It’s been a while in the making… For the last four years, I have been producing illustrations aimed at tiny tots and the young at heart and sporadically selling items at craft fairs or producing designs on commission. My friends are a wonderfully supportive bunch and frequently ask me what’s going on with it all, am I still illustrating and what plans I have for my work.
Well, the time has come and now Designed By Sheara has gone live and public, grabbing the art market with a firm grip, and aiming to adorn the walls of children’s bedrooms and fun-loving adults the world over! You can find a whole range of brightly coloured products on my Etsy page – framed prints, greeting cards, badges and lots more to come. Always happy to design something specific for the individual, so do get in touch if you can’t find what you’re looking for on my page.
You can find my Etsy page HERE - I like visitors so do please go take a look…
The normal task of designing a musical is a lengthy process, with months researching and creating concepts, buying fabrics, sourcing items, and fitting the actors, and often requires a lavish budget. But imagine you have a cast of 115 individuals with multiple costumes changes, 48 hours to fit every single one of them and a minimal budget because the whole thing is for charity… Some might quake in their boots at the mere thought.
I have been involved with Showtime Challenge since it began in Oxford in 2004. Back then we had the crazy idea that we could rehearse and stage a fully costumed production of Into The Woods in only 48 hours, incorporating a choir of 100 children. The evening, hosted by Mel Smith, was such a success and raised so much money for the children’s hospital in Oxford that we dragged the concept to London, upping the ante with bigger casts, enormous and complicated dance numbers and some of the grandest, most sizeable auditoriums in the city. Showtime now has many supporters, both actors who want to be part of the unusual and thoroughly rewarding process, and devoted fans, who have been audience members at all our productions along the way.
And 2016 seemed like the perfect time to bring our newest instalment to London – Thoroughly Modern Millie at the Adelphi Theatre, hosted by Warwick Davis, in aid of the mental health charity, Mind.
From a costume point of view, and having designed six of these productions to date, I approach the design of a Showtime show in a very different manner to most other projects. In order to make the 48 hours themselves run as smoothly as possible, it is so important to plan well in advance, have a very clear vision in mind for every scene, and liaise often with the director, choreographer and cast so that everyone is on the same page. I create mood boards and costume designs for every character and every ensemble and then ensure that the whole team understands what I am trying to create, because, with limited time and limited money, I have to rely on help from anyone who is willing to give it and am so thankful for the many individuals, whether from drama schools, past projects or members of the actual cast, who are able to provide items of costume to help bring my designs to life.
Our choice of show, Thoroughly Modern Millie, brought many challenges for my department. Set in 1922, it takes you back to the height of the Jazz Age in New York City, when “moderns” were bobbing their hair, raising their skirts, entering the workforce, and rewriting the rules of love, and for each location featured in the script I needed to create a new world and one immediately recognisable for the audience. From the fast-paced, blue/grey world of the hustling, bustling New York Streets, to Trevor Graydon’s geometric-inspired office full of stenographers and clerks, to the candy box Priscilla girls, the vibrant jewel tones of the Speakeasy club and the glittering, expensive party life lead by Muzzy, every detail needed to be cleverly thought through in order to create a sense of the 1920s, luring the audience into Millie’s trials and tribulations with colourful choreography and belting tunes, all enhanced by the costumes.
Showtime would not happen without my amazing team supporting me every step of the way. Not only did they need to immediately step into my mind-set and understand what I was trying to achieve, but I don’t think they could have stitched any faster over the 48 hours! Fittings with the cast were fast and furious, always keeping in mind that if I didn’t keep to my allotted time slot it would eat into their limited rehearsal schedule and some characters had three or four costume changes to boot. The creativity and flare that my team added to the process was exactly what I needed, transforming the most basic of items into fabulous stage-worthy creations with the most limited of resources.
The photographic evidence and the never-ending applause on the night speak for themselves. I am astounded by what was achieved by our talented cast, orchestra and crew in such a short space of time. That feeling of shared elation and camaraderie amongst new found friends when the curtain goes down on the Sunday night is like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. Exhausted but running on adrenalin, everyone is overcome with relief and yet the most incredible joy.
Sometimes I wonder why I put myself through it, why I would want to design a show that by its nature creates additional stresses and strains, that doesn’t run the same way as any other West End show and that you have no idea what it is going to look like until hours before the audience arrive. Things never quite go to plan – there just isn’t enough time – and ideally I’d rather not be perfecting people’s costumes while they’re standing in the wings about to go on stage, but it wouldn’t be Showtime without a lot of quick thinking and the odd mishap here and there. That buzz as the final bow is taken makes all the hard work worthwhile and a finer bunch of people I challenge you to find on any other production. Everyone is in it together. Everyone wants to produce the best show they possible can.
I think I’m still recovering from the madness of it all and perhaps currently in my “never again” phase, but that never lasts very long. So who’s for Showtime 7 then? Somehow I don’t think you’ll keep me away…
Production stills and behind the scene shots by Darren Bell and Cameron Slater.
Commuters in London were given a treat today as they scurried around Kings Cross station. For one day only, 13 brightly coloured elephants took up residence under the fabulous architecture of the new western concourse.
And what a privilege it was for me to find Razzle Dazzle in their midst.
It will always amaze me seeing where different artists glean their inspiration, as my elephant, complete with its Art Deco catwalk, was surrounded by London wildlife, the Red Arrows, flowers, butterflies, pirates, sweets, stained-glass windows and the Union Jack, all executed in the individual artists’ signature styles.
