It was back in 2005 that it all began when I responded to my husband with, ‘I can paint that for you,’ as he contemplated bidding for a hand-painted Peru 2nd Subbuteo team that was listed on ebay, A few days later, after being given the challenge of proving my words, there presented to my husband was, rather strangely, not a Peru team but two national football teams representing Pakistan and India.
Why it started with those teams, I’m not sure. I think I just wanted to do something a little different, unique perhaps. We decided to try and sell them on ebay and see if there was any interest. A week later and with nearly £40 in hand from some eager Italian Subbuteo collectors, I thought there might be something in this. I had always enjoyed art from an early age but I had never once considered that I might paint miniature footballers to earn some extra income.
At that time, I was still working on weekdays until about 3pm each day, but, as my husband only arrived home around 6pm, I decided to use those spare hours to paint up some more national teams from around the world that Subbuteo had never produced. Before long, I was receiving requests from literally on my doorstep in Wirral to places as far away as New Zealand. It seemed that lots of people wanted the team they supported painting or a team that they had longed for Subbuteo to produce but had never happened.
Unfortunately, my ‘proper’ work closed a few years later and I was officially unemployed. With family commitments high on the agenda, and my husband still working, we decided that we would give it a go and I would try to work from home making as much as I could reasonably expect in order to add a little extra into the family pot. You’ll never make a fortune out of it, the hours painting are long and sometimes the only reward you get is the sense of achievement of seeing the team completed but it slots perfectly into our family routine.
After nearly 15 years of persevering, I have built up some much valued, friendly and regular buyers, who themselves have built up some very unique collections mostly through ebay and also through commissioned work that I take on when I have the time. I’ve engaged with the Subbuteo community and general football fans from all corners of Europe and sometimes further afield, people with a genuine passion for collecting Subbuteo or for football in general. I like to feel that I am creating something that little bit special and bespoke that ypu can’t really find elsewhere.
Anyway, onto the subject that you are all probably most interested in; Cambridge United. ‘Why Cambridge? And why 1961-63?’ you may ask. Well, as I mentioned earlier, I have always attempted to find something that bit different, something which captures the imagination through not just its football legacy but the artistic interpretation. I’ll always be an artist first and foremost whilst my husband who assists me will always be the avid football fan. I draw on his knowledge of football, considerably built up from traipsing across the country watching a lower division football team, and what he would be interested in, to inspire my choice of teams and kits. I have come to learn that if he would buy it, then so would others. Retro, is massive with him, and I had originally concentrated on recreating winners of competitions from across Europe from past years. However, I was constantly getting requests for retro shirts from other clubs as people came across my work so I began to look into some of the ‘smaller’ (sorry to use that phrase) clubs from England and Scotland. These were the clubs that were the true heart of their local communities where people, akin to my husband, had built up lifelong allegiances but struggled to get any unique merchandise, or for that matter any merchandise, for Christmas and birthday presents. Believe me, I have been there so many times trawling through the internet for that special item.
Therefore, I decided to add commissioned Subbuteo club frames and prints
You can contact Helen via on twitter @helcol123subbu1 or #helcol123subbuteo.
The Subbuteo team can be purchased via The ebay link is:-
Happy Harry's blog
I'm the living embodiment of the spirit of the U's, and I'll be blogging whenever I've got news for you, as long as I don't miss my tea.