Sara Penrose Story

The balance of

Process and Creativity

Built on a foundation of Engineering and Art

 

An engineer seeing everything as a puzzle.

An artist understanding the fear of trying to create.

 

Born and bred in beautiful Northamptonshire. As a child I loved everything to do with art, but I was not encouraged at school, I always did quite well with academics but never the cleverest. I always felt like a good ‘all rounder’ and not very special. I was bullied and basically didn’t feel like I had any place.

 

I always wanted to do art and science, but this seemed to make me even more weird in the eyes of others. This was especially prevalent in school careers advisors that concluded that from my love of maths, science and art my only options were to either do a business studies diploma at the local college or become a nurse.

 

I am ever thankful that I have the most amazing parents. But for them I think I would never have realised my capabilities.

 

I spent hours with my dad creating things, learning how to draw and paint. He showed me how to look at things in a different way and understand how things are first before you start to represent them on canvas.

 

I also spent a lot of time in his garage and following him around watching how he would fix things and solve problems. Memories of the record player and toilet flush mechanism fixed with mum’s tights or an elastic band, and the frequent upgrading, rebuilding and maintenance of the petrol lawnmower.

 

..."take a step back, consider, measure and question"...

 

Dad taught me how to take a step back, consider, measure and question before ploughing into a problem. If you can find the fun and excitement in these steps then you can find enjoyment in everything, without needing a big hurrah.

 

Mum was the hero most notably with helping me discover chemical engineering. Hours and hours, she spent with me in the careers library pulling out and examining everything that sounded a bit sciency or artistic… I have no idea how she maintained her excitement in my interests, but it was infectious and fun and opened up a world of possibilities.

Sara Penrose - Art
So finally escaping school was a relief and off to university I went. I remember feeling so free. It really was a great new beginning. I felt like I was in a different world where people were actually interested in what I said and did. That new world was Loughborough. A fantastic university and town.

 

Chem Eng. was tough and I remember wondering if I was good enough and if I’d be able to achieve my degree on many occasions. Luckily, in addition to my family I made some wonderful friends, met my husband to be and was supported by an excellent company who sponsored me and employed me during the holidays.

 

And so, for the first chapter of my adult life, painting and drawing took a back seat. Art was something I kept quite private. I would sketch and paint just when I was in my own company. Always fun to sneak off and escape to a world of imagination and play.

 

"Always fun to sneak off and escape to a world of imagination"

 

After graduating my first employment was my sponsor. A forward thinking, innovative company which I feel very lucky to have been a part of. The MD at the time was an engineer and there was always an open door to innovation and capital investment. This meant some fantastic opportunities for me to develop my engineering skills and be amongst some exceptional engineering mentors. They toughened me up, allowed me to learn, make mistakes, and put it right.

 

I often laugh to myself about my memories of taking my designs and plant modification proposals to my managers, excited about my work, then being grilled for information and evidence. A few times told I was an imbecile if I made a silly mistake – but not unkindly. The purpose was to dial up the pressure and help me make good decisions quickly. How was I going to change things to make good?

 

This mentoring was also reinforced by the importance of owning up to not understanding or making a mistake. If you stand up and wave your arms around and announce your errors to all around you, the worst that can happen, is you get called an imbecile. If you say nothing, then you could cause serious incidents, waste time, money and potentially put people’s lives at risk. The more you share information the quicker you and your team can work to find a solution to correct it.

 

..."we prepared for me to jump off the cliff into the unknown"

 

My first employment was like having a second family but eventually it was time for me to fly the nest. I continued to build my engineering design and project management experience with my second employer before being promoted to plant manager.

 

It was during this time that my inner artist started nagging at me. “You promised Sara that you would eventually give me time to shine”… and so, for the next few years the nags grew, until they became so loud that I could no longer ignore. I shared my thoughts with my husband, and we prepared for me to jump off the cliff into the unknown world of art and running your own business.

Sara Penrose - Engineering

The phrase “what the heck am I doing” often entered my head during the first year of self-employment. I think I was more scared of the world of artists more than standing up and presenting plant modification changes to a board of directors, more than delivering school assemblies and activity days to grumpy teenagers as a stem ambassador or more than being responsible for the health and welfare of my team and contractors on a site handling hazardous materials.

