Artist Sharon White tells Emma Joseph about her latest exciting venture into the world of interiors

“The problem with being creative is that you never sit back and just enjoy the moment.”

Admittedly, life has been rather a whirlwind for Sharon White since she decided to leave her 17-year career in teaching and become a full-time artist in 2013.

From exhibitions of her lavish artwork in both the UK and Dubai to creative workshops throughout the country with women living with breast cancer, and now the launch of her very own soft furnishings range.

It was the creation of Sharon’s Tree of Life art – the result of nationwide workshops with those affected by cancer which saw the piece touring internationally to promote the cause – which first sparked the idea of translating her work into textiles, after women in Dubai asked her about creating a hijab inspired by the piece.

“I had been talking about scarves, because lots of people were asking me if they could wear my work,” she explains from her Mudeford home.

“I’ve got an amazing photographer and, because my work is so three dimensional, when you see it translated into two dimensions, it has a completely different appearance and feel to it. It got me really excited.

“It needed to go on material and fabric, so it made sense for it go to on a cushion. There was something about it needing to be felt.”

Sharon co-managed Atelier art hub in Christchurch for several years, creating and exhibiting her own work and supporting other local artists, but felt the time was right to concentrate on herself. She has now come up with four interiors collections, based on some of her most striking pieces.

“So what I have is an original artwork, one of my bespokes,” she says, “then from a section of one of those, you can have a printed wall art. That can then go to a bed throw, or different size cushions.”

Sharon was overwhelmed by the response to her latest venture. She attended the Top Drawer industry event at Olympia in December, where she was interviewed by Marie Claire magazine, and sparked the interest of a number of international designers, as well as a visual merchandiser from Harrods, who wanted to talk to her about a collaboration.

“There’s a lot of fate – as always in my world,” smiles the mum-of-two. “It was a really surreal experience. Marie Claire and Vogue were walking around to interview people – Marie Claire wanted to do an interview because they loved the story. They loved the idea that I had been a school teacher, then fate took my hand and steered me in a completely different direction.

“I had lots of international interior designers that were wanting to work with me, which was quite nice. Then the next day, I’m on the school run again.”

Sharon is keen to develop her international reputation, and plans to exhibit at the Maison et Objet show in Paris later this year, but she also wants to retain her local links, and is currently searching for the perfect studio in Highcliffe.

“I don’t want to work outside the area, because this is my home. I want to do a lot more this end before I start being steered more towards London. But I want to do a lot in Sandbanks and exhibit in the boutique hotels here.

“What I really want to do is to work with hotels and boutique hotels and shops.” As well as focusing on her new textiles range, Sharon’s passion for teaching remains, and she hosts a number of school workshops locally, as well as sessions at a Bournemouth nursing home, where she works with people with dementia.

“That’s my favourite day of the week,” she says. “I still go to schools, because I’m really passionate about this whole thing that creativity is still very much missing in the curriculum.

“I will give them a piece of A4 paper and scrunch it up, and we’ll talk about how they feel about drawing on that piece of paper. It’s almost like breaking down the stereotypes. They’ll be like ‘yeah, what do you know, miss?’ But I’ve made a living out of it.

“It doesn’t matter if they’re six or 96, as long as you’ve got that interaction because art, one hundred per cent, raises self esteem.

“It’s about helping people. But it’s alright, doing it all.”

Sharon is always looking forward to the next project, but says she still has to stop and remind herself just how far she has come.

“It’s so easy not to take stock of life, because you’re always thinking ‘what comes next?’ I always feel like I’m on this ladder. Sometimes I go up one rung, sometimes it’s two.

“People say ‘hang on a minute – you were teaching year nine. Fast-track, and you’re a professional artist’. But to me, it’s just my story, it’s just what’s happened.”