Cathy Helmers always thought of herself as a writer, not an artist.
When she was growing up, her older sister was always considered the artist. “She’s quite talented, even was as a child, and I felt I never measured up to her. As a child I was easily intimidated and comparative and usually judged myself to be lacking.” It is only now in adulthood that Cathy has come to the realisation that her artistic talents are just different; more hidden and mysterious.
Currently working as a freelance marketing strategist and copywriter in Dayton, OH, her move into art began in 2006 when she and her sister started a business called The Art Garden, which was a space for artists’ studios, workshops and events. One time they hosted a beaded art doll class, and even though it didn’t interest Cathy, she felt obliged to take it. “I ended up thoroughly enjoying it, went on to make another beaded art doll, and then another, and another… I decided to start selling the dolls mainly because I didn’t seem to be able to stop making them and I didn’t know what else to do with them. I continued to make beaded art dolls until a couple of years ago, selling them through galleries and occasional art festivals.”
“Along the way, I discovered Zentangle, which is a fun way to create images by drawing structured patterns. It seemed that each time I tangled, I thought the design would make great fabric. So I also began designing and selling fabric through Spoonflower.”
For Cathy, Zentangles rarely have an end idea and just evolve. “In fact, if I have too much of an end goal when I start, I find I fight with it and end up going in a different direction in the end. The creative process is exactly that for me – a process. I find if I just start with something that inspires me (fabric, nature, a piece of lampwork or a stone cabochon), my hands will find the way.”
And unlike the more commonly accepted technique of structured text, this slow evolving of the work is the same way she approaches her writing; “If I simply sit down and start the work, inspiration will come. The process of doing the work is what opens the creative flow for me.”
Quite apart from her designs for Spoonflower, she still spends a good amount of her time working with bead embroidery. Not in any fancy studio though – she told me that often she is “On my couch, in front of the TV.”
Her best advice? “As a young adult, I took a mask-making class. We made plaster masks of our own face and painted them. As we began the painting process, the instructor pointed out that there was no right or wrong, no good or bad to our color choices and how we decided to paint our own face mask. It was an expression of our unique self. I felt that statement at a deep level and it completely changed my relationship to art. I no longer looked at what I created (or what anyone else created) as good or bad, as better or worse– only as an expression.”