Featured Student: Helen Mawdsley
“When will I stop learning more? Stop acquiring more crafts? Slow down all the making I do?” If you’ve thought “never” to all the above (which is great!), let me introduce you to our featured student, Helen Mawdsley.
Helen learned how to knit (along with mending and sewing) at the very young age of four, from her grandmother’s friend. While she had learned the knit stitch, it wasn’t until her twenties that she learned how to do a purl stitch and that “… opened up a whole world of texture.” Helen continued to sew, quilt, and spin in her twenties, dye in her thirties, and then picked up a passion for wood and turning tools by hand.
One More Tool
Around two and a half years ago, she was browsing YouTube and a video on wood turning came up. “Instantly, I thought that if I learnt to [turn wood], then I could finally make all those spindles for making handspun yarn that I’d like to try but have no idea where to get them from,” says Helen.
So, like most doers do, she bought some tools and taught herself how to make what she wanted. And as most doers learn, she quickly found out that she loved the craft and instantly bought more [read: everything].
“I started out with a small bench-top lathe, but rather quickly, this took hold, and now our garage is fitted out as an industrial wood shop. In addition to the lathe (and chisels), there are a fair amount of other tools needed to process lumber … such as maple, cherry, and walnut … all trees which grow food, and thus, are not toxic.” If the volume and variety of spindles weren’t enough, Helen also makes other fibre crafting tools: yarn bowls, mending mushrooms, buttons, tapestry bobbins, and shawl pins to name a few. All this making has evolved into Helen founding: Mawdsley Fibre Arts to sell her woodworking for others to support their love of fibre.
When Helen isn’t in the wood shop, with her kids, working a full-time job, or gardening, she also plays with fibre. “I am rarely idle,” she explains, “even if I look idle. I’m always thinking about troubleshooting something (even if I’m just sitting). I get up fairly early in the morning, but I also go to bed on the early side too—sleep is important, and I don’t sacrifice it. What else can I say, ‘introverts rock!'”
Helen is continuing her fibre education and using some of her valuable time to watch classes and learn at The School of SweetGeorgia. She enjoys all the classes, but her top favourite’s are Spinning up a Level—”because [Katrina Stewart] emphasises how important consistency and intention are when one is trying to get a specific outcome”—and Weaving Twills on 4-Shafts.
Helen adds, “Felicia is incredible at taking a large, complex body of knowledge and parceling it out in pieces that make sense, are easy to follow, and very realistic to apply in a self-directed learning context. Rather than overwhelm with content, she delivered the content in a way that really encouraged and inspired me to explore further.”
Plans to Grow
When asked about future plans for her business, she happily exclaims that she will be moving to ‘greener pastures’… literally! “We are moving back to our rural roots (both my husband and I grew up on farms). Farming and wood turning will be my full-time jobs within a year. Yes, there will be sheep and alpaca on the farm, as well as chickens, and hopefully a dairy cow and some horses. I am also working on adding more types of fibre art tools, such as spinning wheels, blending boards, drum carders, as well as other household items.”
Which means Helen has some more learning to do so she can continue to build and expand her business …. and farm, which I have no doubt will be amazing.