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International Women's Day 2021

International Women's Day is a day when amongst other messages, we have a female focus and tell the stories of women all around the world. I'm always inspired when I hear stories of how women have been successful despite the numerous obstacles women face on a daily basis. I've been told on many occasions my story is inspirational and I'm always thrilled about this as I love the idea that what I am doing or have done is inspiring to others. With inspiration in mind, I've decided in this blog I will tell my story....

I was born and bred in Wigan and had the support and love of my mum and dad while I was growing up. I left school at the end of the 1980's and I wanted to pursue a career in art and design but was told by a careers advisor the design industry was very competitive and it would be better for me to become a secretary through a Youth Training Scheme (YTS). This was an initiative implemented by our first female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher to bring down unemployment figures. So being only 16 years old, I followed the advice of the "grown ups" which resulted in me working in the Legal Industry doing admin and secretarial jobs, this was a male dominated environment. but fortunately some of the men I worked with were forward thinking and after about 3 or 4 years my hard work paid off and I was given the opportunity to train as a Legal Clerk dealing with personal injury cases. Over the years I became pretty good at my job which got me a place at the table at some of the firms I worked for, I had carved out a decent career until the government decided they wanted things to change and as a result of the changes I found myself being made redundant twice within a few years.

After 27 years I decided I wanted to revisit my original idea of working in the design industry. I had always kept up my creativity as a hobby over the years but this wasn't enough to get a job in the design industry so in 2014 I embarked on an Art & Design Foundation course at the University of Bolton. At the end of the course I was given the Chancellors award for Outstanding Achievement. I continued with my studies for a further 3 years and I graduated with a 2:1 degree in Textiles & Surface Design in July 2018.

Now, if you've read my blogs already, you probably know most of the next part of my story but for those who haven't, here is part 2 ........

Like thousands of other graduates my work from my final year was taken to London by the University of Bolton to be exhibited at New Designers, an exhibition where approximately 3000 graduates display their work. Amongst a sea of graduates, my work was recognised by Alexander McQueen, Liberty London, Trendease International, Standfast & Barracks and others. I was given a place at MoOD, Brussels on the Launch Pad by Trendease International. On my return from Brussels, I undertook a job with Alexander McQueen, London, who had offered me the opportunity to take part in a hand painting project working on their Spring/Summer 2019 Women's Wear collection.

By the end of 2018 I had also secured freelance contracts with Black Cherry Studio designing patterns for fashion fabrics and I collaborated with Deseada USA designing silk scarves.

Unfortunately 2019 saw everything change, and my health took a battering when I underwent a routine wrist operation which triggered a heart problem. As a result I spent most of 2019 struggling to do anything as my heart was causing me to become lightheaded and breathless, this really limited what I could do. Plus Brexit was making a lot of businesses become more cautious, so international contacts I had made travelling to Brussels had become mostly pointless. Nevertheless I did what I could, despite the politics and being poorly I kept my freelance work ticking over slowly. I underwent heart surgery in November 2019 and afterwards it had given me a motivational kick to get my work back on track, around this time I was offered a place in the New Talent area of the Surface Design Show, London a perfect opportunity to relaunch myself.

Very excited, February 2020 off to London I went to exhibit my work at the Surface Design Show, the show was brilliant and I had a lot of interest in my work, I started to collaborate with The Look Company designing wallpapers. Then Covid-19 struck and sadly this put everything on hold. It is my experience the design industry, like many others has struggled throughout the pandemic and of course this has a knock on effect to self employed and freelance workers, like myself.

So for now, while I wait for the industry to pick up and I deal with some lingering health problems, I started working on some scarf designs, a recent opportunity which presented itself has sewn the seed for a new entrepreneurial venture which I have named With Love, Sharon.

I know my story sounds like a perfect success story but it is important to know I've put a lot of hard work into what I do to achieve the results I have, more importantly I need to also say, while working on my design career I have continued to work part time for Tesco Stores Ltd in their Legal Compliance Department. My part time job still has me doing admin and secretarial duties but this is helping to pay the bills.

The people I work with at Tesco have been incredibly supportive allowing me to undertake the opportunities which have been presented to me and particularly while I've been poorly.

Before deciding to write this blog I've been thinking about what message International Women's Day portrays. One thing which comes through loud and clear is that it is our actions, and the way we lead, talk, act, challenge ourselves and others that inspires and brings about change.

I hope this blog and my actions of pursuing a new career and the challenges I have faced inspires others and I would love to hear your stories, so please feel free to comment to inspire other readers.

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