• Dreamers + Doers: Jeannie Helzer

    Dreamers + Doers highlights emerging artists, entrepreneurs, and up-and-coming ones to watch. Whether it’s starting a new business, creating something beautiful, or just daring to do things differently, we stand behind those taking steps toward something new.

    Hailing from Portland, Oregon, weaver Jeannie Helzer creates large-scale wall hangings from super plush wool roving, and the results are unique, ultra-cozy wall accessories. We visited her studio to find out more about her process, where she gets her best work done, and what’s next for the talented artist.
    Photos by Michael J. Spear

    Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and where you live?
    Hi! I live in Portland, Oregon with my fiance, our son Ladd and our chihuahua Waffle. I was born and raised here but probably won't leave for awhile because it rules. I’m a Pisces to a tee: I can’t make my mind up about anything and I'm usually wandering around in an imaginary dream world in my head.

    How did you get started in weaving? Is it something you went to school for?
    No, no. I went to school for fashion merchandising. I interned at a high-end department store after that but it was the worst, so I went back to working at a second-hand shop that I loved. I’ve been super into art and design since as long as I can remember, taking all of the art classes as a kid. When I tried weaving it just felt really natural to me. I taught myself from weird YouTube weaving videos on my little handmade loom. It just kind of stuck.

    What can you tell us about the pieces that you're selling at UO? What was the process for creating them?
    I made three pieces for UO. First I started by collecting inspiration. I pulled color ideas from the inspiration story for the season and picked up wool samples. I always start my weaving with a natural wool base and fill in the spaces with dyed wool. I drew up samples and then got to work! I would say only about 20 percent of the process is actually weaving. There is so much more that goes into it. My friend Holly owns the most adorable shop here in town called HAUNT and I am forever grateful for her letting me use it as my studio. It is such an inspiring space filled with unique items from all local designers. It was really easy for me to get distracted in there.

    Can you tell us a bit more about how you decided which colors to pull?
    I knew the collection was going to be released in the fall/winter so I chose colors that reflected the seasons. Cinnamon, saffron, browns and deep plumb. Basically all of the warm colors of the leaves before they fall off of the trees. If you’ve been to Oregon in the fall, you know.

    Anything specific that has been inspiring you lately, either in textiles or otherwise?
    Honestly I’ve been feeling so uninspired lately but I’m totally embracing that. I’m not trying to force it and that’s a good thing. There have been times in the past when I’ve felt really frustrated because I had the motivation but I wasn't feeling the inspiration. It’s easy to feel stuck but it won’t last forever. When I am feeling inspired it’s like a creative burst that I can’t stop so it is nice to take a break from that for a bit to focus on other things like the three weaving workshops I'm teaching in the upcoming months.

    Tell us something we don't know about weaving!
    It can be super inexpensive and simple to get started! You definitely do not need a fancy loom with expensive materials. I [initially] worked on a loom that I made out of a piece of cardboard (google that) and created one of my favorite weavings to date on it. The loom I make all of my larger weavings on is just a simple frame drilled together from some wood bought at the hardware store.

    As far as materials go, get creative. You can really weave anything... strips of fabric, vintage yarns, sticks, whatever. There are so many resources and DIY weaving tutorials online. You don't have to drop a ton of cash to get started. Another thing to know is that the weaving community is filled with really inspiring and helpful ladies and dudes. If there is one thing that social media is good for it’s connecting people, and for me it has been an invaluable tool. It’s nice to add a “social” aspect to an otherwise very independent craft. Regardless of skill level there is so much support towards one another's growth and development in the weaving community. It's really incredible to be a part of.

    What's your favorite piece you ever made?
    My favorite piece is the first large piece I ever made. It’s hanging in my apartment and I stare at it every day. With some of my pieces, if they are hanging around for a while, I get sick of them. But I’m super into this one, and I’ll probably keep it forever. I had no idea what I was doing and I don’t think I could duplicate it if I tried.

    What is a dream project for you?
    Hmm, I don’t know. Working with UO was pretty cool. Maybe to make a piece for a crazy celebrity’s house? Kanye, call me.

    What are five things you've been interested in lately?
    These are things I’m pretty much interested in always
    1. Seinfeld and Summer Heights High reruns
    2. Sushi at this place called Saburo’s by my house
    3. The Descendents
    4. Coffee and people watching
    5. Sleeping

    One thing you'd like people to know about you or your process?
    I will always spend way more time analyzing and staring at a weaving-in-process, trying to decide if I like the direction it’s headed, than I do actually weaving. I’ll stare at it, walk away, come back to it and stare again, look from a different angle, take a break, eat some pizza, come back to it, ask my 2-year-old son if he thinks it’s pretty, take a photo of it, mess with it a little more, and then remind myself it’s not that serious.

    To see more from Jeannie, follow her on Instagram
    Shop Jeannie x UO