Meet the Seller: Sarah Kelly from Shark Alley

This post is the last opportunity to meet one of our sellers before the event itself, which is (nerve-wrackingly) tomorrow! We hope you will be able to come down and meet these awesomely creative individuals in the flesh at Fabrica, but until then, let’s meet Sarah Kelly…  

Please introduce yourself….

My name is Sarah Kelly and I have been working in the creative arts for over 20 years. Shark Alley is an anagram of my name – I’ve been looking for an excuse to use it for ages!
Briefly describe the products you currently make

I make jewellery from papier mâché.  I have been working in paper, particularly in collage, since I was a student and I seem to be able to ‘think’ in paper better than other things. I also love the concept of making something out of something else, so recycling also plays a big part.  The papier mâché is made from old newspapers and I try to incorporate other recycled bits and pieces where I can, including wrapping paper, beads from broken jewellery and trimmings from old clothes.  I cover the jewellery with handmade paper – the colours and patterns are so vivid and gorgeous that I find them preferable to paint.  They also add strength and smoothness to each piece.

How long have you been selling your wares and how did it begin? Or is Craftaganza your first time?

Shark Alley was born in January 2010 after being on one of the back burners of my brain labelled ‘Things I COULD do . . .’  A call from a friend offering me space in her Open House exhibition in May was the catalyst and as soon as i started I knew this was IT.  I had experimented in papier mâché in the 90s making bowls and large hanging fish and really enjoyed it, but now find that the jewellery is easier and quicker to make as well as being endlessly inspiring.  This year I plan to really hit the craft market trail as well as publicise the work a lot more, as unfortunately i was too busy on other projects last year to really devote myself to this.  I am in several Open Houses as part of the Brighton Festival this May, and I also sell in Bellis in East Street and online on my website.

Other crafty disciplines you like to practice?

I am a freelance illustrator by trade, and have also worked in textile design and mosaic.

What inspires the things you make?

Colour and natural forms are my big loves.  Birds and butterflies have formed the major part of the collection so far, but I am also planning fish and seashore themes for the summer.  I’m also a big fan of ethnic jewellery, particularly Indian and Arabic styles, and some of the earrings I created in the beginning were based on a pair of antique Indian earrings that I own.  The beauty of papier mâché is that it is so light, so I can make big pieces without fear that they will be too heavy and uncomfortable to wear.  I start with a basic template that I plan out in my sketchbook and then as I make them each piece develops and inspires the next as I think things like ‘so what would that look like against a pink background? Shall I use orange or gold crystals? Can this work as a necklace?’ etc etc.  With very few exceptions, I’m not interested in repeating designs so most pieces are completely unique.  When I feel I’ve exhausted one theme, I’ll move onto the next.

Other crafter/makers you admire?

On a visit to the V&A shop last year (it’s full of lovely stuff!) I discovered the fantastic jewellery of Ayala Bar, which is created with lavishly decorated bits and pieces and ingeniously strung together. For his incredible sense of colour and his enormous creativity I love the designer Kaffe Fassett.  Predominantly known for his textile work, I had the privilege of working for him on many of his mosaic projects about 15 years ago, including a gold-medal winning garden for the Chelsea Flower Show and lots of stuff in his mosaic book.  I recently exhibited alongside The Black Rabbit, and I admire her multi-disciplined approach in applying the creative vision to lots of different fields.  I’m also endlessly impressed by printmaker Sarah Young, who also seems to be able to turn her hand to anything and make it beautiful and I also love the decorative natural forms in Angie Lewin’s prints.

Personal motto?

When I was a little girl, my Mum used to find me craft books to keep me entertained when I was ill.  One of these was an old one from her childhood in the 50s and right at the front was a little motto that I’ve never forgotten:

‘When a task has once begun
Never leave it ’til it’s done
Be the labour great or small
Do it well, or not at all’

It’s something that I bear in mind whenever I am making something.  I would never make or sell anything that I wouldn’t be pleased and proud to wear and I am quite a perfectionist about it!  I’d rather take more time making something as beautiful as I can than just churn stuff out quickly to make more profit.

Thanks Sarah! See y’all tomorrow!

Zoe x


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