Behind the brushes... Art that tells a story
Hello and welcome to my little corner of the world.. would you like to know how I got here?
I am going to be really honest here, so if anyone is reading this with a dream, I hope it may help them on their way too.
Love Country was created back in 2015 when I found myself at a crossroads in life. I was newly divorced and had moved back to England from France (I still can’t speak French) and was about to get back onto the hamster wheel of a job to pay the mortgage, when I did the exact opposite and dared to take that leap of faith. I am not normally brave but it was a now or never moment which changed the direction of my life completely. I just thought “what if” and the seed was sewn. My dog was in full agreement too.
Like most people, I have always worked full time, mostly 7 days a week, giving it my all but not really loving what I did each day. I had a passion to do more and constantly daydreamed of other possibilities. So, whilst I was worrying about bills and what I was going to do, I got my paints out to distract myself. Experimenting with a little hare in watercolour on calico fabric, my style suddenly took on a vibrancy and enchanting feel that made my heart just sing. Surely this is what I should be doing? I always dreamed of painting all day, but could I really make a living from this? I have always loved art since I was young but I never had the time to see what I was actually capable of being completely self-taught. It wasn’t ever about earning lots of money for me, although that would be lovely! It was a nagging feeling that something was trapped inside trying to get out. I felt at peace when I painted and transported to a different realm. I was always more interested in the bigger picture, of having a happy work life balance. That creative potential was trying to get my attention and I knew this was my chance to go for it.
With my mind made up, I took the modest £200 of savings I had and advertised myself as a dog sitter (my dog had mixed feelings about this). Whilst dog walking and looking after various pooches when people were on their holidays (they were good practice models), it allowed me to work from home painting a small collection of designs. I printed them up as greeting cards and prints and booked my first country show. I was so nervous and incredibly relieved when I saw how people instantly warmed to them. There is no better feeling than when someone laughs or makes a sweet sound when they see your cute hedgehog! I carried on bringing characters to life and then stories and poems soon followed which became the heartbeat of my paintings. These are now printed on the reverse of all my greeting cards and prints which customers feel are so special due to the intimacy and humour giving the reader something much more than just a card. My cards have become remarkably popular ever since. I don’t consider myself a writer as such, I just paint and write from my heart.
The first 2 years were really hard, I am not going to sugar coat it. I look back and shudder as I just don’t know how I managed to get by financially. I put every single penny back into the business to grow it. I thankfully lived near the beach so many long walks helped my sanity. But that’s reality, isn’t it? You don’t get handed a new life. I was doing everything myself so there were times I had to really push through and not give up so I think it is important to be honest here for the reader. You may just find the inspiration you need to take a first step.
I booked every show I could afford and started to sell my work on a larger scale through shops and working with British manufacturers to print a wider variety of products such as cushions and tea towels etc that my customers were asking for. I cannot tell you how many mistakes I made, shows I drove to and how many marquees blew across a field, collapsed on me, the times my van got stuck and days of standing with a smile at events where nobody wanted to look at the craft area at all! There was no short cut to success, I didn’t have lots of money and I had so much to learn and no guide to tell me how to do it. I just knew I didn’t want to quit. I kept telling myself I would get to a good place.
So fast forward to 2018 and I was so busy I couldn’t manage all the orders and day to day business by myself. It is unbelievable how much of your day is swallowed up with all the business and admin that goes on behind the scenes. It was very stressful and not very enjoyable to be honest. I didn’t have time to paint anything or do the things I loved doing. Those who remember “The Beast from the East” know the huge impact it had on small businesses, I almost went under that year.
Over the following year I muddled through and took things up a notch exhibiting at Trade Shows such as Harrogate and the Birmingham NEC Spring Fair (I was mostly terrified through this whole year so I will gloss over this!) from the Trade Shows I grew my stockists and then was approached by sales agents to introduce my brand to shops all around the country.
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In May 2021, (after a crazy pandemic – I will gloss over this nightmare too), up to this point I think I had personally wrapped and hand delivered to the post office over 10,000 orders. I hand packed goodness knows how many cards into cellophane bags before I realised you could send these to a printer to do.. I was desperate for help and found a small warehouse just a short drive from my home. There was no looking back once I signed the lease and started installing shelving and interviewing staff. This should have been a milestone moment that I stopped and savoured but to be honest it was a blur!
