The studios of artisans and craftspeople are often tucked away in remote and hard- to-find places, far from the madding crowd. But ceramicist and illustrator Helen Beard’s workroom sits bang in the middle of her Islington home in London. Being immersed in the fast pace of urban life is fundamental to Beard’s whole aesthetic.
‘My main interest is city life, and the people and all their wonderful quirks. I take a sketchbook everywhere I go, but I always return to the Serpentine on a Saturday morning to draw the swimmers.’ It was Beard’s love affair with London that first peaked our interest, but it was the narrative of each of her pieces that resonated with our philosophy – that every scent has a story.
‘For me, storytelling has always been the main theme of my work,’ she says. ‘I’m forever creating scenes where different pots and illustrations speak to one another. But what I love is that people collect my pottery and build up their own collections and stories.’
Known for a relaxed, sketchy style achieved by a carbon-paper imprinting process, Helen’s illustrations capture a moment of London life, from a lone figure in a crowd to the hustle and bustle of a busy street market. Helen often returns to characters, as well as grouping people together through her own imagined plot line. ‘There’s a man at Columbia Road flower market who crops up a lot. I’m always a bit surprised when I see him because I feel like I know him really well, but he has no idea I’ve ever drawn him.’
Partnering with Jo Malone London to create a set of illustrations for its new hand creams, Helen wanted to celebrate ‘the sheer scale of London and the variety of the people. I wanted to make a comment on the community and life as a commuter.’ Cue intricately detailed groups of people clutching umbrellas against a backdrop of famous buildings and bridges. ‘I love that we were able to overlap the labels with umbrellas. I just think that’s so British and wonderful. While the use of watercolours as washes adds a real depth,’ she explains. But Helen’s favourite part of the collaboration? English Pear & Freesia being included in the Hand Cream Trio! It’s my all-time favourite. The scent is just beautiful and the way it makes you feel is just to die for.’