(Photo: Andreas Pettersson- Queens of Neon for Body and Soul Festival)
The Creative Islanders is a new interview series showcasing some of Ireland’s brightest creative talent and enterprise. It is about people who are stepping into their dreams, purpose and possibilities and embracing their one wild life.
The interviews give a rare ‘behind the scenes’ glimpse into creative practice, motivations and mindsets- shining a light on what makes people tick, and how, collectively, Ireland is alive with creative possibility.
I am delighted to bring you this interview with Sharon Green, creative spark behind the creative collective The Queens of Neon and co-founder of the fabulous Dublin Flea Market. I have long admired Sharon’s zest for life, her keen eye combining beauty and quirk, and her ability to create magic whatever she lays her hands upon. From festivals to weddings, from street parties to space transformations, I think of Sharon as someone who can bring fairytales to life and a reminder of why we must dream big, in bold and brilliant colour. Plus she has a brilliant dog called Lola- what more can I add!
Over to Sharon …
What keeps you in Ireland?
Sure there is no place like it. I feel lucky to call it my home. It is magical and spiritual and has so much potential. My family and friends are here and it is bubbling with creativity. I know there is a lot of surface gripes, which I have regarding the way it is run and managed- the bureaucracy and politics- but I believe the positives outweigh the negatives. I believe in getting on with things so that is what I do- carry on regardless.
What makes you tick? What motivates you?
New experiences. Doing, making or creating things I have never done or tried before. Working in collaborations with other creative people, so you are seeing things in a different way and learning new skills. Travelling abroad and around Ireland, connecting with people of all walks of life and hearing their stories.
What do you do just for the love of it?
Mostly everything. My business The Queens of Neon is a labour of love. I only take on work that I really want to do. I could make a lot more money if I said yes to everything. I also put so much effort into the projects that sometimes it exhausts me. The Dublin Flea Market is also a non-profit driven Social Enterprise so that is another labour of love. I don’t think I could put energy into something for purely a monetary return. Easier to say when you don’t have kids or big financial responsibilities. I’d say if I had creche/school fees my perspective would alter and I would be taking on all sorts of jobs that I possibly wouldn’t think of taking on now.
(Photo: The Little House of Lost Toys. Collaboration with Amo Downey, Body & Soul Festival)
What does the creative process teach you?
That if you believe in yourself and the people that work with you, you can pretty much achieve anything. I have seen ideas in my head manifest quite literally into reality with little change from the initial vision. But in saying that, if you are not open to something changing you will get tied up in knots. I have learned to trust myself- that if you go with the flow and know that you will never walk away from a project until you are 100% happy, it will always work out.
How do you get unstuck? Any secret tools?
My mantra for work, especially on site, is ‘there is no such thing as a problem only a solution’. It seems to have worked for me thus far. In terms of coming up with ideas, taking the pressure off and doing some enjoyable background research can usually give you inspiration. I also collaborate with very talented designers and artists so the brainstorming process and sharing of ideas is always great for getting your own creativity unstuck.
Where do you find inspiration? Any hidden gems?
I find inspiration everywhere; my memories; my past career (I was a building conservation consultant for 8 years); movies; internet; people; stories; art exhibitions; theatre; travel. I re-appropriate different elements from different places and experiences and merge them together.
(Photo: Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival)
How do you get through tough times? What sustains you?
The people around me. We have been working in Mill Street for the last five years and I am surrounded by creative industry freelancers. We all find it hard and we all support each other. We are being moved on now due to redevelopment and we are trying to set up a creative industry hub with a shared workshop and exhibitions space surrounded by studios and offices. Negotiations just fell through with a city centre plot we were trying to get a ten year lease on. I don’t think I would survive if I worked from home or was isolated like I used to be.
Getting away to quiet and shutting down all communication and hanging out with family and friends is also an essential part of keeping me going.
What key lessons have your learned about doing business or being a creative practitioner along the way ? What have you learned from your ‘failures’?
I have learnt that sometimes it is worth paying somebody to help you with the things you are not good at- that you can’t do everything. I just got a bookkeeper to help me out this year and it has changed my life.
That pitching for bigger jobs you are often dealing with very different creatures. I am passionate and creative and sometimes corporate people are scared of that and you need to contain your excitement to a point and your disappointment if they do not like every element of your idea.
I am slowly learning that failure is part of the learning process and that while my high standards are great because it makes my work stand out, it also means I am very hard on myself if something is not perfect. But I am learning to be a bit kinder to myself.
(Photo: Private wedding function at Lisnavagh)
Do you have a morning routine? Or other creative habits or rituals?
Well I aim to wake up at 6.30 to meditate for 20 minutes (I see such a difference to my energy when I do this) but often I roll over and get out of bed at 7. Then I shower, dress, walk my dog Lola who is a super pal over to the Iveagh Gardens or along the canal and come back and we have our breakfast before heading down to Mill Street or to some location where I will be working for the day.
What books have inspired you? Or what websites do you turn to?
I am really inspired by events such as OFFSET every year more than individual books. I love hearing about peoples experiences, successes and failures and how they got to do what they are doing.
(Photo: Private Party- Andy Warhol Theme)
What advice do you wish you had received as you were stepping onto your own creative path?
I read a quote a while back that said ‘If you are uncertain – you are on the right path. Uncertainty fuels creativity, while certainty suppresses it’. It would have been handy if somebody had said this to me at the start because for years I was bothered by my uncertainty about what Queens of Neon exactly was and where it was going. When I read this I understood more that the continuously evolving and changing nature of the business is the essence of its creativity.
And what advice would you give to your future self?
Simplify things, make more room for downtime and enjoy the ride.
Thank you Sharon! – Clare x
(Photo: Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival)