Designer Sara Newman

A chance meeting with a sandblaster inspired interior designer and mum of two Sara Newman to start a new career as a specialist in upcycled glass – and led to a commission from The National Portrait Gallery. We find out what inspires her, and what advice she has for other mums.

Tell us about your career background

I had a career as a hotel interior designer for over a decade, and was an associate director at Fox Linton Associates when I fell pregnant with my daughter.

How did your career change after having children?

It was difficult balancing work and family. Ultimately I felt I wasn’t doing either to the best of my ability so I took the plunge and gave up work to be a full time mum. Since then I have done some freelance interiors work, been a website editor, and am an interior design consultant with an art gallery, Degree Art.

How did Sara Newman Design start?

Originally it was the need to make some cost effective presents, and a chance meeting with a sandblaster. With the rise in popularity of ‘upcycling’ it seemed only right to be breathing new life into vintage pieces rather than going into the mass produced market.

What skills or contacts from your interior design career have helped your business?

I would say planning, budgeting, a good eye for detail, and the importance of good service. A few colleagues and suppliers have been extremely supportive and I am really grateful for those relationships.

What or who inspires your work?

Tattoo design, graphic novels and model villages inspire me! I actually considered training as a tattooist but settled for ‘tattooing’ glassware. I design to suit each piece, its form and colour. The artwork in some graphic novels is fabulous – my most recent fascination has been with Promethea by Alan Moore. And I just cannot help miniature figures popping up in my work.

How do you fit your work around your family?

Both my children are at school now so those are my opening hours, plus evenings. Fairs and shows would not be possible without the help of my husband, parents and in-laws. I am very lucky to have that support.

What’s your vision for the next five years?

I have never been a five year plan kind of girl. I’m not so much of a hippy these days, but a quote from Carlos Castaneda’s Teachings of Don Juan has served me well:

“Mira cada camino de cerca y con intención. Pruébalo tantas veces como consideres necesario. Luego hazte a ti mismo, y a ti solo, una pregunta. ¿Tiene corazón éste camino? Si el camino tiene corazón es bueno; si no, de nada sirve.”

Loosely translated, it means: Look at each path closely and with intent. Try it as many times as you see necessary. Then ask yourself, only yourself, a question. Does this path have a heart? If the path has a heart it is good; if not, it is no good to you. 

What has been your biggest success to date?

My biggest success to date? The National Portrait Gallery commissioned me to design a collection for their shop to mark the exhibition Elizabeth I and Her People.

And your biggest challenges?

Possibly getting to grips with IT and social media. I had to set up my website, email and social media channels myself. My Facebook page, Twitter feed, and Pinterest boards are all lots of fun now, and they are a great way for people to see where I am coming from.

What advice do you have for other ambitious mums?

I am not sure I am qualified to preach, but I would say the following. Be realistic about what time you have free and what you want to achieve. Do a sales forecast so you can price your products well by taking into account packaging, delivery and overheads. And for online selling, photography is key.

You can see more of Sara’s work on her website.