Chiming the hours with windchimes
Since ancient times, wind chimes have been used to decorate structures, promote calmness and enhance connection to spirit. Hot Springs resident Helen Blowers creates handmade wind chimes to fuel her fleamarket shopping tendencies, to exercise her artistic talents, and to provide her friends and clients with customized gifts unique to their lifestyles.
“I guess it all started in 2010 when I was on bereavement leave after my grandmother passed away,” Blowers says. “Looking at a broken wind chime, I thought, ‘I can probably fix that myself,’ and I did. The next thing I knew, I was scrounging around thrift shops on my days off to find things from which I could construct thematic wind chimes – candle holders, ornamental boats, frogs or anything else I could drill a hole into. Then, I started shopping for things to add texture and melody – like macrame, buttons, beads, screws, bolts and silverware.”
A native of England, Blowers moved to Hot Springs in 1979 with her former husband, a French chef who was hired to staff La Mirabelle restaurant on Lake Catherine. Following their divorce, Blowers stayed here and started working in the operating and instrument rooms of National Park Medical Center. “One day, a guy at the hospital gave me an old part from the autoclave – the device we use to sterilize instruments in a pressurized high-temperature steam environment. My first thought was, ‘I could use this to make a wind chime.’ These days, I suppose I think in those terms about nearly everything.”
Through Blowers’ artistic eyes, she sees creative potential in even the most mundane objects. “I keep a mental list of which friends like what sorts of things,” she admits. “One doctor, for instance, likes yachts. So when I stumbled upon a slightly damaged model of a yacht at Abilities Unlimited, I bought it, made the necessary repairs and then used it as part of a wind chime. Another time, I bought a bucket of children’s wooden blocks and used them to make a wind chime as a teacher’s gift.”
Blowers says creating the right sound is the toughest part of making a good wind chime. “I’m not in the market to create thousand-dollar wind chimes like the ones you find in the gift shop at Garvan Woodland Gardens,” she admits. “Still, I want mine to be aesthetically pleasing. To do that, I’ve used things like old shower and towel rods, which I string together with 50-pound fishing line. I’ve also used scrap metal, aluminum, brass and copper – basically whatever tube-like shapes I can find! On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve used knives, forks and spoons; but they sound a bit more tinkly.”
Helen and her husband, Doug, live in a home they built 23 years ago on Highway 5 north. Recently, the couple converted an intimate wooden cabin on the property into a studio and gallery.
“In a convoluted effort to sell my wind chimes at the local farmers’ market, I bungee-corded a variety of the dangly things to a rack for transport. It was disastrous; they just don’t travel well. Maybe after I retire, I’ll figure out a better plan so that I can display them somewhere downtown during gallery walks.”
Blowers says the entire creative process is therapeutic for her. “Having worked 28 years in a hospital with a very supportive group of