Healing and Flourishing Through Creativity

By artist and 'Moving Art' exhibitor Sarah Rawlins

See Sarah's piece in our 'Moving Art' exhibition

Sarah RawlinsMy name is Sarah Rawlins and I live in East Horsley, Surrey, with my husband and two teenage boys. In 2022, I was part of the ‘Moving Art’ exhibition run by Elmbridge Borough Council Arts Development and the R.C Sherriff Trust, which saw local artworks exhibited at Riverhouse Barn Arts Centre, and then at Esher Civic Centre and House of Killik by Elmbridge Museum.

My creative journey has been lifelong, I love to combine vibrant shapes with magical patterns, mixing realism with the abstract, to produce beautiful images.

I recently utilised the healing quality of creativity to rediscover my identity, and now I actively contribute to community projects, charity initiatives and fundraising.

Find out more about Sarah’s work on her website, www.sarahrawlins-artist.com.

9 January 2023
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Me in my back garden aged around 3.Me in my back garden aged around 3.

Early Influences

Since the age of 3 I can remember painting on my easel in our family garden in Molesey being completely immersed in the creative experience. I LOVED PAINT! I grew up near Hampton Court Palace and was mesmerised from a young age by the colours and patterns contained within the architecture and the natural world around me. When I won an Art Competition at school, aged 5, my passion for Art was consolidated; my parents being immensely supportive, encouraging me to pursue my creativity. My Art and Textiles GCSE’s and A Levels were followed by a BTEC  Foundation Course in Art and Design and then a BA (Hons) Art and English Degree in Canterbury.

I always enjoyed overlapping multiple images to create cohesive finished pieces. My early influences came from numerous visits to Art and Textiles galleries in London, Dali’s obscure sculptures in Andorra, the colours, structures and mosaics of Gaudi in Barcelona, the Berlin Wall, Issey Miyake’s pleated garments and Van Gogh’s use of luminous colours and interesting brushstrokes.

Me standing beside my 'Peacock Patterns' paintings - now on display in a house at St George's Hill.Me standing beside my 'Peacock Patterns' paintings - now on display in a house at St George's Hill.

15 year pause, then Covid

I then had a 15 year break from Art and Textiles to bring up my two boys and work part time. I was a keyworker during the Covid lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, and simultaneously found time to rekindle my passion for creativity – being gifted a water-soluble oil paint set and canvas by a good friend who encouraged me to start painting again. I decided upon peacocks as a subject to focus on, because of their vibrant colours and patterns, and I produced a small run of greetings cards from a photo of my painting. These became very popular among friends and family, and soon I had commissions to fulfil, one being a painting of flamingos and another being a pair of peacock paintings for a property in St George’s Hill (which are nearly as tall as me)! I also painted Effingham Common in lockdown which was later used on Keller Williams Promotional material.

Me sewing at West Horsley Place with The Glad Rags Gang

Me sewing at West Horsley Place with The Glad Rags Gang

Setting up my Art career

Instagram, the internet, and GladRags!

I decided to take Instagram lessons, set up my website and embarked on setting up my Art career as a business, all these processes being very new and slightly daunting!

It was interesting to me how the development of the internet and social media made it easier to share my artwork with the art community, compared with when I had just graduated.

Another key factor influenced my art career during lockdown. West Horsley Place began The GladRags Project which was a sewing/stitching initiative to keep the local community creatively active. I made a square influenced by our activities during the lockdown, titled ‘Bluebells and bicycles’ which would later be included in Surrey Life Magazine, and then in the finished banner, which compiled 80+ squares made by different local people. This is on permanent display at West Horsley Place.

'Distorted Reality' This was my final degree piece for my BA (Hons) Art and English Degree in Canterbury.

'Peacock Patterns' The first painting I did after my 15 year pause! This was part of the Moving Art project.

See this painting in the Moving Art online exhibition
Lockdown GladRags community project My fabric square here is now part of the banner at West Horsley Place.

Challenging time and recovery

During the latter part of 2021 and into 2022 I went through a very difficult time in my personal life which resulted in a complete lack of enthusiasm for everything, including painting. I had a wonderful support network who encouraged me to join a local Art Class in Ockham run by the talented Artist Susan Meer. There I built up my confidence by learning watercolours, a discipline new to me.

