Occupation: Paper Artist
Website: Sharyn Sowell
Biography: Sharyn Sowell loves paper, scissors and old printing presses. She uses all three to design beautiful hand cut paper that is sold as original wall art and used as a basis for stationery, greeting cards, posters, and all sorts of other interesting products from fabric to garden gates, dinnerware and stickers.
What do you do and how did you start?
I cut paper freehand and use it for all kinds of interesting things- framed artwork, garden gates, candles, stationery & greeting cards, and more. I also print my own work and reproduce vintage pieces on an antique printing press in my studio.
I started cutting paper when I needed to amuse my two wiggly toddler sons in a rowboat on an afternoon fishing trip. I had no idea that it would turn into such a huge part of my life.
How old were you when you realized what you wanted to do and when you actually began?
This is the second career of my adult life, but I can look back and see the roots of this business in my very early childhood.
What jobs did you have before you went out on your own?
I used to design fine jewelry. Another in-your-dreams job!
What steps did you take to create your own business?
I started small, with just the pair of scissors from my mother’s kitchen junk drawer and any paper to be tossed in the trash- old phone books, magazines, and letters. It grew from there.
I’ve been willing to take more risks than most people, and to work killer hours to achieve my goals. I like to think have a huge amount of determination and stamina but maybe the truth is that I am just very stubborn!
What kind of formal education, training, or experience do you have that applies to what you do?
I have a degree in marketing but the best education I got was the hours I worked for my father, a wonderful businessman who believed in hard work and the strictest business ethics ever.
How did you first begin to sell/market your work?
With fear & trepidation I showed my work at local art shows and then began to get the courage to branch out. Beginning to show one’s art is like showing the essence of your very self- I found it terrifying- but once I got past that I was fine. I have always welcomed constructive criticism, and use it to strengthen my work and business practices.
What is the most rewarding aspect of what you do? The most frustrating?
The endless challenge and the freedom to fly as high as I can are wonderful. People’s appreciation of what I do never ceases to amaze me. Communicating my sense of wonder at the miracles that surround us daily is a constant joy. Frustration sometimes comes with people who don’t understand.
Do you have any fears about what you do, and if so, how do you deal with them?
I worry that I’m not good enough. Like many women, I struggle with self esteem.
How do you deal with creative blocks?
Exhaustion is the cause of most of my blocks, so a good night’s sleep and some time off usually cures it for me. I am very careful to feed my eyes and imagination with library books, walks in the woods and by the sea, and hours in the garden.
What kind of work environment do you have?
My studio is a tiny rose-covered cottage in the garden behind my home, built with love by friends and family. It’s jam packed with snips and scraps of paper, a collection of antique type, and an old printing press I named Alice.
Have you encountered any financial obstacles, and if so, how did you overcome them?
Financial obstacles are a constant. Determined to view each problem as a challenge, I forge through with a smile. Looking back, I think God must be really smiling at me because of how well things have gone.
What is your definition of success?
I keep on raising the bar! But apart from business success, I want to be successful as a human being- a woman of integrity, wisdom and kindness.
Who or what are your inspirations?
Everyday miracles surround us if we just take time to look. Waving blades of grass and a dead beetle in the garden inspired a fairy series & a walk along the beach fueled my imagination for seaside images. Even a rotten meal with an arrogant waiter inspired me to create a series of chefs and waiters for a poster series! I love to carefully observe the life around me. There is inspiration everywhere if one is simply aware of it.
Words of advice for those pursuing their creative goals.
Never copy, never, never, never under any circumstances copy someone else. Have the courage to be yourself; don’t be afraid to take chances. Work hard and don’t expect people to seek you out. Be true to your goals and dreams and never worry about what other people think.
Do you know any helpful/inspirational books, websites, organizations, etc?
The library is my favorite resource. I read a vast sea of books that are not related to my work in any obvious way. I follow my inner muse and try to lead a healthy, balanced life with a generous helping of imagination.
I don’t believe in looking at the work of my competition; I might accidentally copy them, and I would much prefer to be simply myself.