Helen is the creative artist and designer of the 'Mad Martins' project, as well as designer, PR assistant and designer at Whippet Records.
Helen was born in Stockton-on-Tees on 22nd January 1969 and raised in Ferryhill, County Durham, where she has lived for most of her life. She has strived hard through sacrifice and struggle to achieve success.
On leaving school, she studied graphic design for two years at New College, Durham City. The following two years she studied at Cleveland College of Art & Design (CCAD) gaining an HND in visual communications, specialising in illustration. On leaving college, Helen moved from Middlesbrough to Murton, near Seaham, in the East Durham/Sunderland region.
Following college, Helen became a freelance designer, covering a broad range of disciplines including graphic design, illustration, sign-writing, portaiture, murals, tattoo design; building a varied and extensive portfolio in the process.
When her daughter Shannon was born in 1991, Helen worked hard to balance motherhood with the continuation of her freelance work. Then, around 1994/5 she started making videos of punk and rock bands, travelling throughout the UK and parts of Northern Mainland Europe, working as part of a team to create videos of such bands as Stiff Little Fingers, The Men They Couldn't Hang, 999, UK Subs, Angelic Upstarts, and many more.
Helen then worked for Durham County Council Arts Libraries and Museums Department, as part off their Open Learning Project. Entirely from scratch, she wrote teaching materials and study books for Apple Mac-based design programs, including Adobe Photoshop and Quark Express, over a period of many months, involved in pioneering a new form of learning in the region when there was scant knowledge of this kind of learning. Local press and TV coverage followed as the project rolled out across the county, with Helen travelling the region teaching students on both a one-to-one and group basis throughout libraries, community centres, church halls, and other venues.
At the same time, Helen became a part time IT lecturer for East Durham and Houghall College (now Peterlee College) and teaching design, spreadsheets, database, word processing, Sage accounts and computer programming to 17-18 year old students. She taught both on site in the college and in libraries and community centres throughout East Durham, taking IT out into the local mining villages, to students of all ages and backgrounds, as well as to young people with learning difficulties and behavioural problems, all of which she found extremely stimulating, inspiring and fulfilling.
When her contract with the Council ran out, Helen worked on a number of high profile community projects, including a major schools project with a local writer and graphic designer, for which she illustrated a children's spelling book, receiving lots of coverage in the local press. Throughout this time, she survived many major personal upheavals, including the loss of her home and divorce.
Relocating back to Ferryhill, Helen continued to develop her freelance artwork. This included children's educational posters for poster company Chart Media, which sell nationwide in branches of Waterstones, one of which is Chart Media's best-seller worldwide. She achieved all of this during a second extremely difficult personal period, including suffering a broken hand, which made continuing with her creativity a major challenge.
When her second child Aaron was born in 2001, Helen went into child-minding whilst still taking on commissions, which she would complete in the evenings during an intensive period of work, creativity and home-life. When Aaron started school and Helen had ended her child-minding role, she decided she wanted to get back into full-time artwork. For the time-being, however, she had to continue taking full-time day jobs, as she had two children to bring up on her own.
Finally, in 2011, Helen went totally self-employed and established 'Winkin' Bitsy Designs', whilst continuing to carry out extensive freelance work.
Starting relatively humbly with a market stall in Durham City Centre, she progressed to opening her own shop, selling her own work as well as various items by other local artists and creatives. She successfully ran the two projects concurrently for some time before giving up the market stall to focus full-time on the shop.
Though successful and popular, she realised, however, that the practicalities of running a shop as a sole trader, was taking up all of her time and thus stifling her creativity, so reluctantly gave it up and moved on.
Able, at last, to devote all her attention solely to her artwork, Helen set up both her own official website, Winkin' Bitsy, and an Etsy shop, and started having her designs printed onto a wide range of clothing and accessories. Her Winkin' Bitsy clothing range has proven extremely popular, sells worldwide, and has led to wholesale outlets in Australia, Austria and Eire. The online clothing business continues to grow, going from strength to strength, whilst Helen is now focussing on her first creative love which is illustration and design.
Her designs have been featured in numerous quality magazines and websites, including Women's Health Magazine, Germany, as well as being included in the Etsy 'Lookbook' two seasons running.
As an off-shoot to Winkin' Bitsy Illustration, Helen has even found time to branch out into furniture renovation. In partnership with sign-maker and graphic designer Geoff Siddle, Helen's Winkin' Bitsy Workshop takes items of furniture and decorates them with interesting and imaginative illustrations and artwork on a commission basis.
Helen's latest business collaboration is with her life-partner, Mad Martins Musical Director and Songwriter Gary Miller. She is now the official full-time designer and artist for Gary's various projects, including Gary Miller Songs, The Whisky Priests, Whippet Records and of course, Mad Martins itself. Furthermore, the pair are currently in the process of establishing a brand new Community Arts Organisation for the provision workshops and projects in their local area and beyond.