Changes ahead, the Shed is dead!

posted in: Sally Atkins Artist | 5

Someone asked earlier in the week why and how I was changing my business.

I admire those business people who have plans, the 5 year type-of-plan, who can put marks in their 5 year diary as to where they will be and what they will be doing within their businesses. This is not me. I freeze when someone asks me where I see myself in 5 years. Cor I’ll be 63 years old for one thing! The other being that if I had been asked this one year ago I would have got it totally wrong.

Anyway lets start from the beginning. My dad was self-employed and I really had no ambition to follow him into this uncertain life style, however after leaving (sorry dropping out) my BA(hons) degree course a long time ago I tried a year of being self employed as a designer and maker of special occasion children’s clothing – that is so long ago I’d almost forgotten I’d done it. Needless to say I found it a hard thing to do and I was no where in the right place to make it work. So I became part of the machine, an employee of the multi national BT and stayed with them for the next 20 years.

Whilst there I did the odd cartoon caricature for birthday cards etc but I was part of the corporate machine and was pretty content. Just before my mid 40s I had to have a hysterectomy and to take my mind off the impending operation I did a days course in stained glass, I bought the equipment and once I was on the way to full health again I started making, turning my spare room into a little work room. I started making presents and then helped a friend do some jewellery workshops… I then started making stained glass jewellery.
I met Dave and he encouraged me to explore my creativity more, so I started looking at making other things in fabric and painting too. By now I had left BT, had a couple of small jobs, then I ended up at the DWP at the local Job Centre. It was here I started my little business Sally’s Shed. My colleagues at the Job Centre were so encouraging and came to my launch event at home in 2012.

At this point I was making stained glass jewellery, glass panels, fabric fairies, lavender filled cats, bags and painting on bits of old fence panels… mainly words with flower decoration, I did enamelling course, needle felting course, resin course – adding more and more skills to my arsenal. But it was getting stressful jumping from one creation to the next. It was at this time that Dave bought home some wood blocks and I instantly saw little buildings. So I experimented and created a little range of painted buildings which I called ‘The Village’ and I entered my little creation into the Unit 12 gallery Contemporary Open and got in to the exhibition. I had found my niche.

So for the next few years I painted buildings and scenes onto reclaimed wood. I had commissions and house portraits to help with my drawing skills progression. I took my wooden pieces to craft events and became part of a Lichfield based artistic group that took over shops and did markets in the town… it was here I learned so much about running a craft business, all about insurance, display, social media.

I grew personally and professionally, took my products to Country Living in Harrogate and Kirstie Allsopp Handmade Fair in London… this was so exciting and I shared my journey with lots of creative people who are still my good friends.

Before we moved to Cornwall I started incorporating vintage pieces into my work with cotton reels and china cups being the base for little painted wooden houses. It was now evolving into a mixed media arts practice and I think this is where I started to lose the core part of my work, basically the drawing of buildings. Though at this moment I didn’t realise, I saw it as a natural progression.

So now almost 18mths ago we moved to Cornwall and I brought my Shed with me, still creating little buildings and mixed media pieces and I did my first Cornish show at Outlaw in November last year. It went well and I would have predicted that I would be pursuing and developing the mixed media work as part of my 5 year plan. Little did I know this was tosh!
Now many of you know that the building we originally rented when we first came to Cornwall was very cold and damp and mouldy. And I know some of you will know I decided on doing the Instagram 100 day project as a means to get out of the building with a purpose that did not involve just sitting in the coffee shops of Lostwithiel. This little project was just for me (at first) but started to grow, was picked up by the local social media and I got commissions and requests to draw certain buildings. My drawing skills improved, I got excited about what I was drawing and did a lot of research to find unique and interesting buildings to draw. I became braver, first hiding in the car to sketch, then actually rocking up to peoples doors asking permission to draw their homes, I met lots of amazing people and learned a lot of social history along the way.

The sketches were igniting my passion and slowly I became aware that these humble little sketches were the way forward for my business. At first I thought I would continue with the mixed media as well as the sketches, but after this years Christmas shows I became more and more convinced that the Shed had to go and I had to step from behind the anonymity of a cute business name and be myself.

Now I’m starting the process, Facebook, Instagram and this blog are now in my name and once I’ve completed a WordPress Website course in the new year my website will be changed too. I’ve invested in the Design Trust “Dream, Plan, Do” 2019 book to help focus and build my business, joining the Cornwall accountability group to ensure I stay ‘focused’. On top of this I will be pursuing the creation of a Lostwithiel book, working on photoshop and exploring other ways to bring my illustrations to life. I will, too, be getting my health back on track, already have a three-week menu plan devised and have the doctors on my side to work on this too.  Dave and I are more excited than ever for our future work.

So if I had stuck to a five-year plan I may have missed this evolution. And I wouldn’t be as excited as I am.

Hopefully this will have answered those questions about the demise of the Shed!
Any other questions please ask away!

Sally x

5 Responses

  1. Jill Riley

    Wow, what a fantastic tale of growth.
    A dear friend of mine once said never worry about your ‘ Jack of all trades’ approach to life. You are just gathering all the skills you need for the ‘one ‘ think that will light your fire, once you have what you need that ‘thing’ will reveal it’s self.
    I believe you are there . Xxxxxxx

  2. Gemma

    Sallly this has made me cry, I’m so happy for you both and your way of life- miss you both dearly though! Trip down to you is very much needed xxxx

  3. Claire Wheat

    So happy that you have found your direction Sally…you are soooo talented and your drawings are just beautiful. I’m sorry to see the Shed go as I love your mixed media work, but at least I have some of your little buildings forever in my home! Best of luck you lovely lady, you x

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