While making the rounds at the Annual Sonoma County Art Trails last month, I came upon Helen Nicholas, an artist who sculpts & paints in the Majolica style. I went back to her studio a few weeks later to interview her because I was reminded that surface pattern design lives everywhere! We spoke for an hour and I wanted to share our conversation with you. Helen's journey reminded me that we head out in one direction and wind along our path discovering new opportunities at each bend. Here is Helen's art story.
With a BA in art from the University of Nevada, Reno, Helen started her career as an art director and designer including product development for companies who made needlework kits. This took her to Boston, New Jersey and finally to Southern California. Here she not only refined her style but also developed her business acumen.
Her career took a 180 degree turn when she noticed that the grand old 1920's houses in Santa Monica and Ojai California were being torn down to build new modern homes. Her aesthetic for preserving history and style prompted her to enter the construction business resulting in her securing her general building contractor's license. She could now find those homes that needed loving care and restore them to their original beauty, and still making a living.
When the real estate market started its downward trend she once again pivoted and opened an antiques store in Ojai, which featured fine china, Majolica ceramics and sterling silver. She then added an eBay store to reach a wider audience, becoming an eBay power seller.
After returning to the United States, Helen began working at the University of California Berkeley Arts Studios for two years, bringing her knowledge from Deruta to Berkeley students. She could also be seen in North Beach, the Little Italy of San Francisco, demonstrating Majolica painting at the front of the Birodi Ceramic Art Imports on Columbus Avenue. Here she sold small pieces and booked private commissions for larger personalized works.
In keeping with her love of the classics and the historical, Helen moved north to Sebastopol, California. Here she has set up her ceramics studio in the historic Brainerd Jones designed craftsman style summer home from 1915. The ceramic molding, casting and firing are done in the lower level, and her painting is done in the light-filled rooms on the upper floors.
You can learn more about Deruta Majolica in this video.
This 15 minute documentary is about Biordi Majolica.