Kings Cross was given a splash of colour and weary travellers were given a rather unusual place to perch while they waited for their trains. Photographs were taken in abundance and children and adults alike marvelled at these beautiful creatures in their temporary homes.
If you didn’t manage to catch the herd on its fleeting trip to London, the tour begins in earnest from Sunday 21st July 2013 for a four week stay in Watford before heading up north to Manchester.
The time has come for Razzle Dazzle the Elephant to rejoin the herd and begin its exciting tour of the UK. And 51 fashion illustrations later with a little bit of help from Harpers Bazaar and Elle Decoration, my Art Deco design is complete!
You’ve got an entire year to catch these elephants around the country and their schedule is as follows:
17 July – preview day
21 July – intu Watford (4 weeks)
19 August – intu Trafford Centre, Manchester (4 weeks)
16 September – intu Metrocentre, Gateshead (4 weeks)
14 October – intu Eldon Square, Newcastle (4 weeks)
17 November – Cardiff (various locations) (3 weeks)
5 January – intu Victoria Centre/ Broadmarsh, Nottingham (5 weeks)
9 February – intu Braehead, Glasgow (4 weeks)
9 March – intu Potteries, Stoke (4 weeks)
7 April – intu Chapelfield, Norwich (4 weeks)
5 May – intu Lakeside, Essex (4 weeks)
2 June – intu Uxbridge ( 4 weeks)
30 June – intu Bromley (4 weeks)
28 July – London (2 weeks)
It’s incredible how different artists have decided to interpret the challenge and the diversity of styles and subject matter is vast. I cannot wait to see all the elephants together, with Razzle Dazzle in the midst.
Yesterday I had the honour of being part of the judging panel for Elephant Parade designs submitted by schools in and around the Watford area. The winners will be painting their designs onto half sized elephants, which will join the intu-sponsored tour.
It was tough to pick the winners out of the vast array of incredible designs created by these youngsters as I was really impressed by the clever concepts, intricate patterns, attention to detail, bright and bold colours as well as the subtlety of some of the designs. Particular mention should go to the entries from St. Joan of Arc in Rickmansworth as the serious deliberation that took place to decide the winners proved the quality of the standard of entries and below you can see the eight shortlisted designs from that school.
Seven designs were chosen in total to adorn the surfaces of the elephant statues, with perhaps the slightly controversial decision taken to combine two designs onto one elephant. Two very detailed, beautiful submissions that had obviously both had a lot of thought and time taken over them were just too good not to be given the chance to be recreated for the tour and it was just wonderful to see the elated faces of those two students when they found out that they would be working together to bring both their designs to life. With winners ages ranging from 11 – 14 years old and designs featuring deserts, space, soldiers, flowers and Asian themes, it just goes to show that there are some exceptionally talented young people out there and I cannot wait to see their smaller elephants join Razzle Dazzle and the other full-size creations on the UK tour.
The Elephant Parade tour begins in Watford on 21st July 2013.
Back in 2010, a large herd of very colourful and diverse elephants took over the centre of London and I was fortunate enough to have created one of them. Mr William, the William Morris-inspired elephant, lived in Green Park and you can find photos of him in my portfolio. I absolutely loved being a part of Elephant Parade and being able to support such a worthwhile charity by doing something really creative.
Well, Elephant Parade is back and this time they’re going on tour! How very rock and roll! Over the course of a year, the elephants (around 100 of them) will be going up and down the country visiting at least 13 locations (including London, Nottingham, Manchester, Cardiff and Newcastle) and once again I have been chosen to bring one of my designs to life. I am delighted to be part of Elephant Parade 2013 and think it is fantastic to be educating the next generation about the importance of conservation in such a fun and exciting way.
Today, I took delivery of my elephant and I’m straight to work transforming it into my design. This time, I have taken my inspiration from the decadent jazz age of the 1920s. My art deco elephant features a central panel of fashion illustrations almost like a 1920s catwalk and aims to conjure up in people’s minds a time of luxury and glamour. Elephants always seem timeless to me and have a certain grandeur about them and I hope my design expresses these qualities with its rich colours, bold geometric shapes and lavish ornamentation.
There’s going to be a little bit of this:
And a lot of this:
But that’s all you’re getting for now! Don’t want to spoil the big reveal at the end…
There once was a girl, who had a little curl… And this wonderfully talented and inspirational girl opened a rather beautiful shop in Margate that sells a vast array of gorgeous photographs in a variety of different forms. Framed images, cushions, tote bags, greeting cards… You name it. She’s made it.
And now, I’m rather excited to report that Curl About Town also sells illustrations by yours truly.
The shop can be found on the picturesque Margate Harbour Arm, opposite Margate Old Town Hall and a few seconds walk from the Turner Contemporary. A lovely place for a day trip, whatever the weather, made all the more worthwhile now that there are Designed by Sheara illustrations to have a look at.
And if you want something you don’t see displayed in Curl About Town’s quirky little shop, do get in touch. Commissions always taken.
I decided to head up to Fairfield Park in Stotfold to see what the good people up there thought of my illustrations. It’s a charming place inhabited by lots of yummy mummies with posh prams and toddlers running around in trendy little outfits. And, to my delight, my frames and greeting cards seemed to go down rather well.
Very much inspired by the super lovely folk I spoke to at the Mums and Babies Fayre, my head is buzzing with ideas for new ranges. And worry not Stotfold – hopefully I’ll be back later in the year for Christmas.