My Story

Well where do I begin? I suppose I'd better fill you in on a few things. I grew up on the Isle of Wight surrounded by beautiful rolling wheat fields in Adgestone and I was a bit of a tomboy. I loved bikes, climbing trees, building dens and rambling through the woods pretending I was in a different decade! Yes a little odd but I had and still have a very creative mind.

I used to make all my dolls clothes at the age of 6. The love of clothes and styling was apparent from an early age. My mother used to put the sewing machine box on the floor so it could balance the peddle. I would visit my grandma most weekends while my parents would party or entertain having friends over. My grandma was my best friend and I loved the weekends with her. I would hand sew little items sitting on her lounge floor nibbling on custard creams and sipping cream soda. These little moments now fill most of my most cherished memories. I was in a world of imagination, fairytales and spender.

I went to a convent school at the beginning of my education and hated it. It was the single most soul destroying event that happened on weekday mornings. I don't board as my parents kept me at home during the week. I spent so much time with my grandma at the weekends, that I think I wouldn't have spent much time with them at all if I hadn't! School days getting dressed in my brown, white and yellow attire made my heart literally stop and I'd have a hard lump in my throat. It felt that way for as long as I can remember, years in fact.

It's not that I didn't like the convent. It was more that I just didn't fit in. The Nuns were Ok, apart from the beatings. I still have a scar on my hand to this day from a thin ruler that hit me at a high speed. The other girls, again were ok and I can't really say I remember them. But I just hated it and every day I longed to get home, draw, paint, go outside and return to my creative pastime. I was an ok student, not the fastest reader, not the most confident girl. I just had something that wasn't right. I wanted to create, imagine, be happy and not read old damp books.

I would travel to school in my parents Triumph Herald convertible and if I ever saw the occasion to deter the event I'd cry, scream or even throw my brown beret or summer boater hat out of the car....Yes I was a little difficult! The one thing I did love was the summer uniform. Big full skirts we'd all twirl around in. See still finding something positive...Fashion!

Fast forward a few years and after an unfortunate incident at the convent one day involving me being very sick. Then left till the end of the day in the infant room with the remnants of my ill fated morning on my perfect uniform my mother saw the light and hauled me out of that place. I was 8 and I still remember that moment! It felt like life could now get better. The drive back in old cherished green convertible was the day I finally threw my straw boater hat out of the car for the last time. My mother never retrieved it. I knew it was the end of my heartache.  

I was placed in a local primarily school and was loved by one of the most sternest of teachers! Mrs Woods. She was scary...I saw through her cold demeanour and she was the first person I loved outside my family. She nurtured my creative side and I felt like I could be myself once and for all. Primary school was a happy place and I have very fond memories. 

Middle school was ok. I was put in a remedial class as they said I was "Slow" well that was embarrassing. I excelled at art. I even received a red letter (Highly regarded note form the head) but still I was classed a slow when it came to English and a academic lessons. It now turns out after years of not knowing that I'm actually dyslexic! 

The journey to high school didn't go that well. Sadly I was severely bullied at school. Picked on, beaten up, left bloody, pushed down the stairs, hair pulled, kicked and taunted for my posh accent. My nick name was Posh or Sarah wrong. The first year was hell on earth. Then I made a few friends. Art was the only lesson I really loved. That and RE. I loved to hear about faith and positivity. Some might be shocked at that!! Art was a difficult one sometimes though as my teacher would put me down all the time. Suggesting my artist father had a hand in my homework. If only she knew him. He'd never do anything to make my life easy when it came to self discipline and work. He made sure I did all of my art myself. 

So school came to an end, I was severely depressed. I had no idea what I wanted to do. I was numb. I didn't have many friends as I was always more interested in dressmaking, art and listening to Buddy Holly! I was obsessed fairytales, Anne Of Green Gables and the legend of Fanny Lightfoot. The local legend about a girl who vanished and was then discovered to have gone back in time when she fell in love with a war soldier. I wished I could just vanish like her, and my late teens I wasn't in a good place. I was painfully thin, I had no self love, no purpose and no hope. 

