Mercury Arts /mérkyoori/
1 Chemical The chemical symbol for Mercury is Hg, the initials of Designer-Maker Helen Russell’s maiden name
2 Material A silvery white heavy liquid element (a pretty good description of porcelain casting slip and silver jewellery components)
3 Mercurius god of traders (well a girl can dream when starting a business!)
And that’s how Mercury Arts was born.
Helen is generally inspired by the natural world and the way that man-made objects interact with the landscape. This might be the cut of a wooden fence into the surface of a reservoir or the layering of windswept ice against a stone wall.
Helen set up Mercury Arts in May 2010, started making in October 2010 and officially launched her work at the British Craft Trade Fair (BCTF) in April 2011. A steep but immensely enjoyable learning curve for her! I had met Helen prior to my regular visit to BCTF and yet it was still really refreshing to see her stand nestled there in the Newcomers as it stood out so well in the usual sea of silversmiths!
There are two sides to Helen’s work – delicate, understated and elegant ranges where the exploration of light and shadow is key to many of the ideas, and character artworks that allow her imagination to run riot. The common but silent element in all Helen’s work is storytelling. Every item made has a story behind it, from stacking pebbles on the beach as a little girl to the fat little robin that frequents her garden.
Helen makes her own moulds and uses slip casting techniques to create forms or sheets of clay that can then be shaped and manipulated to create individual artworks.
Her love of the natural world is often represented through abstracted patterns that are meticulously hand carved, painted or incised onto/into the basic form she’s working with. Some of the work is further enhanced through the use of glaze or surface finishes, and some pieces are fired ‘naked’ to maintain the earthiness of the material.
There are lots of ideas wedged in Helen’s head waiting to escape. Over the next 12 months she promises more vessels, more colour and maybe references to her love of flowers, social statistics and architecture – not in any particular order!