Helen Swain (nee Walters) has made pots in various styles and materials. Her first experience of working in a commercial pottery was in 1952 when she worked with Harry and May Davis in the village in Cornwall where her grandmother raised thirteen children. The pottery was situated in a mill that her father had played in as a child when it was derelict. She kept in touch with the Davises, and was still corresponding up to the time that May died.
From 1953 to 1955 Helen worked as a modeller at Royal Doulton in Lambeth with Agnete Hoy with whom she remained friends until Hoy's death. When she left Doulton, just before the closure of the Lambeth factory, she took a one-year teaching course at Hornsea School of art, and then carried on there as a teacher until 1963 when she married. Her mark changed from 'HW' to 'HWS', and later became 'HS'. From around 1970 she added the year.
Helen then started a thirty-year residence at Goldsmith's College in South London, where she ran the fine ceramics course. In 1965 she opened her own workshop in East London and and continued potting there while she was not teaching until the mid-1990s when her health prevented her from throwing.
Helen, who is a fellow of the Craft Potters Association, found the period starting in the 1980s when she was making free form pots and working with burnished earthenware the most rewarding.