As I wandered into Hellygog I found Jude, uncharacteristically, with nothing in her hands. She had just had to turn off her electric carving knife as it had ‘got a bit hot’. She told me, ‘We’d had ours for 18 years, it was a wedding present and I just broke it this morning carving this unicorn head. I had to send Steve out for another which has already overheated!’ And so you are plunged into the creative world of Jude and Steve Simms, a.k.a Mr & Mrs Hellygog.
Jude’s latest idea for a brand new head – a unicorn – was starting to take shape on the table in front of us. She lit up with excitement as she literally lit up first the unicorn’s horn, and then an antler. These were made as the product of an interesting and unusual creative collaboration with local sculptor Scott Gleed of Gleed3D using Crystal Clear, a resin-like product more usually used in aeroplane cockpits. The lights are provided by LEDs in the base. The finished product will be coming to the Hellygog Shop soon, watch this space, and if you pop in in the meantime you might, like me, see the creation in action!
Hellygog Heads Q&A with Jude
Jude is clearly continuously inspired to adapt and make new things. The Hellygog Shop is always a hive of activity and if you go in for a look around you will usually see Jude or Steve creating something, or running a workshop to help others create something of their own. I wanted to find out more about their signature product, the Hellygog Heads, and how they came about..
Q: How did you start off making heads?
A: Well. I started making toys we called Pyjama Pets [which – another string to the bow – became a children’s story, The Pyjama Farmer, written by Jude and illustrated by Steve] but when the regulations became too difficult to meet I started making heads. First off someone asked me to make a deer’s head out of a little boy’s pyjamas. People kept asking for them so I kept making them. It went from deer to highland cows, foxes to badgers, rams – and now unicorns! This one for example is for a local business with a firm association with coffee and so it’s made from their own coffee sacks. Commissions usually have a personal piece of fabric involved.
Q: Now you make a mixture of commissions and heads of your own choosing. Do these spring from things that inspire you at the time, perhaps based around a piece of fabric?
A: Yes, almost all the fabric we use is now recycled, mainly from bits that have been donated here at the shop. This large deer has been made from a mixture of fleece from Kirsty’s degree project (Kirsty of Fibre Alchemy who runs felt-making workshops at Hellygog – just one of the many creative courses on offer here), a fairisle cardigan and real antlers. It’s all about using upcycled stuff. Making something beautiful out of something discarded. People hand in so much now partly I think because they know it will get used and made into something here.
Q: This one is very tactile, and almost has his own personality. I love his eyelashes too. He feels very characterful. Do you give them names?
A: Yes – well I usually ask people to give them names. We’ve had Randolph, Logie and Alexander – the three biggest ones I’ve made. Randolph was my first.
Q: What sort of fabrics do you like people to hand in?
A: Anything really. We take inspiration from some amazing pieces we’re given, like last week we had some amazing tweed suits and jackets so I’m really looking forward to doing something with them. And jumpers – jumpers are always really useful, even if they have a hole in, or they’ve shrunk in the wash, we can use most of the material. Any interesting textures. Fabric is always welcome here!
Hellygog at Piping@Forres, 30th June
Event-regulars, Hellygog will once again be going on tour to the craft village at the last ever European Pipe Band Championships, Piping@Forres next weekend. While there are between 100 and 130 different local makers at any one time at the Hellygog Shop here at Logie Steading, it’s Jude and Steve’s own Hellygog products that you will find at this huge Forres event. This year they will be show-casing their ever-popular heads, as well as Steve’s new range of prints, cards and t-shirts.
New for piping this year will be these cute mini heads. You’ll be able to choose your whisky stave and choose your own heads so you can have, as Jude laid out here, mum, dad and the kids with a hook added for each. Your own personal coat racks made in front of you there and then (and they’ll be available in the Hellygog shop after piping@Forres).
So there you have it, a tiny taster of Hellygog creative life, or at least that relating to Hellygog Heads. There’s so much more at the Hellygog Shop, with 100-130 local makers in store at any one time, as well as Jude and Steve’s own makes. Jude and Steve themselves are a force of energy, with five children and alternative careers in physiotherapy and nursing, as well as their creative side, they are an inspiration to many of us who feel ‘there aren’t enough hours in the day’.
And if you’re popping along to Piping@Forres next weekend, do stop by the craft tent and say Hello. A trip to the piping is well worth it, a fantastic day out attended by people from Cornwall to Caithness, Canada to Cumbria, even for those of us who know next to nothing about piping – it’s a spectacle and a fantastic family friendly day out.