It doesn’t matter that Sarah Golden didn’t go to art school—“I didn’t even know it existed back in the day,” she said. Thanks to being a new mother to twins, a creative itch, a few online classes and Instagram, she’s weeks away from the release of the second collection of fabric she designed for Andover Fabrics, and this month is her first solo show at WAL Public Market Gallery. Actually, it’s her first art show ever. And up until about a year ago, she hadn’t really painted before.
Sarah Golden calls herself a “self-taught late bloomer.” The Oak Park resident, who recently turned 40, said that a lot of people have an identity crisis when they become mothers, but Golden discovered a drive and focus that she had never had before.
“I really found myself after I became a parent,” she said.
That drive led her to take online classes for surface design, inching toward her dream of becoming a fabric designer. She learned how to block print on textiles, and then began posting her work on Instagram in hopes that a fabric company would see her designs and hire her someday.
And that is what happened—Golden just didn’t expect it to happen so fast. After about nine months of sharing her designs online, one of her followers, Daryl Cohen, brand manager from Andover Fabrics in New York, invited Golden to create a collection of fabrics. Golden’s block-print designs are a mix of modern cutesy (rows of her Boston terrier’s face) and folksy (clusters of simple houses) and organic textures (imperfect lines and grids). Kathy Hall, Andover design director, describes it as “sophisticated whimsy.” Cohen said Golden’s collection has been a “huge hit.”
And Golden’s creative output continues to be a hit on Instagram, with more than 21,600 followers. It’s also been a hit with the retailer West Elm that ordered 50 of Golden’s fabric-designed and handmade zipper pouches. And, of course, it was a hit with WAL’s art curator at the time, Trisha Rhomberg, who also found her through Instagram and enlisted Golden for her first art show, Layers, even though she didn’t have a body of work at the time, painting-wise.
It was an online surface-design class assignment that forced Golden to paint on a canvas, and it proved to be a meditative and re-energizing antidote to the planning and structure of fabric design. If it weren’t for that assignment, she said, “I never would have considered it.”
Golden plans on showing 35 paintings in Layers. Most are acrylic abstracts, consisting of swaths of pastel hues, sometimes with drips or shocks of neon pink peeking through the whitewashed landscape. Her gouache paintings, however, are representational: flat-perspective plants with rounded corners in grays and greens, a sort of 1960s vintage vibe. The two totally different looks share a calming, quirky feeling.
Golden is excited to nurture her painting practice to see how her expression evolves. She may be a late bloomer, but she is blooming.