After the first summer of school ending I found a little job making beautiful jewellery for an amazing little company. I used to do demos to the public and I was finally getting somewhere. Finally gaining a little confidence, but I was still not mentally in a good place. I was so overly critical of myself. Getting complimented for my worth didn't happen that much. My mother was such a brilliant woman but also she was bipolar and schizophrenic. Something we found out after she died. We found mountains of unused medication in her house, and my father wasn't one to really show much affection. Both of my parents were and are incredible people but they weren't happy together and later in life they later split up. Now I see it was a good thing but at the time I was devastated.   

During my time at that job I also went to collage and studied fashion design, pattern cutting and fashion photography. It was a lightbulb moment for me. I finally knew what I wanted to do! I loved doing the jewellery but I was also needed something else. It was then photography grabbed hold of me and gave me a wake up call. 

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My father knew of a great photographer in Ryde called Steve Thearle who was looking for an apprentice and a meeting was set up! I was so excited! We had a little darkroom and studio in the our house as my father was a maritime portrait artist and needed a place to develop his images. I was rarely allowed in that studio. But this was the real thing! A proper job, learning everything about photography from a real professional. 

We headed off to meet Steve, walked in and my eyes lit up. I felt little butterflies of excitement and hope. The meeting went will until money was mentioned. I was to be an apprentice so I'd not earn much in the way of wages. Probably around £45 per week. I was totally fine with me, as I'd do it for free. I knew I would be gaining more value than money could ever equate to. Life long skills that would change my career forever. 10 mins later we were in the car after my mother dragged me out by the scruff of my neck. Needles to say that was that, it was a bump in the road.

I carried on studying fashion design, photography and working at the jewellery company that opened a few stores around the Isle of Wight and for a few years I was happy. Well happier than I had been for a long time. I moved out of the family home. Got my own little place to feel grown up. Sadly a while after that my parents split up. A million and one things have happened in my private life due to this event. It made me realise not everything is meant to last.

A few years later and after various jobs I got married, had my daughter and moved to Maidstone in Kent. The time went by and I spent my first year of marriage dressmaking in a place I didn't know. With a man that I knew wasn't right for me. When you have so many dreams and aspirations it's hard sometimes not to get wrapped up in others and just go with the flow. 

By the time my daughter Lottie was 2, I was a single mum working for a small but busy boutique, doing the buying, altering clients clothes, merchandising the store and training the staff. After doing a course at Tyrle & Green (the old John Lewis) I went on to focus on sales and personal styling for VIP clients. I was finally very happy, feeling grounded and felt like my life was about to take on new meaning! You know that feeling when the pit of your stomach dips and sours!

Now I've always hated my nails, and never had good looking hands! I had done a little manicure course a few years before Lottie was born but it didn't really grab my attention. Something to do with my nails being flaky and down right terrible I think. I longed for naturally longer nails, so I did a little nail extension course to just do my own nails. Serving clients in a beautiful store with short, peeling, chipped and scruffy nails really wasn't acceptable. The next thing I knew I was doing clients nails on my day off. That lead to doing more days beauty and less in the shop. My career was being created without me even knowing it at the time.

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I was becoming more and more obsessed with nails and then fate stepped in. The boutique was doing fairly well, but something wasn't right, then one day the owner of the fashion boutique had a visit from a bailiff, and my job was gone. It turned out she wasn’t paying for the stock in the shop and it all caught up with her. Like any single mum my main responsibility was my daughters needs. So after one terrifying night when I realised the owner of the shop was giving out my details to anyone that was looking for her, I moved back to the Isle of Wight. I packed up and headed to the station in the dark with a few bags in hope of a new beginning. It was the most scary event in my life till that point. 

