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Artist Profile: Sarah Westwood

This week we head up to Yorkshire to meet the artist responsible for one of our most popular Instagram images (which you can see towards the end of this post), Sarah Westwood. For Sarah, card sales are her bread and butter. Read on to find out more about her work and how she supports the Just A Card campaign.

Tell us a little about you. What do you do? 

Hi I'm Sarah and I'm a mixed media artist and a digital illustrator. The mixed media originals I make are quirky pieces of art, made out of hand cut paper and layers of wax these are mainly available in galleries. The digital art is mainly based on the adventures of Sprocket the dog. I often describe myself as his P.A and all these lovely pieces are created in my studio over looking Fryup Dale.

What does a typical day involve?

Getting up early and making a huge mug of tea, then out for a walk with my two studio dogs (the real) Sprocket and Esidon. We usually explore the moors and fields near where I live. Then breakfast and straight up to the studio. I generally spend the first hour answering emails, sorting my social media out. Because I do two types of work, digital illustration and the handmade wax originals I usually have a list of what I need to achieve and complete that day (when I'm organised), this usually involves drinking way too much tea... I heat press all my own coasters and print my own mugs and Giclee prints and I print them all to order, and I try my hardest to get all my Etsy, Folksy and my own website orders parceled up, so I can get to the post office just after lunch. The afternoon is usually a time when I concentrate on making originals and drawing new Sprocket the dog illustrations. My studio tends to be filled with loud music, my two dogs and a very noisy cat.  

Where do you work? What is your studio space like? What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?

I work from home in a studio with the loveliest view over Fryup Dale. It has a fantastic roof window so lots of natural light. My studio has only been built for a couple of years, so I feel like it's still a work in progress. There's lots of things going on there, new ideas and it often feels like a creative mess but I love it. My work bench has been made by my husband, and because I often like to stand and work, it's a little bit higher than normal, so this means I can see out of the Windows. The rest of the furniture is a mixture of given/bought and made. I got given a large office table which sits in the middle of the room, and this is where I cut and wax originals so it always looks a mess.

When I'm not working, I love to go mountain biking - either exploring on the moors or in Dalby Forest. I love the outdoors, especially walking the dogs. Since I discovered the hashtag #adventuresnotwalks I make sure we have daily adventures. I also love my garden, it’s never quite perfect. but in summer it's full of colour.

What do you consider to be the main challenges facing designer makers at the moment?

I find the biggest challenge is for people to understand that this is my 'proper' job and I do this full time. When I'm at fairs I always get asked by at least one person 'so what do you do for your proper job?' They are always surprised that I could make a living from my work. This is my eleventh year doing what I do, but my third year full time, it took me a while to take the plunge but I love doing what I do. I think there are so many challenges that face designer makers, and having thick skin definitely helps.

What ambitions do you have for your business over the next few years?

An illustrated Sprocket book. I'm just in the process of coming up with an idea for the book. I'd also like to get in to a few more galleries with my mixed media work.

Do you have any tips for fellow designer makers/small business owners who are reading this and may be just starting out?

My top tip would be to enjoy every moment of this journey. It's definitely not an easy way to make a living, but when someone looks at your work and it makes them smile it feels so worth it. There's no right or wrong way to go about taking the plunge. I spent 8 years doing it on evenings and weekends before I finally did so and went full time. It took me a long time to admit to people that I'm an artist when they asked what I did for a living. I used to say 'well I'm sort of an artist'. Now I say "I'm an artist' loud and proud!

Please share any favourite independent shops/galleries and tell us why you like them. 

Snow Home, York.  A really great independent design store.  They source much of their collections from designer makers.

Our Handmade Collective, Leeds.  A shop full of gifts made by designer makers from in and around Yorkshire.

Staithes Arts and Crafts Centre.  A lovely cooperative full of handmade gifts that are made on the Yorkshire coast.

Gower Gallery. A really lovely gallery with lots of beautiful artwork.

Had you realised  the Just A Card campaign message suggests cards as an example of a small purchase - we're about encouraging all sales as they keep businesses afloat? 

At first glance I had thought it was about selling a card, but now after taking the time to read and help support the campaign I know that any small purchase will help to support a small business. The poster is a really great conversation starter with customers, it's a great way of making them aware of how they can support this great campaign.    

How important is the Just A Card campaign message to you and your business?

It's really important to me because cards and small purchases are my bread and butter money. It's so important to support the makers that you love. Sprocket even supports the campaign with his very own just a card image! There will be a new one coming soon.

Where did you hear about the campaign & which Social Media platforms do you use most frequently? What do you think people can do to support Just A Card, and how will you be doing so?

I heard about the campaign a few months ago via Twitter, and I thought it was a great idea to make customers aware that even a small purchase can help support their favorite artists. It would be great if lots more makers and customers could retweet and join the #justacard campaign.

I mainly use Instagram and Twitter and I'll be continuing to fly the #justacard flag at all my fairs this year.

Kate MarsdenComment