Conversations with Helen Greenstein

Helen Greenstein is an artist in an unconventional sense. Not saying that her work is not classified as art, it is just something strikingly uncommon. Greenstein's work is astoundingly detailed and equally beautiful. More importantly, Helen's work simply makes you happy! Her heritage plays an equally important role in her chosen creative medium. We caught up with Helen to inquire about her creative process and background. This is what she had to say.

Can you tell me about your background and how it factors into your work?

I come from a very strong Greek heritage. My mother is from Greece and my father’s side of the family was Greek American. In the Greek culture sewing and creating with our hands is how women expressed themselves. My mom is a master embroiderer, my Greek Grandmother handmade lace and my American Grandmother did every other craft you can think of. So I grew up hand sewing, making lace and going to paint your own pottery places. All these crafts and my art studies in school most definitely are all used in what I do today.

How did you get into creating with Felt as a medium?

It was chance. I’m one of those annoying artists that is good at whatever medium I pick up. The trick was finding something I loved. So, I’ve tried it all, from clay sculpture to photography to painting, etc. And then, back in 2008, I was in an Urban Outfitters (when they used to have cool stuff) and I picked up a book on how to make stuffed animals in a Japanese style. They were made by hand stitching felt together and stuffing it. I made a few of them and I knew, this was it. 

Once I discovered good blended felt, and not the terrible plastic stuff craft stores sell, I loved the medium. I love that it can have a clean line look. I love its bold colors. And most of all, I love how much I’ve learned to manipulate it to make things that you wouldn’t think could be made out of felt.

Can you describe your creative process?

I most definitely need ideas to simmer. Some may call it procrastination, but it’s just that my brain hasn’t worked it out yet. Most times I’ll draw out the project in illustrator, which will turn into my templates or patterns. From there, it could be a lot of trial and error, or I can just make it in the first try. 

It’s hard to describe how I work… how my brain processes ideas. Musicians hear melody and rhythms in everyday life, I look around and I just know how to build things. I can work out the steps and techniques in my head. I’ve always been very visual, it’s how I think and work.

Where do you go for inspiration?

A lot of my inspiration comes from other artists. I follow artists on Dribbble and Instagram. Seeing what they’re working on and creating inspires me to push my felt to new levels. There aren’t many other felt artists out there, but I follow a couple of them. I think we motivate each other. And we’ll even give each other tips. 

Where would you like to see your work take you in the future?

My dream is to create a felt world. I’d like it to come to life as a movie or TV show. With my latest project that I’m working on, I needed to turn my dolls into puppets. And just like when I discovered felt, I knew this was the direction I need to take. I had the privilege of visiting the set of The Muppet TV show and I was in tears. I knew that was a world I needed to be in. 

Do you have anything in works that you’d like to share with our audience?

With the Holidays approaching I’ll be making a lot of portraits of people and dogs. The one I’m most excited about is a wedding couple portrait from 1964. I am a huge fan of the 50s and 60s, so this one is right up my alley. I also have a high exposure project with my dolls as puppets that has taken over my life. But that, I can’t talk about yet. But MAN, it’s so exciting!

You can check out more of Helen's amazing work at her website!