Life & Living
Norfolk based artist Sarah Cannell inspires us all to have a much more creative life, discovers Rachel Gilbert
Sarah Cannell spends countless hours bouncing between a variety of different projects. She founded and runs the Raveningham Sculpture Trail, leads workshops through the UEA Do something Different Festival and curates a range of exhibitions across the UK — all while making and creating her own paintings, prints and ceramics.
“I’m not very good at doing things I’m not really interested in but equally it is very full on… I love working in the arts, it can be hard work but it is my passion, so that gives me my drive.”, Sarah said.
Inspired by landscape and nature, Sarah is a painter, printmaker and potter. Sarah’s latest work is the 1,000 vessels Project, a challenge she set herself within the creation of ceramics. Inspired by an experiment detailed in the book Art and Fear, and with the idea that to be really good at something, it will take 10,000 hours of practice, Sarah decided she would make 1,000 vessels from clay.
Each piece takes in the region of 10 hours to create, so by the end Sarah will have completed 10,000 hours of practice. She had hoped to complete the project in three years but is currently slightly behind this schedule. Currently the vessel count stands at 176.
“By the time I have thrown a 1,000 vessels, I will know if I still really love it, or if I actually really hate it,” Sarah said.
Sarah comes from a community arts background, something that shines through in her curation. Visitors to the Raveningham Sculpture Trail are able to see work from artists that have recently graduated art school next to pieces by award-winners. She is making really good art more accessible to people that may not have had exposure to it previously.
Although she has a Masters Degree in museum studies, Sarah understands that museums can be intimidating. The sculpture trail brings really good art out to rural Norfolk, and allows children and families to engage with art in an accessible way.
“I find that people respond to it and ask questions,” Sarah said. “That’s what really fires me up.”
Sarah’s passion truly comes out when she talks about bringing more people into the art world. During the pandemic, she continued her workshops with UEA via Zoom. She created boxes with art supplies for students to follow along with the online classes.
When she visits primary schools, Sarah enjoys encouraging teachers and TAs to engage with the work, to play and create — even if it turns out a bit rubbish. “We learn so much more from our mistakes,” she said.
Sarah’s family have supported her fully — her husband Dave pushes her to seize every opportunity that comes her way. The duo both balance busy careers in the arts while looking after their son.
When asked who inspires her as an artist, Sarah took some time to come up with an answer. She thinks out loud, taking the listener on a journey through her thought process. She reflected on visits to London and Foyle’s Bookshop where she would scan the spines of art books.
The section would be dominated by male names and artists until one visit where she spotted Angie Lewin’s name. Lewin is an artist based in Scotland and Norfolk creating prints and paintings inspired by her surroundings.
“It slightly blew my mind a little bit, she’s got a book just about her, in this section of Foyle’s bookshop and she’s just doing her thing out in the Norfolk countryside and she’s here amongst the likes of Jackson Pollock,” Sarah said. “That moment was really inspiring for me.”
On reflection, Sarah came up with three artists that have shaped her approach to making. Angie Lewin for the calm focus on nature, Sheila Hicks for her use of colour and Mona Hartoum for the processing of emotion through art.
Sarah also looks to her sister Laura, a successful musician, as a source of inspiration. The pair grew up together in Thurlton, near Beccles and Sarah thinks this is where their drive was born. They didn’t have much to do in the area which meant they both developed an inner creative drive.
“We weren’t taken to many clubs, it sort of instils in you a sense of independence and drive,” Sarah said. “I think I was given the drive and the idea that you can just do something yourself.”
Based in a cosy studio in a cherry orchard in Raveningham,South Norfolk (12 miles south of Norwich), Sarah’s workshops are suitable for all abilities with her relaxed approach giving beginners confidence and her depth of knowledge being a useful source for more confident and established artists to bounce ideas off. Participants should expect to come away from each workshop with fresh ideas as well as a renewed enthusiasm and creative drive.
Thursday 7 May 10-3pm, £65
Landscape Walk, Draw, Paint
Thursday 12 May 10-3pm, £65
Thursday 26 May 10-3pm, £65
Saturday 11 June 10-3pm, £65
Slow Stitch Journal
Thursday 16 June 10-3pm, £65
Clay Day, Pinch, Coil, Slab pots
Thursday 23 June 10-3pm, £65
Weekly Clay sessions
Book as many sessions as you like to attend weekly or as a one off drop in session. For regular students you can develop work over the course of a few weeks and have work bisque fired and then play around with colour and glaze. Learn how to make pinch/coil/slab pots, tile making, small bird sculptures or bring your own ideas to develop.
Sunday 1 May, 10 – midday, £16
Sunday 8 May, 10 – midday, £16
Sunday 15 May, 10 – midday, £16
Sunday 22 May, 10 – midday, £16