Meet Helen Bankers

Talented kiwi visual artist

When we asked talented kiwi visual artist Helen Bankers to collaborate with Becca Project... 

Meet Helen Bankers

we knew it was the beginning of something special....

Helen’s stunning vivid floral images were a match made in heaven for Becca Project’s style and all-natural essential oil-infused body oil. The result is a musky, rich and spicy fragrance with Helen’s dark, moody and vibrant imagery featuring on the bottle and packaging. With the added bonus of the box converting into a greetings card, this is a truly show-stopping gift for friends, family or a treat for yourself.

Here Helen joins us to talk about how she became a photographer and visual artist and where she finds the inspiration for her distinctive style.

What path led you to become a visual artist and photographer?

I’m not from an arts background, but at 10 years old I was exposed a Van Gogh exhibition, at Auckland Art Gallery, and was amazed. It totally sparked my love of art. At high school I just fell in love with photography and it felt natural to go and study it. Then I moved on to a Bachelor of Visual Arts.

Proceeding this I started assisting photographers – more hands-on practical experience than the fine art that I studied. After about four years assisting fashion, food, commercial photographers, including infant photographer Anne Geddes, I started freelancing. 

I shot lifestyle imagery for magazines and commercial clients. As years went by, I developed a strong interest in pursuing my own more creative side.

Around five years ago, I started producing artwork that was predominantly floral and so it began. It was a process of experimentation and as a side note - can I sell it? It was a very cathartic process for me.  I found it took my brain to a positive space. I’ve had some bouts of depression and it became my personal therapy. I’m lucky enough that my work calms me, makes me happy and draws me into positivity. The fact that others can get enjoyment out of it too is a huge bonus.

You have a very distinctive style – what is it about this type of imagery that inspires you?

I guess it’s experimenting and allowing myself to see things my way - how I see these flowers or bouquets.  And then I naturally want to take them into a studio. I loved the renaissance style and that look and feel. I wanted to do dark and moody – that became my style in an organic process.

I love colour and that comes from my grandmother as she was such a strong influence on my life. She and my Grandfather worked the land, had a market garden, and successfully created a livestock farm.   My Grandmother would always have beautiful vibrant flowers lining her gardens and driveway. She always wore bright colours with scarves and red lipstick, fuchsia skirts, that kind of technicolour. 

She became a very astute and tenacious business woman, she worked hard, and was highly regarded within her community.  She had a cheeky smile and direct manner.  She was a Dutch immigrant – she came here with nothing and built a life in New Zealand from the dirt up. She always encouraged to me to do what made me happy. Her name was Josephine – hence the inspiration for the body oil name ‘Dear Josephine’.

How did you first hear of Becca Project and how did the collaboration come about?

I’d followed them on Instagram (@becca_project) and loved their style and design, then they approached me having seen some synergy and alignment with our brands. I love that they are making everything themselves, it’s all handmade with love, consciously. They are a small business, I am a small business – we’re all working mums, sharing the experience and highs and lows. 

When they contacted me, they had a vision of a beautifully designed ‘one-off’ piece and we decided on the body oil and fragrance as a natural progression during our conversations.

How did you choose the fragrance for the oil?

It was such a fun process. We talked about existing scents and combinations that I liked and Bec and Carlie created a series of samples for me to take home and test on my skin, see how the scents layered and their longevity.

Right from the beginning I leaned towards myrrh and the spicy fragrances. I feel it represents me and my style perfectly. So, we went with that option and the ladies gave it a few tweaks and added a couple of other gorgeous essential oils - frankincense, sandalwood and vetiver.

How did you choose the artwork that you’ve used for the Dear Josephine body oil?

In the end it was a product of lockdown – but like so many facing these obstacles, we were resilient and turned it into a positive. The original plan to buy new flowers and shoot new images became impossible because the flower markets weren’t open and I couldn’t get any new blooms. So, I pulled together imagery that I felt went well with the fragrance and I visually connected them, not in a literal sense, but to draw people in. We had two images that we all loved in the end. One was an orangey, apricot vibe and the other was the Helleborus that we went with. It’s known as the winter rose and we all agreed it was just perfect.

Apart from your own artistic integrity, what’s the most important factor in running your own business? What do you feel passionate about providing for your customers in terms of how you operate?

Integrity, honesty and kindness are the three main veins. Without those you have nothing. If you can’t be honest, it won’t work. Personally, I feel a need to do good and make something worthwhile. That’s extremely important to me. Something that can be kept, used again – the whole idea of conscious purchasing I suppose. The body oil has beautiful packaging which can be kept and will be a stunning addition to any shelf. Also, the box converts to a greeting card which can be kept or sent to a loved one. The oil bottle can be reused or repurposed as a treasured vessel to keep. All this aligns with Becca Project and their ethos too - handmade, all-natural, no harm, local suppliers wherever possible.

And finally, what’s your favourite Becca Project fragrance (aside from Dear Josephine)?

I love the calming, relaxing fragrance of Dreamer. It really helps me float away…