Former hairdresser Helen creates new role as gallery owner and artist

Helen Henderson has always considered herself an artist. So when a persistent health problem caused her to switch careers she developed a new role as a gallery proprietor and maker.

Monday, 25th October 2021, 3:45 pm

Helen and her husband Karl have opened Absolute Enigma, a business selling her own art work and re-loved painted furniture and that of some 18 other craft makers and artists.

She runs the business from a unit at Bee Mill, Ribchester.

Helen, whose home is also in the Ribble Valley village of Ribchester, described how their business developed from creating and selling her own digital artwork and painting furniture to selling other artist's and craftspeople's work too. She said: "We decided people had struggled enough over lockdown. I knew about half a dozen artists would be interested ...now there's 19 of us."

Helen Henderson pictured at Absolute Enigma in Bee Mill, Ribchester (photo: Dan Martino)

The 55 year old said: "I did art at school up to A'level. I went into hairdressing and I had my own salon, which was called Enigma, at Wilpshire (near Ribchester) for 25 years . All the time I've done art - it's part of hairdressing and it's always been a hobby. I ended up with an injury to my neck. It wasn't improving."

She realised that the continuing discomfort - brought about by years of standing, washing, cutting,colouring and styling customers' hair had taken its toll and was not going to go away unless she changed her occupation.

She said: "I came out and rented it (the salon) out. It was hard having to give it up because I loved hairdressing. "

Determined to use her artistic skills in a new direction Helen decided her new creative business would, be called 'Enigma 2 all art' providing continuity with her salon's name. From there it was a natural progression to name the new gallery Absolute Enigma.

The fused glass tiles being sold in aid of a cystic fibrosis charity

Now, she says, she has her new "happy place" - the gallery in Unit 7 at the mill. Prior to expanding to sell other people's work she had a smaller office/workshop unit at the Mill, but took the leap to open Absolute Enigma when a larger ground floor unit became available.

Husband Karl, whose main work is cyber security, helped her transform the unit into a gallery space and also makes decorative signs for the business.

The determination to help find a market for other creators whose selling outlets had been reduced due to the pandemic lockdown powered her on and Helen said: "I love it. I'm absolutely passionate about art, design and anything arty. There are more people coming through the door and having a look so hopefully it will get better and better and we do sell online as well. From the beginning it's been to get people to appreciate a bit more seriously about art and what goes into it. Everyone who has come says it feels really nice and welcoming and thre's a nice eclectic choice of stuff."

*Absolute Enigma will be holding a special Christmas event on November 27 from 11am to 4.30pm when the makers will be in the gallery too.

The rocking horse (centre front) was made by Philip Crompton using recycled wood from an oak barrrel.

* Those whose work is currently on show at Absolute Enigma include woodworker Philip Crompton, jewellery maker Karina Begolo, artist Gill Bolton, and bottle light maker Emma Hilton. Andy and Jean McLaughlin are selling fused glassware in aid of a cystic fibrosis charity.

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A close-up of some of the work on display at Absolute Enigma