I even opened a shop on the side of my warehouse. Everything was going great until the cost of living crisis hit and everyone felt the pinch. So here we are in 2023 which has been the hardest year of all so far. My plan is to take all what I have learned and just keep going forward with a positive attitude, it got me this far after all. I trust that all the lovely folk out there will stay with me.
I have so many ideas for new designs and thanks to all the continued support of stockists and growing website and social media fans I feel I am not alone in my journey. So, while we all wait for the world to “get back to normal” I hope you enjoy my website (it had a lovely makeover) and that you find a moment of joy and a smile when you look at my work. That is what it is supposed to do.
I think I can now call myself an artist, as that sounds really nice doesn’t it? (Let’s ignore for now all the other boring business stuff that I have to do too) and just focus on celebrating the fact that I am coming up on 10 years of running my own business! Wow. When I stop and think, that is truly incredible. Through all the struggles I honestly wouldn’t change much, a few short cuts would have been nice but I probably would have missed a crucial lesson somewhere, annoying but true!
And so, with a passion for creativity and a very small country kitchen on the Suffolk Coast, the Love Country range is here to bring a little country style into your home, with many hares, birds, dogs and various other feathered friends who are just waiting to meet you!
You can join in on the rest of my journey here by signing up for the newsletter and blog to hear from me personally. You can also follow Facebook and Instagram for new designs and if you enjoy watching my videos. I just started a You Tube channel for the painting videos so please check those out and share to friends as that really helps me to reach new people.
I hope you enjoyed reading how I got here and appreciate why I have been so open. I didn’t want to pretend I have had a “perfect and idealised” journey as that’s annoying and not true. Too many people do this in my opinion and it makes things seem unattainable. I want you to feel at home here as if we are having a chat and a cuppa (and biscuits of course) so here I am, very much a work in progress. I feel very blessed to spend days with a brush in hand when I get the chance, instantly transported to another place of imagination. I feel I am finally doing what I was supposed to do.
Thank you for all your encouragement and support and for each and every one of your who purchases even just a card.. you have all changed my life and allow me to do what I love.
Dare to dream.. and keep crazy weather and viruses away from us all please
Sarah Reilly is an artist and illustrator who moved to the Suffolk Coast to enjoy its glorious countryside. Her favourite time of day is walking the dogs in a peaceful woodland which sparks the imagination and nurtures the soul.
Like most people, she was working full time and dreaming of other possibilities. In January 2015 whilst experimenting with a little hare in watercolour on calico fabric, her style suddenly took on a vibrancy and enchanting feel she had been waiting for.
With a leap of faith, she booked her first country show and started to sell her work bringing characters to life that were an instant hit with customers who had such an emotional reaction to her heart-warming scenes. Thanks to all their wonderful support and growing social media fans, she hasn’t looked back since. She now produces greeting cards, prints and gifts of her designs which are also now available in select shops nationwide.
Sarah draws inspiration from the glorious British countryside and in 2016 she wrote a poem for one of her paintings “Hugging the Moon”, this charming print became so popular that she wrote a poem for the other designs too. Sarah doesn’t consider herself a poet but she paints from the heart and so writes from the heart. These little poem stories were so well received that they are now beautifully printed on the reverse of all her greeting cards which customers feel are so special due to the intimacy and humour giving the reader something much more than just a card. Her cards have become remarkably popular ever since. All her prints now come with a copy of the poem too.
She has many more characters coming to life so be sure to visit the website and Facebook page regularly.
And so with a passion for creativity and a small country kitchen on the Suffolk Coast, the Love Country range is born and many hares, foxes, owls and various other feathered friends are just waiting to meet you!
Sarah feels very blessed to spend her days with a brush in hand, instantly transported to another place of imagination which feels very much like a home.
“Thank you for all your encouragement and support and for changing my life. I hope you are inspired and it will be lovely to meet you at an event one day”