Helen Poyser’s Blue Mountains home and studio is set among a row of cottages that slope slowly downwards towards a cliff edge. At the end of the street the view opens out across the vast, sprawling green of the Megalong Valley – unspoiled and boundless wilderness.
Poyser majored in photography at Sydney’s National Art School and has always painted. But her foray into jewellery and more wearable forms of art has happened organically. “I was making these sculptures, like little effigies,” she explains. “I suppose they were like little totems to help with different issues.” Pointing out a statuette made of woven, bright-pink thread, with a painted orange halo she says, “This one was to help me focus. And after a while I wanted to have them with me all the time, or to give them to people to carry around with them, which is how they became wearable, or jewellery, really.”
Poyser’s friends would see her wearing her hand-crafted, ornamental idols and want to buy them. “I’d go to exhibition openings around Sydney and wear them and they’d literally be ripped off my neck and money thrown at me!” After cold calling a host of inner-city Sydney boutiques in search of potential stockists, Poyser approached Paddington’s Poepke store at the suggestion of another William Street boutique. “They loved it and they wanted to work with me on a new project for the store.”
The artist’s first series of jewellery featured at Poepke earlier this year under the title PoyserPoyser. The collection of bangles, earrings and necklaces were crafted using finely wound thread in stripes of pink and green. The pieces were embellished with recycled glass beading and soft, feathered fabric. “It was a little bit like a collaboration between myself and the store – they went through my website and selected particular pieces that they liked or thought would work best, or suited the shop the best. Then I started making pieces with similar colours and textures.”
When asked what it is she likes so much about her base in the Blue Mountains, Poyser smiles, “I’d love to show you – we’re right on the edge of the wilderness and the view is incredible. I get goose bumps, just thinking about where we are.”
The studio space she shares with her partner – an artist who goes by the name of What – is filled with hanging ornaments left over from past projects. A thick wreath of hydrangea hangs beside the window and has dried to a soft shade of butter yellow. Poyser’s cat Pink Robot sits beneath, peering out into the afternoon sun. Throughout the home her large watercolour paintings have been hung out to allow the paper to uncurl. The effect of her technique is spectacularly moving – blues and greys spill into one another across the page.
“I work on the ground, because it’s watercolour,” she explains. “When you’re mixing acrylic paint, different paints don’t necessarily react to each other, in an obvious way – but with water colour there is this very organic-seeming reaction between certain pigments. I just want to let it to do what it does best.”
Just as Poyser’s paintings are experimental mergers of shades, her jewellery process is mostly instinctive too. “A lot of it is experimentation, with no planning beforehand. I don’t draw it or plan how it’s going to go. So that’s why they are all different, unique pieces.” A new collection of jewellery entitled Talismans is underway and near completion – Poyser has created a new set of intricate necklaces, bangles and earrings, each woven together using brilliantly coloured recycled fabrics and beading.
For Poyser though, painting remains her boundless, unspoiled medium – perhaps a reflection of the untamed surrounds of her home. “The jewellery can be like bridled creativity that I can experiment with, that I can compromise,” she says. “Painting needs to be completely pure, I don’t think about making sales, or being fashionable. It’s just purely me.”