Creative routines with Sarah Nicholls

Hi there, I'm Sarah from SarahNickNicks Handmade.

I create art and knitwear in bright and colourful tones with the hope of filling my customer's homes with vibrant, eye-catching accessories.

I mainly sell art in the form of pet portraits, where customers send me a photo of their gorgeous pet and I paint it for them in watercolour and ink.

I also sell art prints, cards, coasters and cushions. In the winter my main focus is on knitwear, making cute little baby hats and customisable adult hats, all in gloriously soft merino mix yarn.

I'll let you in on a secret... I actually live a double life.

By day I am at medical school, studying as a postgraduate to become a doctor.

By night (and weekends!) is when I work on my crafts and prepare my orders to send.

From Monday-Friday I rent a room from a friend who lives near the hospital so that I don't have to commute the 25 miles to and from every day. This makes my working week a lot easier and gives me more time to be productive.

See my profile picture? I don't usually look as well put-together. When I'm working on my crafts I'm usually in leggings, a hoodie and hair is in a messy bun!

Let me take you through my typical weekday.

6.30 am

Time to get up!

I like to start my day with a run when I can. I find it wakes me up and if I exercise while I'm still half asleep I don't have the chance to talk myself out of going!

Running clears my mind and I use this time to plan what I'd like to achieve with the day.

I often come up with new ideas while I'm running so when I get home I jot them down then jump in the shower.

7.30 am

Shower, breakfast, dress and get ready for the day.

Breakfast on weekdays is invariably some kind of oaty deliciousness.

Recently I've been making porridge or overnight oats with cashews, cocoa, honey and a chopped banana added. It fills me up and tastes like a dessert!

While my breakfast cooks I check my Etsy account and my emails to see if any inquiries or orders have come in overnight. The night time orders are usually from the USA or Canada, woohoo my work is going transatlantic!

I pack my lunch and lots of healthy snacks and get my bike out ready for the cycle to the hospital. On my way in I post off any orders I have ready to go.

9 am - 5 pm

Each day is different and varied as a medical student.

There is usually some form of teaching scheduled, clinics to attend, ward rounds, talking to patients, examining patients, going to see surgery and lots of chasing doctors around trying to get them to sign you off for various mandatory tasks.

Some days we have gaps in our timetable and I like to use this time to study so that my evenings can be free.

When I'm done for the day at 5, I pack up my books and cycle back.

Custom Cat Painting by Sarah Nicholls of Sarah Nick Nicks
Custom Cat Painting by Sarah Nicholls of Sarah Nick Nicks

5.30 pm

Time for a cup of tea with my housemate (which usually involves us talking about how much studying we have to do!) before getting ready to start some crafts.

6 pm

I start the evening by first organising my university notes from the day and then working through any Etsy orders that need to go out.

This can mean packing up items that I have ready made previously, like my cards and coasters, or starting something from scratch.

I package them up, adding a business card and a little handwritten note with the order, and put them in a little pile ready to be sent the next morning.

6.30 pm

Time for some dinner.

I often put my headphones in at this point and chat on the phone to my boyfriend, Mum, or sister to catch up while I cook.

My midweek meals tend to be quick and easy, usually something I can rustle up in 20 minutes or so. I wash up and head back upstairs.

Sarah Nicholls Hand knit hat for mum and bub
Sarah Nicholls Hand knit hat for mum and bub

7.30 pm

I get my books and laptop out and do some reading whilst knitting. As someone who's knitted for years, I find it easy to knit whilst doing something else.

This is perfect for my busy life and means I can get lots of hats done even when I have lots of other things to do.

If I have orders to work on, they always take priority. Otherwise, I will knit to stock up on popular items like my bear cub sets, or maybe design something new.

Last week I made some mittens, which I'm thinking of bringing to the shop for the winter.

9 pm

I like to finish off the day with some painting.

I tend to leave commissioned work to the weekends because I like to have a few hours stretched out to work, so on weekday evenings I may paint some designs to go in the shop as prints, or simply just play around and doodle.

I like to listen to podcasts or music while I paint. This is my favourite time, I'm relaxed and happy and can paint until I'm sleepy!

10 pm

Early bedtime for me!

I don't function well on less than 8 hours sleep, so I get snuggled into bed nice and early.

On my bedside table I keep any books that I'm reading, as well as a notepad to jot down tasks to get done for the next day and any new ideas. This helps me turn my brain off instead of letting things run through my mind as I fall asleep.

Advice for other makers

If I had to give advice to others makers it would be to try lots of different things.

Be brave with your art, trust yourself, be adventurous and don't rely on other people's judgement.

Everyone has different taste and if you like what you are creating, then keep doing it!

Every time you create something new you are developing your style.

I would also say that if creating things is important to you then prioritise scheduling it into your day.

For me this means sacrificing watching TV in order to fit it in, but it could mean doing embroidery when you have your friends round, or having 'painting time' with your children.

Catch Sarah's newest on Instagram and Etsy.

Maker Academy Creative Routines with Sarah Nicholls. If you’re a creative entrepreneur, blogger, business owner you’re not going to want to miss this article. Click to read!

Maker Academy Creative Routines with Sarah Nicholls. If you’re a creative entrepreneur, blogger, business owner you’re not going to want to miss this article. Click to read!