Maker of the Week: Helen Dealtry


Today’s guest post comes from designer Jenny Gordy of Wiksten. A former Brooklynite, Jenny lives in Iowa City, Iowa, where she’s found a likeminded community of knitters and crafters.

Helen Dealtry, the head designer for textile company Woking Girl Designs, recently invited me to visit her workspace in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The studio windows look out over a courtyard garden, where Helen gathers some of her best inspiration for the prints she designs. Plants and vases of flowers fill the studio, bringing nature’s inspiration inside.

Helen has a talent for painting lush florals, but her newer work also includes geometric patterns. As she sorted through sample yardage, I was able to peek at some of her designs printed on silk.

I was fascinated to learn more about Helen’s process and to watch her at work. It all begins at the mood board.

She has an ever-evolving collection of inspirational images, such as tear sheets from magazines, photos of artwork, and even little doodads like fly-fishing lures! Next to the mood board is the table where she creates the artwork.

Painting her designs on paper, she works in layers. I photographed as she put the finishing touches on a retro scenic print. On average, she completes two paintings a day.

Finished artwork is scanned into a computer and then stored in flat files by season. The clients are fashion labels, who purchase the prints for use in their collections.

As well as designing textiles, Helen has been developing some new products for Working Girl Designs. Her line of silk scarves is currently available on the company’s website, and she’s in the process of creating some simple garments featuring her prints.

Preferring a hands-on process, Helen drapes and sews the product prototypes herself. She also keep everything local: all production takes place close-by in order to support the community economy.

Before we finished, I asked her to answer a few fill-in-the-blanks:

If I wasn’t doing this, I would …
Probably be working with dogs, although I’m not sure in what capacity. Anyone who knows me can vouch for how happy animals  make me so that would probably be up there on my list.

Creating makes me feel …
Frustrated a lot of the time, but that’s part of what continues to drive and push me, what will keep me developing and improving, I hope!

I find inspiration in …
Nature, the city, emotions, people. I think I feed mainly from natural form, in what I do for a living. But meeting a new person who can inspire me, that can be an incredible catalyst.

I do my best work …
When I have allowed myself the preparation time and space to be inspired before a new project. I surround myself with color, textures, photos, poetry, music, whatever is needed to create the mood. I can only allow myself that confidence and speed on the canvas, if I’m feeling organized mentally. Creating time to be inspired, that’s the challenge!

The best advice I can give is …
When it comes to design, draw every day and push yourself to try something that is hard for you.

Its really important to keep your ‘hand’ in design. With all the new apps, filters and design programs out there it is easy to forget your own individual style. You are one step ahead if you can use technology to your advantage, adding to your own abilities and setting you apart from the crowds. So don’t forget the good old basics!

3 people who inspire me are …
Somali Mam
Cy Twombly
Helen Keller

My definition of success Is …
Liking who and what you are during the process is the most important part of the journey to true success. It’s the ability to produce joy and gratitude while accepting possible failures or obstacles and using them to create change and growth while working towards what you hope to accomplish.

3 things I’d like to learn are …
Another language
To take more risks!


Comments (10)

  • Beautiful work. Such a treat to see inside her studio.

  • Just loved getting a glimpse into her textile design process. What a lovely space she has! Thanks for sharing the link to your piece- it was great

  • great interview. i’m mesmerized by helen’s prints. she’s so talented!

  • Your work is beautiful, thank you for sharing your thoughts! I’ve worked on textile, cotton & silk, for 30 yrs. I thought I would have found a number of other artists who worked in similar medium. You are one of a few I have finally found. I don’t have a web site yet, however I can be found on Facebook, Cheri L. Norton. If you’ve the inclination & time please feel free to contact me. Painting & inking on textile is just so different than paper & I would love to talk with you.
    Thank you,
    Cheri L. Norton

  • Nice article.. :)

  • First exposure to your studio, great stuff! You know we love ya, keep on doing that Daltry thing in all you do. Dozer loves you too !

  • I have seen some of Helen’s beautiful designs on women’s and children’s clothing. Her scarves are absolutely beautiful – true art! It is fun to see her work profiled in such a high profile forum. I look forward to seeing more!

  • LOVE her work! It’s so beautiful. Helen is definitely an inspiration and I really liked her honesty about the creative process and her advice. Great interview.

  • Wow! She is amazing! How fun to see her beautiful studio…

  • [...] textiles by Helen Dealtry. Her sense of colour and nostalgia really appeals to me. I came across an interview she did and found her process and outlook very [...]

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