We as humans often opt for a life that feels safe but perhaps mundane. We work jobs we dont love for a sense of stability while usually pining for a more creative life. But where are the rules saying we can’t have both?
Let us be captivated by the bus driver who paints, saying the streets of east London are his muse or the bar worker who gets up early to photograph the city before it comes alive. Let’s take inspiration from those everyday people who take a leap of faith, follow their curiosities and say ‘yes’ to their creativity.
Let us be inspired by The Everyday Creative.
Sharla Donovan is a thirty nine year old London nanny whose artistic side has lead her to design, create and sell her own unique jewellery. Originally from New Zealand, this self proclaimed city girl found herself at home in East London’s Hackney, and has been a local for the past 13 years.
I met with the camera shy creative to chat about her inspiration, how she juggles the two sides of her life and what advice she has for other everyday creatives.
In terms of creating jewellery, where do you look for inspiration?
I try not to look at other jewellers work, mostly because I don’t want to be influenced by them and I don’t want to follow trends necessarily. Although my jewellery was recently described as zeitgeist, so I guess inadvertently I’m influenced by current fashion?
I’m inspired by the things I see around me. The architecture, the industrial, the little plants that grow through the brickwork high up on buildings.
A lot of my ideas also come from experimenting in the workshop, either from accidents or certain metals working in certain ways or sometimes, when I see students make mistakes in class, I see massive potential.
What’s your favourite piece you’ve created?
Sometimes I get asked to make specific things, like about seven years ago, a friend asked me to make one of those scrolling name necklaces saying ‘Amanda’. There was no way I was going to do exactly that, so I designed my own interpretation of it.
It’s a really common, classic necklace idea which I transformed into something really original.
I often find myself searching online for anything that comes close to that design and I have never seen anything like it. They’re great to wear, very tactile and so personal.
I like that it’s not obvious
Yeah, that’s what I hate about those necklaces. You could be standing in the pub and some dickhead can look at it and be like “oh hey Sharla”.
Your jewellry brand is ‘Sharlala’ which is obviously a play on your name. Is there a story there?
People have always called me Sharlala and it reminded me firstly, of Shangri-la, which I like the idea of, because jewellery making for me is like a permanently happy mystical land.
And secondly, there are like a thousand songs that use sha-la-la in their lyrics. It’s a feel good lyric. I enjoy both of these associations.
Give me three words that describe Sharlala Jewellery
I always find it hard to describe my style when people ask ‘what sort of jewellery do you make?’
I feel like it’s constantly evolving, so maybe if I describe it as a process, rather than restricting it to a particular genre.
Like the beginning of an idea, the development of it, and finally making it – then actually wearing it because I always test run the first piece I make of a design to see how it feels to wear.
I would describe my jewellery then, as explorative, tactile and satisfying.
What piece of advice would you give the everyday person at the beginning of their creative endeavour?
Ask friends for help, I didn’t do it, but I definitely wish I had. Outsourcing other’s skills because as a jeweller, you don’t necessarily know how to build a website or understand marketing. I’ve learnt a lot about all of these things along the way, plus some.
And have some sort of basic business plan, obviously – so that you use your time wisely, because if you’re really busy working four jobs, you don’t have much time to stuff around.
Speaking of working four jobs, your work as a nanny I imagine, can be time consuming not to mention physically and emotionally draining. How do you get the drive to then go off and create jewellery or teach students?
I find it really easy because even if I do a full day nannying, to then go to the workshop feels like a completely new day because it’s not at all the same. They are complete opposites. It’s hammers and blowtorches vs snot and sandpits.
It really is so different. I can do a whole 10 hours nannying and then love ending the day with jewellery making or teaching, because ultimately that’s what I hope to do full time.
You recently opened a shop where you sell your jewellery alongside pieces from other jewellers. This is a pretty brave thing to do, what gave you the push and courage to take something this big on?
I can’t really say it was any one thing, I think I like taking risks!
It’s been a quiet dream of mine that I’d love to have a jewellery shop with a workshop, a studio to live in and a garden for my cat Ace, all in one place.
And when I had to move because my flat was sold, this place randomly popped up on my radar.
I also wanted to offer a local space for jewellers to show their work without the usual mark up of between 250 and 300 percent, as it often is in boutique stores – the jeweller ends up with barely any cash to take home.
So I decided to charge a very small amount of rent for the shelf space in my cabinets, so the makers take home all that the pieces are sold for.
I find your perseverance with creativity very inspiring, you give it so much of your time and energy and in return, things continue to grow for you. Have you had this journey all planned out or are you totally winging it?
Ah, thank you!
I wouldn’t say it’s been planned out but I do think that as soon as I opened my mouth and said what I wanted, it set the wheels in motion. I’ll admit to delving into a bit of positive visualisation. It’s fun and it feels powerful when things happen, whether or not they manifest from your thoughts or just bloody hard work.
Lastly and quite importantly, What name would you give the East LDN pigeon?
This cracks me up. I have no idea, so I was thinking what name do I hear a lot in East London and I thought… Mohammed. Mohammed, because when I first moved here, there were no hipsters really. It felt predominantly Far East and Middle Eastern. I was living on Commercial road and it was all Indian textiles and fashion. So yeah, Mohammed the pigeon.
Brilliant, and if you were a pigeon who would you poop on?
Its got to be anyone either at Sea World, or in McDonald’s because I can’t stand either of them. Ideally both, especially if there’s a McDonalds in a Sea world.
You can find Sharlala Jewellery at 237 Amhurst Rd, N16. Definitely worth the detour if you’re in the area and if not, one hundred percent a worthy destination.
Written by Emma Grimmond