Helen Pailing



This exhibition has emerged as a response to the site of the gallery in the port of Blyth – a place where industry meets the sea. Rare Bird comprises new, light-based sculptures alongside re-worked and re-assembled pieces.

Re-using and re-thinking materials for sculpture is at the root of Helen’s practice, befitting of a gallery within a former public house. She is interested in how objects converse with space, and in this exhibition, she has experimented with sound as material, with thanks to Marek Gabrysch.

Helen would like to thank Mat Fleming for design and technical support, to all the people who have gifted materials – notably Andrew Parr for the incredible metal ‘feet’.

This show has in part been supported using public funding by Arts Council England via the DYCP grant.


Helen Pailing is an artist-maker who seeks to redefine the possibilities of materials for sculpture and to ‘recraft waste’ materials into sculptures, assemblages and site-specific interventions using haptic knowledge to inform works.

The materials Helen uses are often a remnant from the process of making; glass from lampworking and salvaged utilitarian materials; bed springs, window blinds, fixtures and fittings – all having their own history, form, structure and intention. Helen then stitches, wraps and weaves in response to them – using craft techniques to connect, transform and create new works that exist in a state of tension. The work therefore sits in a space between the bound, fixed and hand-made and the precarious unmade, as though the works could unwrap or unravel at any moment. Larger modular installations occupy space in a provisional way as Helen reconfigures, reassembles and re-organises matter in spaces, often as a direct response to the location. All of this forms a playful engagement and collaboration between maker and matter.

An economy of means and material is an integral part of Helen’s process. Re-using materials destined for landfill is her own quiet activism, a way to bring awareness to seemingly non-precious or redundant ‘waste’ material and to celebrate the value within all matter.


Graduating from BA (hons) Embroidery (MMU) in 2004, Helen continued to develop her interest in the material culture of craft studying MA Designer Maker (UAL) which she completed in 2012.

Helen was the 2013-14 artist in residence with Visual Arts in Rural Communities (VARC) and has lived in the North East ever since. In 2018 following on from her experience in community-based project management, she became Project Director of the Charity.

In 2019 Helen completed an AHRC funded, practice-based PhD from UoS (based at National Glass Centre) entitled ‘Recrafting Waste Using a Stitch-Based Methodology: A Collaboration Between Makers and Matter’. She has work in private and public collections including the V&A and National Glass Centre.


“Weird and wonderful. Thank you Rare Bird.”

“Delicately beautiful”

“Beautiful exhibition and space. Well done!”

“I often wonder what can be done with waste materials, washed up on the shore or disposed on the roadside. This gallery gives some inspiration to what can be done. ‘One persons trash is another’s treasure'”

“Loved this Helen. Really interesting work – the spring piece is mesmerising. What a fabulous space this is.”