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Sara Harrington catch up

How are you? How has the past year been for you?

This past year, like for most people, has been a bit of a wild one! Though I'm feeling quite fortunate, the pandemic really shifted my focus and priorities and I've been able to use the time to re-assess my work/life balance and even the direction of my working practice. I've come to really appreciate a slower pace and I've started prioritising time off activities and socialising over constantly hustling to make or find work, because for so long we were in positions where we physically couldn't see people - so I definitely value time off more!

You are now working with Rapanui on their Teemill platform. How did this come about?

Before the pandemic hit, I'd been in touch with their art directors as I was a fan of what they do - they're a sustainable apparel brand who make organic cotton shirts which can be recycled at the end of the items life. They have a real focus on surf culture and sustainability, which is an ethos I really identify with so I got in touch with them. I'm a big advocate for reaching out to people you're interested in collaborating with as you never know where that might take you! Luckily Rapanui and Teemill thought I'd be a good fit and I now work with them on a freelance basis, alongside my other client based illustration work.

You are working for some really exciting clients on the Teemill platform, like BBC Earth, Sea Shepherd and Bumble Bee Conservation Trust. Do you choose which clients you work on?

I'm very fortunate that some amazing clients are on the Teemill roster, some of whom I've always wanted to work with. Normally I'm assigned briefs based on what we have on and if I'm the best fit for that project, I work closely with some amazing Art Directors at Teemill and they're the ones who assign who works on what.

What have been your key learnings from working with these clients?

You learn something new from each project, but I'd say my key learning actually comes from working directly with my art directors at Teemill! The real value of working with them isn't particularly the big name clients (which is still exciting!) but working with other creatives in my field. When you work freelance as an Illustrator, most of the time you're not always being set briefs by artists or designers but by clients themselves or marketing people who may not necessarily know much about the inner workings of how illustration and design works, so sometimes their feedback on a design isn't always that valuable in progressing your own work. Getting to work as a team with other creatives has really pushed me to learn more about my own work and I feel much more professional when it comes to then working with my own separate clients.

You have recently completed a mural in the St. Stephens Underpass in Norwich, which is also part of the ongoing public exhibition of local artists with the Underground Gallery. How did this project come about and can you tell us more bout it?

I got asked by another local artist that I know called Ruth Knapp (@knapple) who is a prominent street artist in Norwich - she curates the Underground Gallery on behalf of the local council and she tries to keep a rolling roster of diverse local artists exhibited there.

It came about quite organically as the Norwich art community is really good for collaborating and supporting each other and Ruth got in contact to see if I'd be interested in putting my spin on one of the boards. Norwich itself is a really vibrant City and there has been a real effort, funded by the council, to put more murals up around the City on empty walls - the underground Gallery is another iteration of that. It's located within the main underpass in the centre of the City on St. Stephen's street and it utilises all these boards that run along the walls. When I was asked to contribute a mural there was no theme or brief, it was totally open.

The piece itself is an idea I had after working with Sea Shepherd on a separate project - it's a statement on the issue of ocean plastics and the restraints we're putting on the environment through our negligence. I had a vision of using the image of those plastic six-pack beer rings which are often found tied around or in the stomachs of marine life as handcuffs around the arms of the ocean. As the gallery is situated in a busy thoroughfare, the concept needed to be very clear and immediate and I think that the imagery of the ocean in handcuffs gets across the message quite directly.

There’s a personal project that you have been dedicating time to as well. You’ve been reclaiming and upcycling old skate decks and giving them to young women and queer folx. Tell us a little more about that.

The idea to reclaim old skate decks mainly came about from my interest in skateboarding. It felt like a natural progression from skating as an artist to draw on decks and I've been doing that for a few years.

However, now that there's been a resurgence in people interested in taking up skateboarding, there have been more conversations around who is given space in the community. As a woman who skates I've experienced first hand the gatekeeping that can happen so it was a no-brainer to embark on a project to make skating more accessible to those who might feel outcast because of their gender or sexuality.

A few years ago when I started painting decks for fun, my friend gave me all of his old, busted up boards so I had them lying around which lead to me thinking that it would be great to upcycle the ones that were still ridable for people who want to try skating out and might not feel comfortable walking in to a male-orientated skate shop.

Currently I find people to take the decks from conversations with friends of friends who have been thinking about starting and then I make a custom design for them. Though in the future I'm looking to have simple, ready made designs and will be in touch with some local skate collectives to collaborate with to give the boards out.

You have a project coming up with Studio Buchanan. How did this come about and what is the project about?

Jonny from Studio Buchanan got in touch asking to collaborate and I jumped at the opportunity because I've been a keen follower of their font work for a while now.

Essentially, Studio Buchanan have produced a new typeface called 'Superlumina' and I'm creating the cover illustration which will be used in the font manual that is distributed when you buy it.

Im excited for this project because it's a true collaboration between designer and artist, the brief is relatively open in that they want me to respond and create something inspired by the font alone. I really relish these projects because as its more about the creative challenge and the response rather than the function it will serve. A lot of the time as an Illustrator you're creating work for specific briefs which serve a function, whether that's creating a book cover or a t-shirt design and you don't always get to make art for arts sake so I'm really looking forward to this. The cool thing with this project is that Studio Buchanan ask an Illustrator to design the cover illustration for each font they release, so in the future we might do an exhibition of each one that was made!

You can find Studio Buchanan and their amazing typography work here:

Is there anything else you are excited about for the coming 6 months?

Coming up, I've got lots of really fun client project in the works. The nature of my work means I get to flit between creating brand identities for businesses to painting murals or doing merchandise for punk bands. If I'm honest the thing I'm most excited about for the next 6 months is that I've got a steady stream of work coming in which I can balance with the other areas of my life such as skating or surfing. I really value being able to manage my time around my other interests and ensuring that I don't live to work.

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