sharon walters

Wakanda, Sharon Walters

Sharon (aka London_artist1) and I met properly for the first time on a the corner of a street - I was off to Sainsburys, she had just bought a leather jacket. During that very brief but formative conversation, she told me that I must go to Art School if that's what I wanted. I suspect that my reassurance to her that her leather jacket was a good buy was far less life changing than her advice to me - which I followed.

Sharon's art, her approach to life and her work ethic have been a continual inspiration for me, and quite rightly, she is my first interviewee.

Tell us about your work 'Seeing Ourselves' is a collage series exploring identity, beauty standards, representation, and Afro hair. I make hand-assembled collages almost daily to be present, reflective and mindful. Creating the work allows me to slow down and breathe. Each collage gives me the space and permission to 'take up space' even in places where I often do not see myself represented, a theme closely linked to my community engagement work in arts and heritage. Over the past two years I have created over 250 pieces ranging from A5 to A1 in size. My limited-edition prints and bespoke collages have been acquired by collectors globally, and I have delivered collage workshops for clients including the National Trust.

How did you come to be an artist? I have loved creating art from an early age. I drew, painted and wrote poetry from as early as I can remember. It has always offered a direct porthole to freedom. I studied Art at GCSE and A-level but was not able to attend art school due to financial constraints, so I studied for Social Sciences where I could obtain a grant to support my studies. I decided to contact local schools after my first degree while I worked in financial recruitment and sales and volunteered teaching art workshops.

Years later, after being made redundant from my city based job, I decided to return to uni to study. It was at this point I went to study Fine Art Foundation followed by a Fine Art degree at Central St Martins, University of the Arts London. I studied part-time while continuing to work in a new field of educational consultancy. My work at this time was preoccupied with social engagement with a passion for collaborating with those whose voices are often unheard in the mainstream.

After graduating from CSM in 2011 I focused on family life and bringing up two children. In 2018 I began the Seeing Ourselves series and my life as an artist really began to bloom. Finally, I was creating work I felt fully in control of and passionate and compelled to make. I have spoken on many podcasts, led workshops and in 2019 received the Afshin Naghouni Reach Art Prize and I met Princess Anne to show my work and talk about the series.

Can you tell me a bit more about your creative process? The starting point for every piece is a portrait of a womxn. I create a papercut using a scalpel and cutting mat. I layer images, textures and colours and take a photo of the piece before gluing it together. Taking a photo first gives me the distance to see if the work feels right. Once I'm happy with the work, I carefully glue each piece together to form an image. The work is very intricate and requires lots of concentration and focus. Often 'mistakes' may occur, however this serves as a reminder that sometimes the path is not clear and everything will be ok in the end. Through the process of creating over 250 collages in just over two and a half years, I have learnt ways of repairing the collages if things do not go plan whilst cutting. Making the collages is both empowering and relaxing in equal measure. It is an important part of my self-care and an invaluable aid to maintaining calm.

When are you at your most creative? I am usually more creative in the evenings after finishing my work at the museum, I work there 3 days a week. However during lockdown and being recently furloughed I am able to create more freely.

Do you work in a studio or do you make work in your home or somewhere else? I have a home studio but I create mainly on an A4 cutting mat from the sofa in my living room. The studio is only 2 months old but I love being free to create anywhere.

Do you use a sketchbook or anything else to capture your ideas / thoughts / develop your work (eg - any apps / digital drawing programmes / digital photographs etc)? I don't use a sketchbook but document every part of the process through photography.

What else are you juggling in your life? (employment, voluntary work, caring responsibilities) and what helps you manage your time? I have two children aged 7 and 12 and a part-time job leading on community engagement projects for a local history museum. Although time is at a premium, knowing how the process of making makes me feel is a real motivator to get work done.

If you sell your work how do you sell it? (eg online, via gallery etc) You can find my work for sale on Instagram, and on occasion in selected shops and galleries.

Is there anything that you do to support your practice that you consider to be an important factor in your success? Visiting galleries, museums, theatres and attending private views are important in helping me to move my practice along. I am also part of a brilliant WhatsApp group called Black Girl Magic which is a group of black women in arts and heritage.

Are there any creatives / others whose work you particularly admire? Fiona Compton and Sheena Rose

Where can people find out more about your work? You can find me on Instagram @london_artist1 and my website London Artist 1 and hear more about me an my work on the following podcasts: The Unruffled Podcast, Episode 151 Period Story Podcast, Episode 3 - Understanding Your Body Can Help Your Self-Esteem & Confidence Love Sober Podcast, Episode 48 Three Sixty Conversations Podcast - Black History Month Audio Community Project, Sharon Walters Honours Jessica Huntley Island Girls Rock Interview - Seeing Myself - A Journey Through Sobriety To Creativity by Sharon Walters Your Next Episode Podcast Seeing Ourselves With Sharon Walters Drawing on Air - J Dilla Special- 10/02/2020 Soho Radio