During our first year we offered a programme of ’52 Things’ made with and for the city’s creative community to showcase the fantastic people and places in our city. You can find the full 52 here.

In our next profile of people working in the city's creative economy we spoke to Sarah-Jane Egan, a jeweller based in Caerphilly.

Sarah and other local makers who sell their work on Etsy have opened a pop-up shop in the Capitol Shopping Centre in the run up to Christmas. 

Can you tell us a bit about your work? 

I'm a jeweller mostly working in sterling silver, a little gold from time to time, and obsessed with all things dinosaur and bunny rabbits! I'm also the team captain for Cardiff and Valleys Etsy Sellers, CAVETSY, a collective of local makers that sell handmade items on the website etsy.com. We're quite a new team, only founded in February, but we've got big plans and currently have an amazing pop-up shop running in the Capitol Shopping Centre. It's open every day until Christmas Eve.

Why have you chosen to work in the Cardiff region? What inspires you about being here?

I ended up in Cardiff totally by accident, but that was over 5 years ago and I've no plans to leave any time soon. Cardiff is pretty unique. It has the amenities and opportunities of a capital city, but without the huge masses of busy, cranky people rushing everywhere! I've lived in Dublin and Seoul. Cardiff just has a nicer, slower pace of life. There's also a huge amount of creative people, which makes for interesting friends and nights out! ….For the last year or so I've been living in Caerphilly - but we're just over the hill really!

You’ve just set up a pop-up Christmas shop for Etsy sellers in Cardiff and the valleys. Why did you choose to do this? 

Etsy approached me as team captain to organise something on the weekend of the 5th and 6th December as part of their nationwide Etsy Made Local campaign. I thought it was a great idea and a fantastic opportunity to focus the very new CAVETSY team around. When I was looking for venues I found a huge beautiful space in Capitol Centre and the “something” grew and grew to become a month long pop-up shop with 31 makers!

What challenges have you found in working in the Cardiff region?

I don't speak Welsh. I wish I did, although being Irish I also wish I spoke Irish more. I think it's amazing that Welsh is so alive. It definitely feels more alive than Irish is back in Dublin, but it does mean that without it certain doors can't be opened.

How successful has Cardiff been at making itself a creative capital city, particularly in your area of work?

There are a some really successful groups, the Makers Guild in Wales for example, and huge events like Made by Hand in City Hall. So Cardiff is doing quite well in the craft arena. However the opportunities to learn new skills and techniques without signing up for a 3 year degree are disappearing fast. When I first moved here I lived within walking distance from the Howardian Centre and I did classes in pottery, stained glass, drawing, enamelling, as well as belly dance and tai chi for fun. All those classes taught me something new, some of which I incorporated into my work. Those classes will soon be gone. Where I live in Caerphilly I can't even find a painting or drawing class! I think it's a real shame. Evening classes like I went to in the Howardian are the way so many people get started in craft careers. Not many people can afford to give up work and sign up for a degree, especially in something they haven't even had a go at yet!

Which 3 things need to happen to make Cardiff a more creative city?

  • Stop the cuts in adult education.
  • Disparate groups need to start working together, feeding each other with ideas and skills.
  • Stop looking for funding and just do it, whatever it is. I'm not saying never look for funding. I'm just aware of some people or groups that spend all their time applying and planning. Sure try, but if it doesn't work then get on with the creativity. It's a much much better use of your time!

Describe your favourite creative place in Cardiff.

It's not a place so much as an event. Is that a cheat? For the last two years I've taken part in the Photomarathon - amazing fun! Such a good way to get your creative juices flowing and to notice parts of the city you ordinarily miss. I would recommend it to everyone. I want to make sure I get a ticket next year!

What’s next for you? What projects are on the horizon, what new ideas are you working on?

I have a bunch of half finished projects that I'm really looking forward to diving into in January. Lots of jewellery ideas that I've scribbled on random pieces of paper around the house. That long dreamed about book I want to write and a new lens to play with on my camera. I like to have a lot of projects on the go at once - I find they end up feeding each other. For the CAVETSY group I hope we have lots more meet ups in the new year. Aside from the pop-up shop, we've got together to help each other with our Etsy shops, to learn about social media and just for cake and fun. I'm hoping that continues in the new year and hopefully we can plan another pop-up shop or market!

What do you think Creative Cardiff should try to achieve?

I like to think big! I think Creative Cardiff should aim to put Cardiff on the map as THE place in the UK, or even in Europe, for creativity. I think getting different sectors to talk to each other is the way to do it and it seems like you're already on the way.

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