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When you love what you do, you just don’t see it as work

More about Sarah

Sherwood based Eco Artist and Designer Sarah Turner was prompted to start her own business after graduating from Furniture and Product Design at the start of the 2008 recession.

15 years later, Sarah and her business have gone from strength to strength, creating commissioned work for brands such as Coca-Cola and the BBC. We spoke to Sarah about her career highlights and how she balances work with family life.

How did your business begin?

Starting a business certainly wasn’t the plan whilst I was at uni, it’s something I don’t think I ever thought about, however I graduated in 2008, the start of the recession.

Some of my course mates who had been offered jobs when they graduated were made redundant quite quickly. So instead of looking for a job I thought why not start a business instead and see what happens.

I designed some lights made from plastic bottles as part of my final year work and had exhibited them at some degree shows, people seemed to like them, so it all stared from there. I designed a range of lighting from plastic bottles which I exhibited as much as I could and promoted online.

After this, businesses and organisations started to approach me to commission upcycled installations and sculptures for them. I can’t say I expected this when I first started my business but it has now become a massive part of what I do.

I have created chandeliers and sculptures Coca-Cola for the 2012 Olympic games, a dalek for the BBC, a giant suitcase for British Airways, a seahorse for the Marine Conservation Society and football fans for Manchester City and Spurs football clubs.

I also started getting asked to teach workshops, showing others how to create my upcycled work.

When did your passion for design begin?

I’ve been making things ever since I can remember. When I was little I always had a craft project on the go and my family would collect lots of rubbish for me. Cereal boxes, yoghurt pots and newspapers were all kept for me to make my creations with. I basically just never grew out of this and I went to NTU to study design.

It was whilst I was there I worked part time at a coffee shop. I saw that loads of plastic bottles were thrown away so I decided to collect them and try to make something instead. I’d always been fascinated with lighting and I found through a lot of experimentation that sandblasting bottles made them lovely and frosted and this diffused light incredibly well. So my plastic bottle lighting range became my first creations.

What does your current day involve?

I love that in my work every day is different. Some days I’m at my studio in Sherwood creating a commission or making upcycled artworks to sell at an event or online. Other days I might be at a school or community group teaching an upcycling workshop, on site installing my latest commission/project or at a music festival selling my work.

I’m very lucky that my work is so varied and can take me all round the country and even abroad.

What challenges have you faced in your career?

Balancing having two kids and a business has been hard at times. Especially when they were babies. I had to keep the business going whilst pregnant and even when they were newborns.

With my first baby I received an email whilst I was in labour telling me to apply for a music festival I usually sell my work at, and that the deadline was the end of the week. So by the end of the week I had a baby on one arm and was typing with the other to get the application in. It was that or we didn’t take part in that festival that year.

I did feel a little jealous of my other mum friends who had a whole year off work with their babies whilst I would often take mine to the studio with me to do work while he napped in the pram. But I do now see the benefits of running a business and being a parent. We take the kids to all the events we do, we went to 8 music festivals altogether last summer, they absolutely LOVE it!

What does work-life balance mean to you?

This is something I certainly have improved upon since having children. I used to work 7 days a week- when you love what you do, you just don’t see it as work. But I learnt that having some time off is essential. I’m really lucky now that my partner now works with me, so between us we work out who is looking after the kids, who’s at the studio and days off altogether.

What are your plans for the future?

I’d like to take on some larger projects and commissions, maybe even organise my own upcycling event.  Right now I still absolutely love making upcycled creations for a living and can’t see myself doing anything else.

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