I went home at first and stayed with my mum for a few months. Then I found a little house on the Island and made a new life. I contacted by the police every week to see if the owner had contacted me. By this time she was wanted for fraud and I was the last person to have contact with her that fateful evening I decided to leave. The investigation went on for about a year and to this day I don't know what happened! But it made me realise I've got stamina to sort my life out in an instant when it's needed. I'm resourceful in a crisis and thats something I never knew about myself. 

Life was getting better and I was settling in. I started doing some friends nails to get more confidence! Little by little I was feeling like my life was changing for the better. 2 weeks later I met my future husband Ian during Cowes week! A surreal, beautiful and memorable chance meeting that ended up being whirlwind romance that's now lasted 17 years! He's my rock!

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We lived on the Isle of Wight for a few years and I built up my business. By then I was totally hooked and I was well on my way to training to the highest standard in beauty and nails with Creative Nail Design and loved every single moment. I took every course, from every brand and chose to do the advanced training on top of that! I decided to open a boutique with a beauty section to offer the ultimate personal styling and makeover experience. I funded the entire thing myself after years and years of hard work. We called it Style & Image. Sarah & Ian had created a beautiful little business together and it looked set to be a real success.

The first year and a half of business was incredible. One lady I recall said she thought it was the best and most beautiful shop in the Isle of Wight. My father said to me at the time 'Don't believe everything people say' if he was hurt. To this day he's always been hard. I have to thank him a it's made me who I am today. Someone that is stronger than you could ever possibly imagine. 

I needed that strength as my happiness was about to crash. The 18 month lease was coming to an end. I didn't see the events of the next year happening as I was so overwhelmed with sadness. My mother had died and my shop was in memory of her. In the space of a matter of weeks we had to find another premises as the owner wanted the shop back. Life was spinning and it was looking seriously challenging. 

We found a new build in the high street and that's were it got incredibly worse. The builder hadn't dehumidified the building and to cut a very long story short the entire shop and the contents of my new large stock room perished. We lost the lot due to damp and lime leaching out of the plaster work. Along with having what I can only call a mini breakdown I was again lost. Life had just handed me a very hard lesson. I was back to feeling like I needed to vanish, self destruction set in and I wanted out. I contemplated ending my life. So stupid I know, but when depression hits you, you never know what your meant to do.  

Both myself and my husband decided we needed to have an entire new start and move off the island. Everything pointed to starting a new life, even the schools for Lottie looked so much better. So we packed up and found ourselves a little cottage in a new location. One closer to his work so we could spend more time together. 

We decided to move to Winchester. I set up my little beauty, personal styling and nails business SLB style from a spare room. It was amazing, I was helping other to feel wonderful and thats the best job in the world. I felt back in control once more and made some incredible life long friends. I started to do photo session work for big magazines, TV and film. Doing the nails and helping out on set. I got an agent and was flown all over Europe seeing celebrity clients. I was at the top of my game doing beauty, nail services and working backstage at fashion weeks. It was the dream job! Then I was asked to become an educator for a nail brand and I accepted. I continued with my education and became a master nail educator and took the recognised teachers qualification PTTLS. I was nominated for nail professional of the year (I didn't win as my agent forgot to send my work to the event, it was a small thing in the grand scheme of life) But I was so happy and loved every aspect of my work I didn’t care, Award nominated is an accolade in itself. SLB Style Academy was doing so well.

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2 years into my wonderful career I hit another bump. I found a small lump in my join one evening after coming home form a 4 day educators event. It was the size of an egg. Scared and shocked I booked an appointment the next day to see my Dr. I was rushed of to have blood tests right away. It was diagnosed as a fibroid. But it grew and it grew fast. I had to keep the truth from everyone.

I carried on with my business as I couldn't face the reality. I was loving Teaching, doing photo session work and had dreams of opening a huge training academy and salon. But my lump ended up so large (1.5 KG) that I couldn't work for more than an hour at a time. Life had to change. My career came to an abrupt end. 

