ARTIST INTERVIEW: Helen Johannesen of Helen’s Wines
Company: Helen’s Wines
Artist: Helen Johannesen
Helen was born in New York City. She started working in the restaurant industry while in college in Madison, WI. Her involvement at L’Etoile and the fine dining and farm-to-table driven experience inspired her to continue growing in the food and wine industry. She moved to Los Angeles and worked at Craft as a manager for two years before signing on with Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo in July of 2009. She is now a partner at Jon & Vinny’s in Los Angeles, and the owner of Helen’s, the gem box retail wine shop nestled in the back. Helen is the Beverage Director for not only Jon & Vinny’s, but for all associated restaurants in the group: animal, Son of a Gun, Petit Trois, Trois Familia, Trois Mec & Kismet. She also hosts wine classes and has a curated wine club, and was recently titled Best New Sommelier by Food & Wine in 2016.
Helen’s opened with Jon & Vinny’s in 2015. Inside you will find a focus on naturally-driven and organically farmed labels, small production vineyards, wine makers with integrity, dynamic thoughtful wines. The shop is a curation of allocated items, limited releases, favorite gems & new finds in a constant rotation.
Jon & Vinny’s with Helen’s is a celebration of food, wine & partnership that is rooted in a long friendship. With the wine shop, the goal was to create an experiential, curated environment, where people could find high quality, well-made wines at every price point. Wine should enhance life & be made with a certain level of purity. I wanted people to feel welcomed and have the ability to learn about what they are consuming in an understandable and fun way. Follow the dope palate and then wine will be irresistible!
Describe the path that led you to the work you do now.
I came to working with wine through my love of food. Learning about wine, where it’s from, the stories of who makes it & expanding my palate felt like a natural curiosity & evolved into a self study over time. I was so confused 10 years ago why amazing restaurants didn’t always have incredible wine to elevate the experience. Wine also felt very cold, elitist & alienating for most people, and with Helen’s I am trying to change that.
What would you say is the driving force behind your creative work?
Education, curiosity & joy.
How do you find a balance between practicality and beauty in your creations?
Form & function are something I think about a lot, especially with our gift boxes. I think how they look is important, but what drives me more is the experience that the contents will create once they are outside of the box.
What are your most important artistic tools?
Being able to discuss ideas.
How do you define success in your art or craft, or alternately, what does failure mean to you? What criteria do you use to evaluate your own work?
I think success can be measured in a few ways…obviously monetarily, but more important is if I am proud of the product and what I am doing and also if my customers are happy than that is all I need to feel successful.
Do you have any objects you like to keep around you as inspiration? What are they?
My work environment is constantly changing.
Do you have a daily working routine? Can you describe it?
Every day is different. My home base is Helen’s wines on Fairfax in the back of Jon & Vinny’s. I wake up, make a cappuccino at home, walk my dog & then head into a new day.
How is your work inspired by or influenced by nature and your surroundings?
Heavily inspired by food, entertaining, dining & my peers always!
What do you do, or where do you go to seek fresh ideas or renewed creative energy?
I like to exercise or travel!!
Do you think community is important to creativity? If so, how?
YES! I owe so much to my community that surrounds me, they are sounding boards & inspiration constantly.
Did you have any artists or creative people in your family? If so, how did they influence you?
My grandmother was always making art: she was a potter & a sculpture simply for her own self. She was so talented and it brought her so much joy and comfort.