The mum-of-four embracing a passion for sculpture | Vicky Meets
Vicky meets... sculptor Helen Solly.
• Where does your passion for art and sculpture stem from?
My parents were teachers. When we were children they took us around Europe in a VW camper van, stopping off to explore galleries and architecture. It instilled in me an appreciation of art. I had a university place to study textiles, but then I was scouted as a fashion model. I ended up modelling in London for big designers, including Nicole Farhi, Jean Muir, Jeff Banks, John Galliano and Betty Jackson. Then I had four kids. When they were a bit older I went to Chichester to study fine art and sculpture. I chose to do it as a full time degree and so I was coming home and cooking dinner, then studying into the night and writing essays.
• When did you graduate?
I graduated last year with a first. Not bad given I was also a full-time mum! Because of Covid graduation was delayed until this year, but it was lovely. I did also manage to do squeeze in a show at the end of last year between the two lockdowns.
• You won a pretty impressive prize recently, didn’t you?
I was really pleased to be shortlisted to the final ten [out of 600] in The Lady Petchey Sculpture Prize 2021, the sculpture element of the prestigious Holly Bush Painting Prize.
• What do material do you work with?
I work mainly with stainless steel because of its durability and longevity. It’s very physical and hard work, but I love it. Sometimes using the angle grinder is exhausting, and some pieces are so big that I can’t lift them and have to get my husband to help me. But I do like the big dramatic pieces. It’s frustrating when it won’t quite bend the way you want, but it is very satisfying. I did some work at a factory in Arundel that let me borrow some space in. Big burley blokes working on oil tankers and me working on a flower!
• What inspires your work?
Nature mainly – walks by the sea, plants and flowers, birds, waves. I’m working mostly on garden commissions at the moment. I start with a paper template and then create something out of a flat piece of metal that looks like it is flowing or animated in some way.
• What’s next for you?
It’s a year since I graduated and I can now feel that I say that I am a sculptor. My work will be included at an exhibition at Lauderdale House in London next summer, and I hope to exhibit more and to enter more competitions. I’d like to do some public art, too. Otherwise I just want to keep working. I like the idea that my pieces will outlive me. Maybe that’s something to do with my age!
• So you’re not missing the catwalk and wearing beautiful designer clothes?
Nowadays you’ll more likely find me in goggles, vibration gloves and a boiler suit!