The unconventional appeal of everyday objects- Interview with the artist Helen Grundy

by Emma Thomson

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The unconventional appeal of everyday objects- Interview with the artist Helen Grundy

The first artist from the exhibition that I will feature is Helen Grundy.

At the exhibition, there were three of Helen’s artworks on display – part of a series called ‘FEARMAIL’. For the series, Helen has used envelopes to create collages, I found this quite interesting because it is something that I have never come across before in art. It made me think about what other everyday materials could be used to make artwork. As the nature of the artworks was somewhat ambiguous, it also made me think deeper about their meaning.

I have interviewed Helen to find out more about her artwork and practice. The interview has been edited slightly for clarity.

Where do you get your inspiration from, or what inspires your work?

I create digital collages and I am an object maker, based in Birmingham. The inspiration to work with used window pane envelopes comes directly from my job as a support worker in a homeless hostel. I often sit with people and help them to open and respond to correspondence. I became aware of how anxious people get when receiving bureaucratic looking envelopes as they often contain information about benefits, debts, illness etc. I called the series FEARMAIL and have been working on expanding the project for a couple of years. All the envelopes I use are donated to me and the finished work is heavily inspired or directed by the conversations I have with the owner of the original envelope. I am also inspired by my interest in climate change and making my practice environmentally sustainable.

What sort of messages do you try to portray or convey in your work?

I have a strong narrative quality in my work and I attempt to set a scene and tell a story with my work. Many of my pieces reference climate change and I want to make works that blend reality and surreal imagery to get the attention of the audience. I often use humour in my work as a way of approaching difficult subjects. I want to make people think, and I am also happy to entertain people as well.

Are there any themes in particular that you explore in your work?

Each artwork I make is a souvenir from a world that I have created. I work with collage as it is an art form that has recycling at its core. I call my collages, ‘intentional collages’ as I spend time researching and planning how I want the piece to look, I then source the constituent parts and build the piece very gradually. For me, I want to move away from the serendipity normally associated with collage and go deeper. I have been given a grant from The Arts Council to develop my practice and have just started a six-month career break from work to spend more time making work. I am interested in discard studies and am researching waste, pollution and climate change. I am interested in making work that reacts to social issues, climate change and the relationship humans have with the natural world.

Are there any aspects of your work that you find challenging?

I think one of the biggest challenges I have is being a working-class artist and being able to find enough time to develop my practice. I also find updating my website to be a terrible chore, I don’t think I am good at self-promotion and, although I am always happy to exhibit my work, for me, the most exciting aspect of art is making it. How do you hope to inspire people with your art? I hope that my work will prompt people to think and consider what is happening to the planet. I want to elevate collage as an art form, and I want to encourage people to make art. To find out more about Helen’s work you can visit her website here, or you can find her on Instagram. Her contact email is


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