Artist Helen Bronte Boyd tells Carolynne Dear she’s ready for a new challenge after 16 creative years in Sai Kung

Helen Bronte Boyd pictured in H Studio, Sai Kung

We moved to Hong Kong in 2002 as a family of five. It was just before the SARS outbreak. We were drawn to the Sai Kung area for its space, better air quality and sense of community. We lived in Clearwater Bay for six years, then made several moves around Sai Kung Town and this month we’re moving to Hong Kong Island for the first time. Now we’re empty-nesters, we want to try something different. It will be interesting to see how things compare living in the “big town”.

I think most artists say they were always artists. My earliest memories are of creative pursuits; I studied art in school, checked out art school for university and then applied for nursing. I didn’t feel I could pursue art as a serious career option, but I always kept something arty happening around me. So I didn’t officially study creatively until my youngest started school. I think as a mature student and a mother you have more focus as your time is precious.

I arrived in Hong Kong newly graduated and held my first solo exhibition in a SoHo gallery one year later. I partnered in that space and then started running art classes, workshops, talks and exhibitions for other artists. I made a lot of mistakes on the business side, but pushed on regardless. A couple of years ago I moved my studio to Sai Kung and founded my own business, H Studio Gallery, with the aim of bringing more art to Sai Kung.

It’s been hard work, but the reward has been seeing the local community embrace the studio. It has blossomed with exhibitions by emerging and established artists, weekly art classes, regular “Stitch and Bitch” sessions, artist demonstrations and talks. Working so closely with other artists makes for great friendships. There’s a lot of trust and faith involved on both sides.

In 2016 I embarked on a year-long project where I created arty heARTs and posted them to people around the world to generate positivity and kindness. People were asked to go online and nominate a friend, or a colleague or a relative who they thought deserved a “heART”. The heARTs ended up in the hands of 300 people in over 40 countries. I was contemplating an exhibition when the project came to an end last April, when I was approached by my good friend Natasha Low-Kefford with the idea of running a fundraiser for the “House with Heart” home for girls in Nepal. Together, we rallied the Sai Kung community and over 50 artists and 20 businesses stepped forward to offer time, money and products for a Sai Kung Art Walk. It was an amazing event that included exhibitions at H Studio Gallery, The Hive co-working space and local restaurant Momentai. Ten local businesses agreed to us hanging over 600 paper hearts many created by local school children at their venues. It just goes to show that people do care and that love and kindness do matter.

Moving forward, I’m going to be concentrating on my own work practices for a while. H Studio Gallery closed last month due to the move. This month I will be doing an artist talk and demo at local artist Rachel Smith’s Senselessart Studio Gallery in Prince Edward. Next March I’m taking part in a group exhibition at the VA, which is hosted by the up-and-coming Kambal Gallery, so I’ll be working solidly towards that over the next six months. I’ve recently taken the plunge into the world of podcasting, interviewing fellow artists from all over Hong Kong. You can tune in at “In Da Studio with HBBoyd” on Anchor. It’s sad moving on from my space in Sai Kung, but I’m ready for the new challenges.

Working six or seven days a week doesn’t provide much opportunity for downtime. Even when I relax I still love to paint, draw and create. Being creative focuses the mind and can be as beneficial mentally as meditation. I also enjoy catching a movie with my husband and we love to travel and discover new cafés, restaurants and museums. But I’m just as happy with my own company, wandering Hong Kong sketching and photographing.

Sai Kung has an amazing assortment of small businesses that are so worth supporting. I love eating at Cena, Momentai and The Conservatory. Blacksmith in the old town does an amazing Rooibos cappuccino and Moni Stand coffee and record store, also in the old town, rocks a great collection of vinyl. On gallery opening nights, I call on catering company For the Love of Good Food, while Moj and her staff at Tala’s take care of my hair.

I’ve always popped into Central at least once a week. I love training at Joint Dynamics and grabbing Vietnamese afterwards at BEP on Wellington Street. I like a stroll along Hollywood Road to check out the galleries and PMQ is one of my favourite places to take visitors. A fossick in Cat Street markets for old trinkets always goes down well, too. I’m really looking forward to exploring the Island more.