Helen Miles trained with master craftsmen in Greece who taught using traditional methods with a focus on Byzantine iconography. She later became interested in Roman mosaics and now makes contemporary pieces inspired by ancient designs.
Born in Glasgow in 1963, Helen studied English at Oxford University before moving to America and the Middle East to work as a journalist. It was in 2003 while living in Thessaloniki in Greece, a UNESCO city famous for its concentration of Byzantine churches, that she began to study mosaics in the Byzantine tradition. This led to an interest in Roman mosaics and her passion for them went on to become a full time profession.
Helen is based at Out of the Blue Abbeymount Studios in Edinburgh. Up until now she has specialized in using Greek stone and marble but is currently exploring the use of Scottish stone in her mosaics as well as Wincklemans unglazed porcelain. Her aim is to preserve the simplicity and directness of early mosaics while producing works which suit the way we live now.
‘I have always loved things which are made by the slow and deliberate accumulation of parts whether the dry stone walls of the North or a sentence that contains all that needs to be said. The result seems casual, organic and simple but the process is usually long and far from effortless. So it is with mosaics.
‘Roman mosaics provide a rich source of inspiration from their braided borders to their use of colour and surprising themes. I have traveled widely to both obscure and well known sites to see ancient mosaics in situ and study them closely in museums. The Romans did not confine mosaics to a decorative element in interior designs but used them to relay messages about their owners loves, fears, status and communities. It is this which fascinates me and keeps me firmly in their thrall,’ says Helen.