VH World: Sarah
Can we introduce you to our friend Sarah? Well, we're going to. You'll find Sarah in the Variety Hour notification any day of the week, because she's one of those people who just exudes kindness, enthusiasm and support—especially if you're a local Melbourne creator, like us. We caught up with Sarah recently to chat about her experiences teaching during the pandemic, all while marvelling at the treasure trove of inspiring artwork, decor and knick-knacks that fill her house.
Tell us about yourself - who you are, who you live with, what you do?
I’m Sarah, a 41 year old art teacher and weekend Pinky’s shop gal! I live in Melbourne’s North with my two kids Gus (7) and Minnie (3) and my husband Matt. I’ve lived in Melbourne my whole life and feel fortunate to live in an area that is central to everything. This has become even more obvious during our many lockdowns; we are super privileged to have everything we need within our 5km radius.
Outside of work and kids, I’m an avid collector of all things design, our house is a bit of an ongoing shrine to this! We are currently renting whilst our home is being renovated after four long years of waiting.
I’m also a runner. Inspired by my husband who competes in Ironmans, I’ve run five marathons since having kids and dabble in triathlon’s during summer—this is despite a strong dislike for the beach. Again, where we live supports this hobby as the creek path behind our house becomes Capital City Trail.
Did you always want to be an art teacher?
After Secondary School, I actually studied Fine Arts at Monash. But, unfortunately had little confidence in my ability—as they say, comparison is the thief of joy! I transferred to Applied Design at RMIT, travelled and eventually completed Visual Merchandising at RMIT.
I worked in the industry for Ikea, Freedom, David Lawrence and David Jones, before getting very bored. It all seemed to become very repetitive, especially in store and the creative element to the job became unfulfilling. Without sounding like a cliché, I wanted to do something that felt like I was making a change and doing something for the greater good!
I was a highly anxious child, suffering from OCD and Separation Anxiety. In the 80’s these things weren’t really recognised and I didn’t receive adequate support to deal with this at school. But in my later school years, I was so lucky to have two amazing female art teachers (the amazing artist Cat Poljski being one of them) who constantly supported my love of the Arts. They were instrumental in guiding my practise, introducing me to galleries and fighting for the importance of the Arts.
There was such a stigma attached to anyone who did all Art subjects in VCE, it was considered the easy way out. Whilst I initially began teaching in the classroom, the Art room is where I feel I can make my difference. All my kids come in with ability and confidence. I love that I am able to introduce them to artists (especially Melbourne ones) work and techniques and see their thrill of doing something they not only enjoy but are proud of.
Being an art teacher combines my love of creating, whilst supporting students and introducing them to the many aspects of art and design, just as my teachers did for me.
What has it been like having to teach online during the pandemic?
Oh. My. Goodness. Tough! Having a 7 year old to home-school and a toddler to keep busy whilst juggling Google Classroom wasn’t ideal! Our house is small with one living space and two small bedrooms; no glamorous study—or even desk—here!
Also with the teaching of art, I was so careful to consider things such as equipment my students had available at home, which could make things tricky. But I applaud them all for giving it a red hot go and submitting some truly amazing work.
The resilience of my students this year has blown me away and their self-management skills are amazing. Thankfully, the school I work at is a supportive place and I felt this when working remotely too. We were well prepared for this last lockdown, but it was still a tough one.
Your home is so colourful, full of eclectic art and ceramics, vibrant home decor and intriguing knick knacks. When did you start collecting?
Honestly, when I was a kid! I feel like others my age were begging for toys, whilst I was convincing my olds for random stuff to deck out my bedroom (to match the Laura Ashley décor of course!). I still have many bits and pieces from my childhood that have stood the test of time and feature on shelves in our home.
I’ve also never let go of the fact that I didn’t have a Ken Done doona cover and am clearly still bitter about it. I was one of those kids that constantly changed my bedroom around and was forever in trouble with my Dad because I would stick pins in the walls when changing pictures around!
I’m really passionate in supporting Australian Artists and Designers and shopping local. I love that my work at Pinky’s embraces this mentality too, stocking so many local makers. Many that make their way home with me at the end of a workday!
How do you decide what comes home with you?
It sounds so obvious, but you just have to love it! I adore colour, always have and it’s really evident in our home. My best mate who I have grown up with always says that when I see something I love, I’ve already rearranged our house in my mind and know exactly where a new piece will go, and it’s true. I don’t understand the concept of things not ‘matching’ or ‘going together’. If you truly love a piece, I believe it will intrinsically work with what you have.
Favourite artists from history?
Brett Whitely without a doubt. He was my first artist ‘wow’ moment. I think his work and story was romanticised in my years of teenage angst! I was so inspired by his fluid movement when I first started painting and now I still adore the colour he used.
My brother was a beautiful watercolour painter and I have comforting memories of hanging out with him in his room drooling over the Brett Whitely Art and Life book.
Another Australian Artist, Ken Done. His work is pure joy, there is such a nostalgic feeling to it. It instantly transports me to a time of back yard sprinklers and Mums drinking West Coast Coolers. His Reef work is perfection, a master of colour.
Also (I could actually keep going!), Dick Bruna. His use of simple shapes and block colours is inspiring. I love the simplicity of his work, but it is so intricate and his process of creating and respect for children’s minds.
Surprisingly I’ve got a few things on the go at the moment! I’ve always been an avid reader, but it has become more of a treat to do since having kids. I finally just got around to reading Bri Lees ‘Eggshell Skull’. Whilst it was amazing, it was also both harrowing and left me emotionally drained. I finished her recent book 'Who Gets to be Smart’, which of course as a teacher I sympathised in the fury of parts of the education system.
I also have Alice Oehrs ‘Still Life Drawing’ book on my desk, which I am constantly referring to for my planning. I just saw her Cake exhibition at Lamington Drive, which was a visual feast!
I always have Clementine Fords books next to my bedside that I reread and refer back to. It’s like getting a pep talk from a friend, with lots of dog-eared pages and underlined passages.
Um, ABC Kids! Going on 7 years now! Gus is really into Star Wars now and until this year, I had shamefully never seen it. Now I’m pretty confident I could recite it.
We aren’t really Netflix watchers, we are the butt of many friends jokes as we still buy DVDS. Seinfeld and The Office (US version) are on constant rotation and most of our conversations end with "it was like that episode of Seinfeld when…"
Tripe J. I’ve been a loyal listener since the age of 14, can’t see a change anytime soon. Also, we still have Hockey Dad on repeat a fair bit, in between the odd Frozen Soundtrack!
How would you describe Variety Hour to a friend?
Colour and comfort. The jersey range is my idea of being draped in velvet George Costanza style—it is so comfortable! It truly is wearable art and being local and slow fashion are added bonuses.