I had an 80% chance I'd have to have treatment after they took out my ever growing, now referred to as a tumour, but they wouldn't know till it was removed. Life was pretty hard as I was also put on a new trial drug. I was the first to be using it in the uk. Essentially I was taking the morning after pill every day for 3 months before my operation. I was sick, so sick. My hair thinned, I felt tied all the time and had unbearable pains 24/7. My intestines ached from the constant pressure of the lump and I didn't tell anyone how poorly I really was.    

That part of my life is again is a blur. The pain, the prospect of dying and not seeing my family or telling them how much I loved them, or how sick I actually was. I never told anyone how bad It was. It would have engulfed my life. I'm positive that I wouldn't have recovered if I'd dwelled on the problem. I believe in positive mental attitude everyday! I did then and I still do to this day.

The day of the operation came and went so fast. It wasn't important as no one knew what could or would happen as I didn't tell them. Not even Lottie or Ian. 

'Your very lucky' said the consultant 'We've tested it and its benign. 'Someone up there is looking after you' 'No' I said. 'They don't want me in yet as I'm a pain in the arse' I remember looking at Ian at that point and his face said it all. He'd not realised how unwell I was. I promise I won't ever keep things bottled up ever again.

I got a serious parasitic infection due to being on the operating table for 7 hours and it took me more than 6 months to recover, but I was alive. During this time I disconnected with everything, got rid of my social media, the lot. I concentrated on my professional photography in my recovery time and really shut myself away. I couldn't cope with seeing all the images of friends and nail buddies posting their work. It was heartbreaking to think I'd been cut down in my prime. 

But I was Happy once more that I had the time to do something I wanted to do to help me heal. I picked up my camera and started a blog. I called it SlbStyle Magazine. I came back fighting fit. Then I dabbled with youtube! It was fun. But It wasn't totally fulfilling and its at that point I think I really understood I was a career girl. 

Then we decided to move to London to be closer to Ian's work and help the blog as most of the events and meetings with brands happened in London. The traveling to and fro was insane. I also needed a push for my photography. A chance to seriously get my work out there and help me get to the high standards I desired. I got to photograph some amazing actors, musicians, celebrities and models while we lived in London. I helped numerous companies create beautiful websites, I trained lots of lovely beauty therapists and helped improve many salons businesses with my services and skills. 

I was still blogging and loving it but the Slbstyle website had been playing up drastically and decided to crash for one last time. It was then and there that I made a huge decision. While I was laying in the bath one evening I decided to scratch the entire thing and combine my 2 paths in life. The beauty side of things with photography.....and that's how was born 

2 years after we moved to London we had to decide what the next move was. I was healthy, fairly happy but we didn't feel connected to the place we lived in. Lottie had moved out and was creating her own life with her lovely boyfriend. She lived about an hour away, so we didn't get to see her everyday. One calm and restful Saturday morning we looked at new areas to live in London as we were rattling about in a huge 3 double bedroom house. And it dawned on us that it was in fact Winchester we needed to be. So within 5 weeks we moved back.

I'm now working hard building up my business again. I have implemented everything I have learned over the last 2 decades of running successful businesses, blogging, meta data, SEO and branding. And its working so fast I cant keep up with how busy I'm becoming. I'm the happiest, healthiest and most content I have ever been in years. I love my job so much, I love to help others feel incredible on and off the camera and my clients are more like friends. 

Work is looking better than ever. I have some amazing career plans, collaborations, my beauty and photography services are getting amazing reviews and I genuinely love every day. I wake up looking out at rolling wheat fields once more as I did as a child. I see my old and new friends all the time and I get to see my beautiful daughter as much as I can. Life's jigsaw puzzle has fallen into place perfectly. I’m older, wiser and looking forward to the future. 

The day you decide to follow your dreams is the day the universe is truly on your side! I'm alive, happy and more importantly helping others to feel the same way.  

The next chapter is going to be the best! I cant wait to share all my news soon....Incredible things happening!

Images by 2Boxes Photography