The GladRags Gang had started to knit for Blankets without Borders, a local charity who provide vulnerable people with warm, knitted blankets in their time of need. The skilful group kindly taught me to knit, and I used this skill to reduce my anxiety and positively contribute towards making the blankets. I also had great success at fundraising for the Ukraine by selling greetings cards of my daffodil watercolour design. Art helped me enormously during this difficult time because I could immerse myself in the activity to produce beautiful items, which gave me a purpose and helped me to heal. Art quite literally saved me, and I have a lot to be thankful for.

The banner at West Horsley Place, and the knitted blanket for Blankets without BordersThe banner at West Horsley Place, and the knitted blanket for Blankets without Borders


From Spring 2022, I had rediscovered my identity, found my enthusiasm and reignited my creative spark. I consequently wrote myself a vision for my professional future:

Have a thriving and sustainable Art Business, creating original artworks which can be licensed to create beautiful products, and to use my creativity to enrich, support, inspire and help to heal the community.

'Rays of Unity' sunflower painting which was sold for The Princes Trust.

‘Rays of Unity’ sunflower painting which was sold for The Princes Trust.

In June 2022 I held my first Art Exhibition (since graduation) as my happier, purpose-filled self, with Surrey Artists Open Studios. I collated my lifetime body of work into my dining room!

Along with paintings and cards, I combined my passion for painting with Textiles by using an app to repeat my vivid designs, then then printing them onto fabric to create scarfs, scrunchies, bookmarks and cushions, my talented Mum helped me with the sewing! The exhibition was a great success.

I was then invited to run Art workshops at Deen City Farm in Merton, near Wimbledon. I ran a Sunflower Harvest Community Painting Project at West Horsley Place, where members of the public could paint a sunflower onto a canvas which now hangs inside the house. I ran adult art classes from home from September to December.  I exhibited at Sandown Park Racecourse and sold my sunflower painting for The Princes Trust Charity. I exhibited at Denbies Vineyard with Oxshott Art and Crafts Society.


Moving Art

I was invited to exhibit in the ‘Moving Art’ exhibition at the Riverhouse Barn Arts Centre in Walton-on-Thames, and subsequently Elmbridge Museum selected my piece to be part of the extended exhibition hosted at Elmbridge Borough Council Civic Centre and Killik & Co. in Esher.

My products are now available in two gift stores, Daisy Maison in East Horsley and Alchemy in Byfleet Village, my scrunchies are available in Hair Creations in Hinchey Wood, and my towels and mugs decorate Real Touch Massage treatment room. I am an active member of Connect and Collaborate, we meet once a month in Cobham to network and empower female entrepreneurs. I have supported Cherry Trees in Clandon and have participated in multiple Christmas fairs, markets and shopping evenings. With The GladRags Gang I have helped to create Christmas decorations which are sold to raise much needed funds for the restoration of the house. It has been a very busy few months!

Background image: My display in the gift shop Alchemy, Byfleet Village.

The community sunflower painting At West Horsley Place.

Deen City Farm These are examples from four workshops I have run at Deen City Farm.

Daffodil watercolour This was turned into greetings cards and sold to raise money for Ukraine.

Me working on my 'Peacock Patterns' painting.Me working on my 'Peacock Patterns' painting.

What Next?

2023 will be an exciting new chapter for me. I have been accepted into ArtCan, an international art community providing opportunities and fair payment for Artists. I have joined the Horsley and Clandon Society of Arts and am excited to exhibit with them in the Autumn. I will continue with my commissions and original artworks and am determined to set up an online shop for my products!

The GladRags Gang are excited to be dressing a room inside West Horsley Place – my involvement will be an original painting, and then printing fabric from my design, to make into cushions. We are also involved with an all-inclusive fashion show in June in collaboration with Cherry Trees and Dapper and Suave. I am going to learn silk scarf painting and have been asked to run weekly art classes at a studio in Thames Ditton.

When faced with adversity, creativity, for me, was imperative to regain my mental strength. This resilience and personal growth have created opportunities far beyond my expectations. I am deeply thankful for the healing quality I found in creativity and would like to pursue this path in the future, with a view to helping others navigate through their own personal struggles.

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