Many have come to me because their animal is poorly and this is to be a lasting keepsake. It is so important to me that they have a beautiful memory of their much loved pet.
What’s your biggest obstacle as an artist?
Overthinking! Being my own worst critic. However, this can also be a positive thing in that in keeps my standards high and pushes me to improve my work. I’m just really trying to get a balance and trying to catch any negative self talk from spiralling out of control. Talking to people who understand helps so much and I’m lucky to have a great network of supportive people 🙂
I absolutely love your Bull Terrier bust! Do you have a favourite piece of yours?
Thank you so much! 🙂 I think actually the Bull Terrier head is my favourite, although I do love the puppet I made at University. He has followed me around everywhere I have moved and has now retired from being on show at the studio to my home. I loved making him because it incorporated so many techniques from sculpting and casting his head, building his movable body, painting him and making his clothes. The Bull Terrier has been a real labour of love and I’ve spent so many hours on getting the sculpt right and experimenting with different casts. It was really important for me to get it right.
What would be your dream project?
That’s such a difficult question because I work in so many different areas so I have dream projects for each of them! If I stick with sculpting then it would be a large relief piece. I love narrative art and would love to create an engaging and dynamic piece full of different stories.
What’s the most indispensable item in your studio?
My sculpting and fine finishing tools! My wooden sculpting tools in particular are very special to me because they have a certain feel to them, almost my finger impression upon them. I remember losing one at University after years of having it and being devastated! Luckily I grew to love another one.
If you weren’t an artist, what profession do you think you would’ve pursued?
I changed my mind endless times at school but I was between law, animals and art! I think it would be working with animals. I did a lot of work with animals for part time jobs when I was younger so really the paw casting is the best of both worlds 🙂
What are your hobbies outside of sculpting?
I do actually love being in my studio so I spend a bit too much time there! To escape and unwind I really enjoy gardening. I go to a spinning class at the local gym which is very sociable and fun, if a little exhausting! I also enjoy escaping to London and home to Suffolk to see friends and family.
Do you have a favourite breed of dog?
I grew up with Golden Retrievers so they are very special to me and I love all dogs but I do love Bull Terriers in particular. They are often misrepresented in the media which is such a shame as they are the most kind natured dogs. I love nothing more than having a cuddle with a Bullie and I often shriek in delight if I see once on the street like a crazy lady! Haha.
If you could own any work of art, what would it be?
That is a tricky question. I’m sorry I’m going to cop out and say there are too many to choose from! There are beautiful large sculptural pieces that I love but I couldn’t imagine fitting in to my home. I would love to have a large garden full of beautiful sculpture. For smaller items I love animal sculpture.
Do you have any new projects coming up? Would you be able to share any sneaky details with us?
When I freelance there are often projects I can’t talk about until they are released. Last year I worked on the John Lewis advert helping a large team of people at Millennium FX to create Moz. We had to keep that very secret! Recently I just completed the restoration of an original Spitting Image puppet for David Baddiel alongside some beautiful framed paw casts. I am also working on a new sculpture of a waddling duck which I’m really enjoying and can’t wait to cast him out ready to exhibit.