 

"Creativity is the discoverer of knowledge"

 

Raw creativity is scary. It is scary because it is change, it is change because it is about looking at thinks differently, asking questions, and taking risks. In art you are exposed and cannot hide behind facts and equations. Creativity has a closer link to emotion and can potentially rock the foundation of understanding about yourself. It can also help you to discover your wings and fly and to achieve more than you realised you could.

 

Creativity is not prejudiced. It opens all the doors, connects things together and deepens knowledge to encourage evolution. Creativity has many components including curiosity, perception and innovation. Creativity is the discoverer of knowledge.

 

So, there I was with no portfolio, no knowledge of the art scene, no idea how to promote myself or my business and waving goodbye to a good wage and security. It’s not surprising that many people around me thought I had lost it. That I had had some sort of breakdown and was just having a nice time painting a few pictures.

 

To be fair I did not help the situation. My desire to develop my skills behind closed doors, meant that most people I knew had no idea I had any talent in art. It should be noted that most of the people I knew at this time were also employed by companies working their way up the ladder, that I had suddenly jumped off and disappeared from. What else were they to think?!

 

“Boy oh Boy!!!!”

 

So quietly I worked hard on my painting skills and learnt the basics of running a business. Those previously annoying departments such as accounts (so much more than managing a budget), sales (so much more than having a chat to customers), marketing (so much more than a pretty logo) and IT (still a continuous minefield of alien jargon), were about to get their revenge. As my dad would say with gusto, “Boy oh Boy!!!!”. I had a lot to learn.

 

I did some teaching, some bar work and some photography to get the cashflow going. But it was soon time to make the next leap. Note to reader... Running a business means getting good at jumping off cliffs into the unknown, no guarantees that your parachute will work. All the while onlookers think you are doing nothing but messing about taking unnecessary risk.

Sara Penrose - Oil paintings

Next phase was showing my art, taking commissions and building my credibility as an artist. Then replacing my part time jobs and photography with oil painting workshops. I do love training and coaching people. HR would always tell me that this was one of my strengths. (Also apparently: very good spatial awareness, lateral thinking and communication skills).

 

Training staff in new processes, plant and systems very frequently became my responsibility. So, showing others how to paint was something I was and still am extremely passionate about doing.

 

It is not so much showing people how exactly. It is more: empowering people to have confidence that they can and that they already have creative ability. My workshops are not a dictatorship or spoon feeding, but more a discovery, an explanation of what the tools and materials can do, then asking the students lots of questions that they can answer themselves.

 

I like to think of it as taking people on a journey and an adventure. This approach makes the workshops suitable for all levels, but I have a particular interest in helping beginners. Those that believe they can’t even draw a stick man. The faces turning from uncertain to elated surprise is priceless reward. Shame I can’t tap this and send it to my mortgage provider as payment. I’d be a property tycoon by now.

 

..."faces turning from uncertain to elated surprise is priceless reward"

 

From this, the leisure side of my business grew and grew. I started doing weekends away for bespoke groups and art holidays. But hey, I feel another cliff coming up. Time to bring back the hard hat, to don those safety shoes. I was to bring engineering and art together as the grand finale of achieving my dream career. Finally! I wish I could go back to the early 1990’s and have a conversation with those careers advisors!

 

This realisation came about because as I developed my own talents in oils, I noticed more and more that my approach was quite process driven. That the steps I took to complete a painting were mirroring those I took to complete an engineering project.

 

I already new that my art had always helped me in my engineering days for thinking laterally, visualising the solution and managing the plan but I hadn’t noticed before how much my logical, science brain was helping me with my oil compositions. The Creative Workshops for Business were born.

 

"Process and Creativity are like Yin and Yang.

Together they are a formidable force that can solve anything"

 

My business is now evolved to a focus on team optimisation workshops. It now seems so obvious to me that process and creativity are the yin and yang of industry. Get that balance right and you have a healthy and evolving business. Process and creativity are also the yin and yang of an individual's wellbeing and development. It is my opinion, that together they are a formidable force that can solve anything.

Sara Penrose - Creativity

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Built on a foundation of Engineering and Art. Sara Penrose Limited is all about the balance of Process and Creativity.

 

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