WebinArt Emerge Member Focus - March 2021

In this Emerge member focus blog post for the 2020/21 WebinArt programme, we are proud to introduce two talented creatives - Sarah-May Johnson and Amber-Rose Bedwell.


WebinArt is Creative Leicestershire's year-long professional development programme for creative businesses. Our Emerge members are early in their career and benefit from one-to-one tailored business mentoring sessions alongside a whole host of live online events and resources.


Click here to find out more about the WebinArt Programme. WebinArt 2020/21 is generously subsidised by our funding partners - Leicestershire County Council, Arts Council England, Derbyshire County Council, Hinckley + Bosworth Borough Council, North West Leicestershire District Council, Blaby District Council + Rutland County Council. 

Sarah-May Johnson


Tell us a little about your creative business and how you got into it.

I am a woven textile artist. My work is all carefully handcrafted on various table looms in my home studio. I enjoy pushing the limits of the loom to create abstract art pieces often inspired by the natural world.

I have been creative from a very young age. I was always drawing, painting or making something as a child. This continued through college where I studied both art and textiles. I loved trying any creative process I could, however I remember being envious of my peers who had found their technique, or their style; The thing that was synonymous with them. Then at university I tried weaving. From the moment I first used a loom I was like "This is my thing: I'm a weaver!"


I had chosen to study textile design at university, thinking it would prepare me for a 'proper' job in industry, however when I was weaving I just wanted to push the limits of the process as far as possible in terms of material, texture and structure, making my weaving impractical for commercial use. I really wanted to pursue the process in an art context where practicality wasn't a restriction. This is exactly what I did during my Masters Degree and what I continue to explore now.


How does your practice and business fit in with other life responsibilities?

Until recently I was juggling making my artwork with a part time job as a print designer. I had managed to get quite a good work+work/ life balance. Unfortunately the print firm had to close due to the knock on effects of the pandemic. This change has been the nudge I needed to explore new avenues of my practice, for example running workshops, giving demonstrations and offering consultations on weaving and colour (all online at the moment). I have also acquired a new loom or two, with a view to hiring out equipment and offering one to one teaching of weaving. With the current lockdown restrictions there is very little else vying for my time and attention so I am able to really focus on my business. I feel so grateful to have my looms and all the equipment I need at home. Being able to throw myself into my work has kept me sane during lockdown.


What has been your main challenge and biggest success up to this point?

My main challenge was finding the courage to start on the journey to becoming an artist in the first place. After my masters degree I got swept into working in industry. First as a carpet designer, then as a digital print designer. Although I really wanted to be an artist I thought I should get a 'real job'. Cut to 2018. All my close friends and I were turning 30, coinciding with each one accomplishing a big or exciting life goal or achievement. They bought houses, got married, had a baby, got a motorbike or landed a great job. When talking about what my turning 30 thing would be, somebody joked that I should quit my job and become an artist. That was it, the seed was sown and I couldn't forget about it. It took me a few months to pluck up the courage to go through with it, but at the very end of 2018 I handed in my notice and left the security of a full time job, to pursue my dream.

Since then I haven't looked back. I feel I am now on the path I should have been on all along. I had a few false starts, but once I figured out exactly where I was heading things started happening. I've started selling pieces and showing in exhibitions. My most recent success was finding out that I have just been accepted as a member of Design Nation. A few weavers who I greatly admire are also members. I can't quite believe that I'm now a member alongside them!



What do you have planned for your business in the short and long term?

In the short term I have many ideas for pieces that I can't wait to make. I always have too many ideas and not enough time to weave them all. I also have plans to develop my workshops and consultation service as well as hiring out equipment. Each of these elements of my business are still in their infancy so there is a lot of work to do to get them off the ground.


My long term goals are to get my work into galleries in London, and other cities, and to work in a university. I worked as a brought in teacher and technical instructor for a short time. I really want to get back into that type of work. Not only do I love weaving, I also love teaching the process to others.

How is the WebinArt Programme is benefitting your business journey so far?

There are so many ways in which the WebinArt programme has helped me. It has provided all the practical business advice I was hoping to learn, such as how to approach galleries, manage finances, improve marketing strategies and much more. What I hadn' t appreciated before I signed up was the fantastic community of people I would get to know. I have met so many wonderful and supportive people and made so many friends. The programme has definitely expanded my knowledge on how to make creative business work as well as really boosting my confidence.



What has inspired you recently?

(List 3 things - This could be anything, such as an artwork, album or song, book, poem, essay, film or play.)

1 - Grayson's Art Club on Channel 4. During lockdown, when feeling a bit disconnected from people, this programme made me feel like part of a much wider community of creative people. Seeing what people from all over the country have been making and hearing Grayson, and his guests, be so animated and enthusiastic puts me in the mood for making things myself. Also Grayson and his wife, Phillipa are so kind and encouraging and fun together. That's my couple goals right there.

2 - The Professional Weaver Podcast. I can't believe I only discovered this podcast a couple of days ago. I've just listened to a few episodes so far but they were brilliant. The type of podcasts that take all your attention and stop you from doing anything else (at least to a weaver. I realise it's quite a niche podcast). I learnt so much about two really inspiring weavers who I have admired for a long time.


3 - 'Do something pretty while you can, Don't be afraid' Belle & Sebastian. This is my favourite song lyric. I have it written on a sign up on my wall. It isn't a new inspiration but something that I keep coming back to. I wish I had taken the advice and become an artist much earlier on. It also takes a lot of courage to be creative sometimes; to put brush to canvas, to try something new, to allow yourself the time to create.

