week 2: Helen Hiebert's

The Artist

Helen Hiebert is an artist working primarily in handmade paper. A prolific paper maker, weaver and lantern creator, Helen has published several books, runs classes and she also exhibits experimental installations. I find her work captivating and have chosen to sound-paint to her artwork “Holding”.

The Art

“HOLDING” (approx. 18″ x 24″ x 18″)
Media: handmade abaca paper and linen thread
by Helen Hiebert
Price: US$ 1200
photo by Roberta Aylward

Helen’s website:http://www.helenhiebertstudio.com/Home.html/

" Holding" by Helen Hiebert

“Holding” by Helen Hiebert


Helen Hiebert’s comments:

I made this piece when my children were little and I was thinking quite a bit about motherhood.

You see a large and a small figure and the threads joining them are all of the “stuff” that connects them, both spoken and unspoken thoughts, words, and emotions.

"Holding"  rear view

“Holding” rear view




The Music

“THREADS” (6:52) © Helen Davey
an ode to motherhood and the threads that bind
For lap harp, mbira and voices (the mothers from antiquity), piano: keys & strings



I was deeply moved by Helen’s artwork. It’s multi dimensionality, capturing many aspects of motherhood and all of the personal associations we carry about the ultimate miracle of giving and nurturing life. I was quite mesmerised by the threads and the knots – holding tension and selfhood in the balance – between mother and child and the further  representational threading of our  umbilical connection back into antiquity along the maternal line.

As I began to work on this sound-painting, I became quite obsessed with the whiteness of the work and it’s symbolism. On my morning walks, I photographed some of the whiteness of nature at the moment here in Zurich, with her snow, fog and “riiif”  (the Swissies also call it verzuckert – “being sugared”). It fuelled my need to convey whiteness, something of the sacred, the all-ness and the one-ness of how we are all connected.

morning riiif

morning riiif

I decided on an ostinato (repeating pattern) played on piano keys as an underlying sound-carpet at 60 beats per minute  (our hearts at rest) to give the steadying “no matter what” pulse of the piece.

Those threads! I wanted to capture these as tensions and tenderness all at once for those threads that can hold us to ransom, pulling us undone; or threads that mend us so lovingly and hold our selfhood intact. For this underlying idea I settled on piano strings (struck with soft mallets), lap harp and mbira (african metal thumb piano).

One solo voice is the woman behind every mother…  The maternal line of voices had to come through too, echoes and whispers of the preceeding generations of our mother’s mothers – and the sacredness of that.




Riif - close up

Riif – close up

purity as exile

giving gentleness
giving relentlessly
crystalline and breakable

threads and needles
eyes, knots and tears
tension tearing
fragility bonding
incomprehensible joy
holding all
as one. (HD)



my lapharp

my lapharp

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing “Holding” and hearing “Threads”.
There’ll be another sound-painting in response to another artwork next week…

Same day,
Same time,
Same place (link).

I’d love to hear your comments below.

Thanks for dropping by and please feel free to share this around.

twiddly dee



16 comments to week 2: Helen Hiebert’s “Holding”

  • Helen

    Hey Christine, so glad you enjoyed this and that it was so distracting 🙂 There was so much more I could have said – I was trying to keep it fairly lean… Thanks for your comment

  • HunnyBunny

    Hi Helen. I’m really thankful that I listened to your sound painting before I received the link to this blog page & saw a photo of the art it relates to, and read reflections by you & the visual artist. The freedom that comes with enjoying a composition without any reference is wonderful! (for me)

    What music you make: light/breathing/spacious/heartbeating/resting/mother. The tonal contrast added by the mbira to all those ethereal resonating strings – divine!

    Once we’d played it through a few times, in the waking parts of a cool sleeping morning in the mountains, it was fascinating to follow the link to this page & find the transparent threads of artwork & read your thoughts – aha! moments …such correlation.

    Between your sound painting, the visual art & reflections, I was brought to remember the sound of a mother’s heart beating (as heard by a foetus) and also the sounds of an umbilicus pulsing & rushing with life & steadiness. I wonder if ever add these sounds to your music?

    I love what you are doing Helen. xxx

  • Helen

    Hiya HunnyBunny,

    Thanks for such a rich comment, thanks so much. Great to hear you enjoyed the befores and afters of seeing the post. Especially good to know you’re memory was triggered too re your own experiences around these themes. Happy mountain weekend mornings 🙂

  • Kate

    Ach. There are mountains in the distance but between them and me is the bay. I listened and felt the minutiae of the water breaking, the crystals of salt clinking together as I was transported by your music. Interlacing of molecules. And then in the foreground, I caught sight of the delicacy of the hydrangea petals in the vase on the window sill.. clustered together.. beauty separate and interlaced. The sounds struck these chords and were woven into the delicate fabric of the art work before me, the cloth brought together with thread,thank you xx

  • Helen

    Oh Kate,

    i LOVE that the art and the music can give this much to you.
    And… I am transported by your prose! Your imagery has me inside the room you were in, gazing at that vista, hearing the salt, drinking in the hydranger hues… Talk about beam me in there Scotty (without the need for Scotty, bless his cotton socks) 🙂

  • I love this! Of course I’m a huge fan of both Helens’ work, so it’s extra fun to see them together.

  • I’ve decided I’d like a whole album of this. Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeez.

  • love this interpretation, it acknowledges the whiteness, delicacy and fineness of the work. i can see why you place this next to the image of snow. the absolute stillness of it…..

    • Helen

      Oh yes – the white thing just had me transfixed. It was like being bathed in a sacred atmosphere: outside the studio the world was white and inside I was totally involved in Hiebert’s artwork… Synchronicity?

  • I love the heart beat pace and feeling of gentleness that interprets the art in a sensitive manner

  • Helen,
    I love how you painted the sound for Holding. I am envisioning you plucking and playing the threads between the mother and child parts of the sculpture, although those threads are not at all taut so it wouldn’t work in reality! I like what you wrote to about the maternal line, because I think about this all the time – how all mothers are connected. It is beautiful!

  • […] inspired by their work. I was honored to be featured on week 2, and she’s now up to week 32! Click here and scroll down to listen to the piece she made inspired by Holding. And then be sure to check out […]

    • Helen

      Helen, thanks for your blog post comments. Seems strange that there’s only 20 pieces more to complete Project “52 Sound-Paintings”… It was great to have you on board.

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