Today we're talking to Manchester based artist Helen Davies. I've known Helen for a few years and never cease to be amazed by the things she creates - from knitted pictures of dogs to wedding cake topper monster versions of brides and grooms to knitted versions of Adam and Joe, Helen is an amazing talent.
You're a visual artist. Can you tell us a bit about your arts background and what sort of things you're currently working on?
I originally did a degree in Fine Art at Huddersfield, but afterwards I got really into textile crafts and in particular needlecrafts. I make crochet monsters based on real people, which you can see (and order!) at Helen Makes. I’m also currently working as part of Warp and Weft with my friend Jenny, making crochet masks of Mancunian women of achievement, to be exhibited at the Manchester Town Hall at some point in the future. Some works-in-progress are currently being exhibited at PS Mirabel.
What's your vegan story. How long have you been vegan and what brought you to make that decision?
I’ve been vegan for 5 years. I wasn’t vegetarian before but I was a very sporadic meat eater, and I normally ate vegan stuff – lentils, rice, tinned tomato based things – because it was cheap and I was poor. I started being properly vegan after I read a few books like Fast Food Nation and felt uneasy with the way animals are treated, I just thought it would make more sense to give up all animal products so I just went for it. After about four days I noticed that my skin was a million times better than ever, and I had some weird withdrawal symptoms and thought I was getting the flu! So it really seemed to me that veganism is a much healthier and happier way to be.
What three vegan food items would you hate to live without?
To be honest I don’t really buy that much fancy food, I still subsist on lentil curry and salad and stuff most of the time. I definitely couldn’t live without boring old hummus, it’s a vegan godsend with sandwiches and whatnot, and I like to add a dollop to whatever I’m eating. I’m also a big fan of bananas, so versatile as an egg replacer in cake, or as part of a smoothie, or frozen and whizzed up like ice cream. Third thing… I guess bread would be hard to live without! I like to make my own sometimes, and Dan Lepard does this gorgeous naan bread recipe which is great for vegans because it doesn’t have yoghurt in it!
You have a day job in Manchester's Northern Quarter. The NQ is the theme of the blog this month for Vegan MoFo. Which shops or eateries that you would recommend and why?
I’ve only just really discovered Go Falafel, which is a naughty chain but they do lovely salad stuff and are great if I’m stuck for lunch. Plus they’re not stingy on the hummus. I also rate Eastern Bloc and Soup Kitchen for soups although they’re not always vegan. For proper meals Ning is really lovely and everything is well labelled, and This and That is really cheap and fills you up a treat. If I’m having a sugar crisis I nip to V Revolution for a flapjack – I’m not really a big junkfood eater but it’s a good alternative if I’m craving a sausage butty.