Wednesday, 06 July 2022
SARAH PYE is an artist and the owner of Artistry, a gallery in Reading Road, Henley. She was born in Barton-on-Sea, near Bournemouth, and grew up in Shiplake, where her parents still live. She went to the old Maidenhead Convent, then Oxford College of FE. She has three grown-up children and a “very gorgeous” granddaughter. She has been with her partner Aussy for 17 years and they live in Henley with their cocker spaniel Elvis.
Describe your business
My business is art. I work on my own in my studio, creating mainly large statement impressionist paintings. These are supplied to a select few galleries. I also paint commissions for people looking for something unique and specific.
How many people does it employ?
Just me, although my other half helps me with exhibitions and Elvis keeps me company in my studio.
What did you do before you started this business?
On leaving school, I trained and became a hairdresser. Then I was a gardener for 15 years, specialising in soft landscaping. My father was a horticulturalist and I think a lot of my enthusiasm for gardening came from him. I found a passion for the outdoors and specifically flowers, which has proved to be the inspiration for a lot of my art.
What was your objective in starting the business?
I’m not sure you have an “objective” when becoming an artist as the passion for wanting to create is the driving force. However, to be able to do the thing I love most and earn a living from it is perfection.
Who or what influenced you?
My parents. They always supported and encouraged me whatever it was I was driven to do. Aussy told me that I could be an artist and when people have faith in you, you feel you can achieve anything.
Do you have a mentor or role model?
No, but I admire people who get off their bottoms and make positive things happen.
What would you do differently if you could start again?
Nothing — and I couldn’t be happier.
What impact has the coronavirus pandemic had?
The last two years have been incredibly busy for which I am very grateful. Every instinct told me that nobody would be buying art as galleries were closed, exhibitions and shows were cancelled and many people were losing their incomes. However, the galleries made their windows bolder and brighter than ever, so when people were out on their daily walks, they had something to look at. They pinned notes on their doors saying, “If you see anything you like, we do click and collect”. Enquiries started to come in for more commissions than I would normally expect. It appeared that because people couldn’t go on holiday, they decided to have a beautiful painting to remind them of where they should have been.
How is your business doing?
I’m still very busy and in June last year I opened Artistry. I’m sure many people thought I was a bit mad in the climate but it was one of those things I had always wanted to do. I’m giving it my best shot.
How do you market your business?
Instagram is great for images and Facebook too but there will always be a place for hard copy publicity as people still like to sit down with a paper or magazine and a cup of coffee. My main publicity is exhibiting my work, so people can see it in the flesh.
What’s the best thing about running your own business?
I have an excellent employer who is incredibly tolerant of my messy workspace. I’m allowed to work on whatever project I choose. She lets me make my own decisions and encourages me to try new things.
What’s the most challenging aspect?
At the moment it’s juggling running the gallery with the time I need to paint.
Where is your business headed?
I have no idea but, ironically, I don’t need it to grow any more as there are only so many works you can do.
What’s the most valuable thing you have learned?
I am still learning every day. I don’t think I’ve got my work/life balance right yet… I need more life!
What would you advise someone starting a business?
If you’ve got something that people need, or want, you should keep going, keep smiling and let people keep seeing and hearing about it. A few pennies in reserve while you build things up is handy, too.
What three qualities are most important to success?
Belief in yourself, hard work and integrity.
What’s the secret of your success?
When I was building my business from scratch, it was never saying no, even if it was something that I wasn’t sure would benefit me. You never know who will be there or, in my case, see your work.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?
There have been lots of mistakes along the way but I don’t dwell on them, just learn from them and move on.
How organised are you?
I’m organised in a slightly haphazard dippy artist’s way.
How do you dress for work?
In my painting clothes so I look much like a splattered piece of art and scruffy.
What can’t you be without every day?
A cup of Earl Grey tea and a chocolate biscuit.
Lunch at your desk or going out?
What’s a desk? Once I’m in the flow it’s difficult to stop so it’s usually a pallete of paint in one hand and a fish finger sandwich in the other.
Do you continue to study?
I love learning new skills and techniques.
What do you read?
I don’t seem to have time to read but I do flick through my mum’s Coast magazine occasionally and dream of living by the sea.
How are you planning for retirement?
Hopefully, I’ll still be painting pictures when I’m 80 as it’s more than a job. I need more down time with Aussy. We have a little canal boat and I envisage pottering up and down the Thames, exploring lovely eateries and cosying up in the evening in a rural idyll.
04 April 2022
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