Sarah Carpenter is quick to dispel any notion that true artistic communities are confined to London.
“Creativity is a way of life in Folkestone, rather than something ‘extra’. People respect it.”
Sarah Carpenter is a prolific artist and designer focusing on mental health, working across various mediums to making mental health research and information more accessible through artwork. Previously based in East London, Sarah and her partner were longing to find a base that would let them prosper more holistically.
“We moved to Folkestone in February 2018 looking for a work-life balance – I was keen to practice what I preached through my mental health work!
“When first visited the Creative Quarter, we could immediately see that people here respected that balance. There was a real community vibe.
“Occasionally when groups of creatives get together, there can be a touch of competition – but it wasn’t the case here. The first thing people said was ‘you have to move down, it’s brilliant, I’ve got a desk you can use, we’ll get coffee when you’re settling in’. Folkestone people are supportive, they want the best for you.”
Not only have the couple been able buy their first house together, but Sarah has also been able to afford a luxury not available to many city-based artists – her own studio.
“I’d never had a studio until I came to Folkestone. It’s affordable here, and gives me the separation I need from my home life. Because I work across a lot of different disciplines – photo, collage, print, clay – I can have lots of areas set up ready to go!
“So many clients want to come to Folkestone and see first-hand how things work here. They can come to a professional studio, and then go for a walk along the Harbour Arm and the beach.”
Over the past two years Sarah helped found the female makers’ collective Daughters Of Industry, has accessed the peer support group Threads and Creative Polymaths, contributing to the Take Up Space festival, and has exhibited and had work for sale locally and nationally. Currently Sarah’s work is stocked in Objectables and also displayed at The Beer Shop Folkestone, and she is collaborating with Moo Like a Monkey to expand her Kiitos Studios retail range to children’s clothing.
“I was always told to narrow my work down, which caused me a lot of anxiety as it’s not how my brain works, but here anything, and everything, is possible. Being in Folkestone has given me more confidence to break my work up in to different areas. My work is a lot like Cognitive Behaviour Therapy; I spend a lot of time breaking things down and putting them back together!”
And following the unprecedented stress of the pandemic, Sarah can personally attest to enormous benefits of life by the coast.
“In London, we were renting with no garden. But now I grow my own veg and last night in Folkestone, we were sat around a fire on the beach after a swim with friends, staring at the full moon. We’ve become year-round swimmers thanks to the Folkestone Sea Swimmers group! And honestly sea-swimming has been a massive game changer for my mental health.
“The pace of life is a lot calmer. A big part of my own mental illness is feeling that I don’t fit into society because I need more time and space to be compassionate to myself – something not always prioritised with the fast pace of life in the city. But Folkestone has so many creatives who appreciate the need to take things slowly and there is more understanding.
“I can’t even it put it into words the change to my mental well being.”