First of all, we wanted to know a little bit about the creative mind behind the art. We asked Sarah to tell us about herself:
“I’m an artist living in Shaftesbury, a small town in North Dorset, which is surrounded by stunning countryside made up of rolling hills and wooded vales – picture the landscapes described by Thomas Hardy and you’ll get the idea! I have a quite messy but productive garden and a spaniel to walk so I spend a lot of time outside and it’s from those places that I find the inspiration for my work.”
Sarah used to run a shop in town but prefers selling online now and has some amazing products on offer in her Etsy and Folksy shop you can purchase. The artwork Sarah makes is undeniably detailed and impressive – but how did she first get into crafting?
“I studied graphic design and illustration at art college in Bath nearly 30 years ago and since then, along with juggling family commitments (including 10 years of home schooling my youngest daughter), I’ve always made and sold my art work. I started out by making 3D papier mache decorative pieces which were heavily inspired by illuminated medieval manuscripts. I sold these, along with greeting cards from my paintings and illustrations, at galleries and fairs in the south west. Then, about 15 years ago, I went on a linocut course and caught the printmaking bug and since then it’s made up a significant amount of my creative output.”
Linocuts take a lot of skill to produce. Sarah seems to have mastered this technique as she also runs occasional courses for beginners, and she gave us an insight into the whole process of one design:
“Every design starts with a sketch which I make bearing in mind that it has to successfully translate to a black and white or one-colour picture. I do sometimes work with multiple colours and these are created using a different block for each colour, printed one after another on top of each other. My compositions tend to be detailed studies, rather than complex scenes so it’s all about keeping it simple and paring back extraneous marks and lines. I think carefully about whether I will be cutting away some delicate lines to create a white design on a solid background, or whether I want to cut away the background to leave the subject in relief, ready to take the ink. I think that some of my most successful designs are the most under-stated and, apparently simplest, such as those in my seedhead series. Once happy with my drawings, I then transfer the image onto lino, cut away the areas that will remain white, ink up the block and then, using pressure from the back of a spoon, transfer the print onto some good quality paper. It’s a very accessible and low-tech process but you can get stunning results!”
So, we wanted to know how long this whole process took. Sarah told us she completed designs bit by bit in between family time and part time jobs so rarely does a design all in one go but if she put her mind to it, she “could probably make one new print within a week”.
Sarah’s artwork usually surrounds nature which includes designs of plants, blackbirds, songbirds, cows, feathers, robins and many more – we wanted to know if nature was one of Sarah’s inspirations or if this was just a coincidence:
“Sometimes it’s plants and flowers where I see shapes and patterns for designs, or it’s the birds that visit our garden and catch my eye with their bright colours and decorative feathers. Further influence comes from other artists – I love the work of 20th century British designers like Edward Bawden, Eric Ravillious, also the painters of the Bloomsbury group with their unique house, Charleston in East Sussex. Birds, flowers and foliage have inspired artists for centuries and I guess I’m continuing in that tradition, as practised by the medieval monks decorating their detailed manuscripts, to designers like William Morris. I feel like I’m part of a long line of artists who’ve used nature as source material and I get enormous pleasure from this.”
Sarah often tweets about her home life and her daughters, one tweet we saw featured two beautifully painted cards –
These were painted by Sarah’s daughters for her birthday! We were keen to find out if Sarah taught them this skill and if they were planning on following in their mother’s footsteps and taking a creative route in life:
“Both my daughters are very creative in their own ways – the eldest is a fantastic illustrator and is about to graduate from Art College. My youngest has a talent for film making and would love to pursue this in the future. I don’t know that I can claim to have taught them their skills but I guess they’ve been heavily influenced by the creative atmosphere in our home and I think they probably picked up a few tips from me along the way.”
Sarah’s eldest daughter, Caitlin, is an illustrator and you can view all of her stunning work on her Instagram page.
Like mother, like daughters! In her shop, Sarah sells colouring kits for children – because her daughters are as creative as Sarah is, we weren’t shocked to find out that the inspiration for creating these kits actually came from her daughters’ love for creating art:
“The idea for my colouring kits came directly from having daughters who loved colouring, and then from looking for creative ways to display their artwork. All too often, drawings were stuffed back in sketchbooks or pictures were left to curl at the edges when attached to the fridge by magnets. Displaying their art as bunting on ribbon looked really pretty and decorative and it led me to design lots of different kits for both children and adults to colour. I’ve had such lovely feedback from customers who’ve said that they have had their bunting up for years and it’s still looking good!”
Creating each design must be a rewarding process but what does Sarah love most about making her artwork?
“The moment of printing a design for the first time is the best feeling. From the time of making a sketch for a new design, then carving and inking the block, it’s only when you actually print it that you know whether it’s worked out how you hoped – it’s so exciting when it does!”
Outside of crafting, Sarah loves gardening, walking, reading, visiting exhibitions and watching films with her partner and daughters. For the future, she’s planning on making much more art, continuing to grow her business and “when the current global health crisis is over, to continue teaching the wonderful process of linocut.”
Finally, CraftCover offers insurance specifically catered to crafters who may sell on Etsy, Folksy and other online marketplaces, we asked Sarah why she thought this would be important to have:
“If you want to take part in selling your work at events, it’s essential to have good product and public liability insurance – many organisers won’t allow you to take part unless you have this. Also, for those selling high value items online which then travel through the postal system, to have your stock covered is very important.”
Thank you to Sarah for taking part in this month’s ‘Crafter in the Spotlight’! We hope you enjoyed reading it as much as we enjoyed writing it. Make sure to look out for another edition next month!