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Bee’s knees: The buzz around Ellon illustrator’s wildlife home decor

Work of art: Sarah Wallace brings to life the beauty of the countryside in her soft furnishings and home decor.

Chickens would be Sarah Wallace’s specialist subject if she was ever to appear on TV quiz show Mastermind.

Her aviary affinity – and her knowledge of every breed – came after an author spotted her raw talent for drawing and asked her to illustrate his book on the feathered birds.

Unbeknown to Sarah at the time, her chicken illustrations laid a path to her setting up ‘Sarah Wallace Designs’, her own business, creating wildlife and countryside inspired soft furnishings and houseware.

Creating a buzz: Sarah’s wildlife inspired designs have proved popular.

“When I left college I got a commission to do quite a lot of illustrations of chickens for a man who was writing a book about self-sufficiency,” said Sarah, 36, a mum-of-two from Ellon who is profoundly deaf and relies on hearing aids and lip-reading to communicate.

“For a while I knew every type of chicken breed, it was my mastermind subject.

“Years later, I was showing the chicken illustrations to my friend Debra Buchanan who owned a shop in Ellon called Willow Cottage and she told me they would look great on soft furnishings.

“I had never really thought it before so she helped me and taught me how to make lampshades and the business idea was born really.”

Let there be light: Made from whisky staves from north-east distilleries, these are real statement lamps, perfect for displaying plants or ornaments.

Inspired by the countryside and wildlife, Sarah’s intricate pen and ink illustrations are printed onto luxury natural linen to create lampshades, cushions, washbags and footstools and screenprinted onto British bone china to create beautifully scented soy wax candles.

“The hares are my most popular designs and the bees have also been really popular too,” said Sarah.

“I want my products to be really high quality so they last a long time,” said Sarah.

Sit back and relax:  Made with soft Clarke and Clarke velvet backing, these beautiful cushions have the cosy factor.

Originally from Lincolnshire, Sarah has been drawing since she could hold a pencil in her hand.

“I grew up surrounded by farmland and my dad had a big garden full of wildflowers and foliage so it’s always been what I enjoyed drawing,” said Sarah.

“I was always doodling as a child and I used to get my mum to set up still life scenes which I’d draw and then I’d get my mum to critique them and give me marks out of 10.”

Illustrating exam papers

After school, Sarah and her high-school sweetheart Ryan, who is originally from Aberdeen, moved to Edinburgh to study.

Not only did Sarah fall in love with the city, she also found her happy place in the form of Edinburgh College of Art where she studied illustration.

Since graduating, Sarah remained in Edinburgh where she quickly made her mark in the world.

From designing the Grasshopper bus ticket while working as the graphic designer for Stagecoach to drawing for the SQA exam papers, chances are that you’ve subconsciously seen Sarah’s work.

Making her mark: Sarah Wallace’s talent for illustrating shines through in her beautiful designs.

“I used to draw the visuals things for the exam papers, so I would basically draw any scenes they needed to be illustrated in the exam papers,” said Sarah.

“I was the graphic artist for Stagecoach where I designed the grasshopper pass.

“That feels like quite a long time ago now so when I still see posters advertising the pass, it makes me smile”.

Community spirit

A new creative chapter started for Sarah started when she moved up to Aberdeen where Ryan was working.

She worked as a graphic designer at D2 Marketing for a couple of years and then after maternity leave, thanks to encouragement from fellow Ellon creative Debra Buchanan, Sarah set up her own online business.

“Debra stocked my products in her shop (Willow Cottage) which was a great starting point as it was good to see what was popular with customers,” said Sarah.

“My products sold really well and that gave me the confidence to keep going.”

The future looks bright: Sarah Wallace is heartened by her loyal customers.

Keeping in local

Two of her biggest fans are her children Zander, four, and Isla, one.

“My little boy is really proud of my products as he tells people that I make curtains with rabbits on them which I don’t but maybe he’s came up with something maybe I should,” quipped Sarah.

Sourcing her materials as locally as possible, always within the UK, is also extremely important to Sarah.

“I’ve used whisky barrel staves for the lamp bases which are handcrafted in Aboyne and I also collaborate with a company called Heartwood in Finzean,” said Sarah.

“I’ve also got glass bases on the lamps which are from a company called Nkuku and the velvet on the back of the cushions comes from Clarke & Clarke.”

Stepping out of the shade: Sarah’s intricate illustrations shine through in her wonderful array of home decor.

Future plans

During lockdown, Sarah was heartened by the support she received from many of the customers she met at the Country Living shows in Harrogate and Glasgow.

“It was lovely that a lot of the customers from the shows were being really loyal and buying my products so it was really busy for orders,” said Sarah.

“I’m looking forward to doing more shows in 2022.”

Spreading her creative wings: Sarah’s love of the great outdoors is brought to life in her collection.

Sketching out plans for the future, Sarah is keen to branch out into doing landscape scenery, floral designs and kitchenware and pinboards.

For more information on Sarah Wallace Designs, check out her website Facebook and Instagram.