See more of Sarah-May's work here -

Website: https://www.sarahmayjohnson.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sarahmay.johnson/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/5arahMayJohson


Amber-Rose Bedwell

Amber-Rose Commissions


Tell us a little about your creative business and how you got into it.

My name is Amber, and I am a pencil artist living in the very small county of Rutland. I

specialise in black and white portraits of people, working from photos that have been given to me. What give me such joy, is how precious each drawing can be to each of its owners. It’s like giving someone a snap of a memory, therefore making their own ‘moment in time’. This is why it is so important to me that I make each portrait as detailed as I can, as if it were

a photo.


Once finishing my two years at six form college, I jumped straight into full time work. This was mostly to later fund my countless driving lessons and three (yes three) driving tests. Nothing like determination hey! Inbetween working, I did the odd commission job or voluntary work, but nothing too substantial to make me think I could earn a living off. It has only been since the first lockdown all the way back in March, that I started to share pages from my sketchbook and found that people were interested in my work. Friends and family started to ask for commissions of loved ones for gifts or even as a treat to themselves. It’s crazy how sharing a few doodles you did to fill a bit of time in lockdown could lead to something far greater.


How does your practice and business fit in with other life responsibilities?

Due to the fact of working in a school, I get all the school holidays off (which at the time was

a massive selling point to an 18-year-old straight out of college) Therefore, since starting my

commissioned drawings, I’m lucky enough to have that extra time to balance my work and

my commissioned work. I try to take Sundays off for a bit of me time and to catch up on

other life responsibilities. But I usually find myself drawn (no pun intended haha) to my desk.

Because I leave work at four, I’m lucky enough to have the evenings so that I can crack on

with any current drawings. I’m so happy that the nights are starting to draw out, so that I can

eek out as much natural lighting as I can!



What has been your main challenge and biggest success up to this point?

A small challenge has been anything technology. From sharing posts to story’s on Instagram, to trying to put ink in my printer. It’s actually quite embarrassing how bad I am with technology, even more so as I’m only 22 years old! Thank god though, I’ve always got my boyfriend to hand. The number of times he’s saved a stressed out and confused girls bacon. If that ain't love, I don’t know what is.


My main challenge has been confidence. Many times, I’ve thought am I doing this right? Will

I actually get much out of this? I think because art is such a personal thing, you do feel like

you’ve put your heart a soul into every piece of work. You just want your work to be the best

that it can be, and even more so if someone is paying you for such a precious piece. Tied

into this though, is my success. I think my first ever commission was my biggest success.

Yes, I really under-priced and it took me weeks to complete because I was so het up on it

being perfect. But just that one sale and seeing it in someone else’s house made me realise

that yes, I do have a talent. After that I got the buzz to produce more.



What do you have planned for your business in the short and long term?

Of course, my main aim is to carry on producing commissions. Hopefully as I share more of

my work and through word of mouth, I can gain more commission enquires. That being said

I really need to start producing a website as another platform for people to view my work and

contact me (I’m sure my boyfriend can’t wait to help me out with that one)

In the near future, when life seems to be going back to normal, I hope to be doing art

classes in my local youth centre. I have been asked whether I would consider sharing my

skills to others, and leaped at the chance! It’s something new to try out and hopefully

another string to my bow.


How is the WebinArt Programme benefitting your business journey so far?

To be a part of WebinArt has been a really good opportunity. It’s a great platform to connect

with other artists in your area and also get inspired by what they do. During January I kind of

lost my mojo but made myself bad for feeling so. Having regular Creative Focus Meet-Up’s

made me realise that I wasn’t the only one feeling that way and that it was completely

natural. Just having a resource like this is so helpful to feel like you’re not alone through your

creative journey (especially during these unprecedented times) and that there is always

someone to help. The Webinars have also been very helpful, full of key information, tips and

even ideas to later explore.


I have also had the opportunity to meet my amazing 1to1 mentor Hazel. She has been

brilliant with boosting my confidence, and so patient to listen to all my ideas. After each

session we have together, I feel so much more positive and focused. She gave me the idea

to write down all my goals, even little ones (like buying a daylight lamp) and tick them off as I

complete them. Just the little act of ticking something off feels so good! It also makes you

realise just how much you have achieved in such a short period of time. I never knew that

finally getting round to buying a lamp could be so rewarding!



What has inspired you recently?

Due to the recent way we’ve had to adapt to life, I’ve found the small things a massive

influence. Take walking the dog. Not only has it been a needed hour out of the house, but

it’s also made me recognise what we are so lucky to have. Because I live in a very small

village, I’m lucky to be able to have open fields and tranquil spaces to notice the finer things

nature has to offer. If anything, I’ve learnt having a little time out is good for the sole. Another

really good resource has been ‘Good Vibes, Good Life’ by Vex King. I’m not one for

meditating etc, but this book has honestly made me view things through a different light.

Again, it’s made me appreciate the small things in life, and do everyday rituals that make me

smile. This leads me on to music, Ben Howard in particular. I listened to his music all the

way through my GCSE’s, In the studio at 6th Form, sitting at my desk drawing commissions,

and I’ll probably still listen to his music when I’m 80 let’s face it aha. I love just getting lost in

ambient acoustic sounds, whilst slowly developing my drawings. If you’ve never heard his

music, I highly recommend his album Every Kingdom. After all, who doesn’t like to get lost in

a good song?


See more of Amber-Rose's work here -

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bedwellamberrose_art/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bedwellamberroseart/


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