Sharon Herrick's cheery yellow studio on the second floor of her South Portland home is adorned with kites, flags, and artifacts from her travels, all bathed in a warm light that pours through the window on our late morning visit. It is the most well-suited space we can imagine for this entrepreneurial artist, emanating the same energy and optimism that is palpable as soon as she starts speaking. "There's a lot that inspires me and shows up in my studio space: fine art, street art, natural forms, spirituality. I try to ground all the pieces I make in something bigger than me."
Although Sharon's company, Illuminated Me, only officially launched in 2016, years of experiences led up to its inception. After studying filmmaking in college and pursuing a Masters Degree in Social Work, she spent many years engaged in social change efforts, working as an advocate for both elder justice and refugee healthcare. To mitigate the stress of her work, Sharon learned to string and weave beads, finding herself deeply satisfied by the meditative process. Encouraged by her friends and family to sell the pieces she was making, Sharon began to formulate a plan for how she could apply her skills and her passion for social change to build a business around the hobby she had grown to love. "My skills are transferrable," she tells us, "and life is so much more interesting when you can take your skills and try them out in new situations.”
In the Spring of 2016, Sharon reached out to Portland Jobs Alliance, an organization pairing low income and new Mainers with local employers. Through them, she hired her first employee, Nabaa, a migrant to Maine from Baghdad. "She's from a family of artists and has her Masters Degree in Interior Design," Sharon raves. "She brings so much to the table and I feel incredibly lucky to be working with her." For convenience to both women, who have children and value the flexibility of a 24 hour access studio, Illuminated Me rents two tables at Portland's Gathering of Stitches in the East Bayside neighborhood. Using thread and beading wire, they string the small beads in precise patterns, crafting pieces that are designed to represent truth, hope, clarity, courage, and connection.
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