Commission by National Glass Centre, 2017. Images Alex Crosby
“Up-cycling’ is fast becoming an established and even a standard approach within the crafts. There is, however, nothing standard about Helen Pailing’s practice. Her approach is utterly uninhibited, fresh and original. It is difficult to discuss one subject at her workstation without being distracted by the evidence of numerous developing ideas. Helen Pailing’s work is not just successful because of her stimulating approach, but because she combines originality with an innate sensitivity for design and attention to detail. Her work has the quality of contemporary jewellery and a strength of concept normally evident in the approach of artists at a much later stage of their career development.
Assured by the quality of her practice, National Glass Centre commissioned Helen Pailing to create a new work to be displayed in the building’s double height foyer space. The space is a prominent location within a busy public building dedicated to the presentation of the highest international standards in contemporary glass. Helen’s work was also programmed to replace a major work by the artist Magdalene Odundo OBE. Seemingly uninhibited, Helen created and installed ‘Adorn’ on time and on budget. The name of the piece is highly appropriate as the building now wears its own contemporary jewellery. Everything about the piece has relevance to our time, our priorities and our location. The hanging system suggests a nod to the nautical significance of the area. The structure reflects the design of the building’s lighting system. The glass elements are made from the waste created by the lamp workers resident in the building. They draw our attention to both environmental issues and the exceptional skills of the makers and their direct link to Sunderland’s long-term connection with glass. The copper foil alters and enriches the quality of the glass. Applied by peers, friends, family and National Glass Centre’s visitors the shared experience of making builds a unified sense of ownership to the piece.
I very much look forward to following the progress of Helen Pailing’s career.” Julia Stephenson, Head of Arts, National Glass Centre