Sarah Mandell wasn’t sure about staying alone in a restored cabin in the middle of Poinsett State Park. Selected as a South Carolina State Park Service artist-in-residence in May 2018, the Greenville-based artist was excited, though somewhat hesitant. After all, there’d be no Internet access.
But when Sarah arrived, no Wi-Fi became no problem, and she quickly acclimated to her surroundings. The quiet, uninterrupted time allowed her to embrace the beauty of the Santee area—a lush landscape with lakes and lily pads, toads and birds—and recreate it across her preferred artistic mediums: jewelry-making, needle-felting, and painting.
“All the things I thought I would be doing went out the window, and I got 100 percent into being alone in the solitude of nature,” she says.
During the weeklong residency, Sarah’s days consisted of early morning hikes, “very productive” hours of artistic creation, evening canoeing, and nighttime campfires. Known for a unique ecosystem—where the Blue Ridge Mountain Foothills meet the Sandhills and the Atlantic Coastal Plain—Poinsett State Park’s diverse environment provided all the inspiration Sarah needed.
“I was so surprised by my surroundings,” she says. “Where else can you find mountain laurel draped in Spanish moss?”
By the residency’s completion, Sarah finished 15–20 fiber art pieces, a landscape painting (now sliced into panels for one-of-a-kind jewelry), and crafted the beginnings of roughly 30 more works. Her park art, The Poinsett Collection, appeared at Greenville’s Art & Light Gallery in June.
A business owner, commercial interior designer with LS3P Associates, and self-described aspiring naturalist, Sarah is originally from Baltimore and has a degree in interior design from the Maryland Institute College of Art. But after working in the field for a few years, she yearned for the hands-on experience found in studio art. “I’m not one to be happy stuck behind a computer all the time,” she explains. “I’m a serial learner. I constantly need to learn new things.”
Since moving to Greenville, she’s taken classes in metal, painting, weaving, clay, printmaking, and more, all of which satiate her spirit. And when she’s not being the student, she’s the teacher, leading needle-felting classes at Greenville Center for Creative Arts (GCCA).
This fall, Sarah will participate in at least 12 craft shows. In the meantime, she’s working on Fibers of the South for an exhibit next summer, which showcases South Carolina’s diverse regions. Sarah hopes to participate in another creative residency to inspire a future collection. When she does, there won’t be any hesitations.
For more information, visit onceagainsam.com. To purchase Sarah’s jewelry or fiber art, visit etsy.com/shop/onceagainsam.