A driven and motivated woman rebuilding her life as an artist is creating a series of works to raise awareness of social issues including domestic violence and child exploitation.
51-year-old Helen Robinson, a former hairdresser and holistic therapist, moved to North Wales in 2005, three years after becoming the victim of a section 18 assault.
Diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, she quickly found therapy through art, completing a part-time art class in Denbigh before gaining a first class degree in Design: Illustration for Children’s Publishing at Wrexham Glyndwr University.
Helen continued at the institution with an MA Design Practice, however had to postpone her studies for three years after the triple blow of cancer scares, two operations and the death of her father.
Now back on track and set to complete her studies, Helen’s work will feature in an exhibition at the university this summer.
Among the portfolio of designs which Helen is producing at Wrexham Glyndwr University is a piece created in response to the Manchester Arena bombing in May 2017, featuring a series of fists to illustrate how violence and control can be passed from generation to generation.
Her other art includes a piece of work representing onlookers turning their back on a vulnerable child and one which explores the issue of control and abuse.
“There is a real cathartic effect for me in creating something in 3D form,” said Helen, originally from Guiseley, near Leeds, and now living in Old Colwyn.
“Not everyone wants to verbalise what they’ve gone through and this is the power of therapy through art.
“As I embarked on the project to create the work, I’ve started to reflect on and process things that have happened in my life it’s given me a greater awareness of other people.
“The Manchester bombing reignited some past feelings and made me consider the possibility of a link between violence being passed down through generations. A recent domestic violence storyline in Emmerdale provided the spark for creating the piece about how people become locked into violent situations.
“The work about child abuse and control is, I think, perhaps the most powerful of all. The characters standing around the child are genderless, ageless but it represents the attitude of it’s not my business it’s someone else’ or I will just pray about it and hope the problem goes away.”
The enforced time away from her studies provided Helen with the opportunity to practice her skills and the birth of her career as a self-employed artist.
She invested in a kiln to experiment with fusing glass and started selling glass items at small craft fairs.
Her work – which trades under the Jaminosh Designs brand – is now stocked in seven independent galleries or retailers in North Wales, from Llangollen to Anglesey, and at a gift shop in Nantwich, Cheshire.
Helen is also using her holistic and personal development background to facilitate research workshops – allowing people to process repressed emotions non verbally through the use of clay and colour.
Helen said: “If you’d asked me in 2002 could I imagine being at the stage where you are just about to complete an MA in art I would have said no.
“But I’m a very driven person, and my self-motivation has probably come from a lack of support in my life. If I set a goal I will achieve it.
“I didn’t know anyone when I moved to North Wales. I had no family, no friends and I had to find a job. It’s the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere but I feel like I’ve never lived anywhere else – the landscapes are hugely inspiring.
“I don’t see myself as a victim of abuse, I see myself as a warrior because I am fighting back. What’s important in life is that you leave a footprint and I wanted to show that change can happen with people – as an artist I have a unique platform to do that.
“I want my work to help bring about social change rather than commercial gain. If I can help one or two people come to terms with past emotional issues that’s the most important thing.”
The Jaminosh Collection is available to buy at: Storiel Gallery and Museum, Bangor; Oriel Ynys Mon, Anglesey; Crafts North Wales, Porthmadog; Slate and Things, Caernarfon; Market on the Fringe, Llangollen; The Emporium, Llandudno Junction; The Eleventh Hour Gift Shop, Nantwich.