Creative Gibraltar : Paper crafts with Sarah Devincenzi

Born and brought up on the south coast of England, a cross Europe road trip in her early twenties brought Sarah Devincenzi to Gibraltar for the first time. She loved it so much that she came back and made it her home. Now married and with three children in school here, Sarah has been able to devote some of her time to her first passion; arts and crafts.


Sarah says she has always been creative: “Always… it’s my default setting! I’ve always been creative in a visual way”. As a child, in her free time, when she wasn’t at school or competing in athletics, she was to be found drawing. She was sporty but teachers forced her to choose between sport and art – art won out. Sarah continues, “after A-levels I got a bit disillusioned at school, so decided not to go to art school like my friends”.

Instead of taking the academic path, Sarah began an apprenticeship with a sign writer who was a friend of the family. “I went along reluctantly,” she said “but I had an amazing 3 or 4 years, it was really creative stuff; we painted murals by hand”. It was after this apprenticeship, that along with her two best friends, Sarah set off on the adventure which was to become documented by Rebecca Faller in her book Renault 5 (which Sarah designed the cover for). “It was an escape from reality for all of us – we just thought what now?”

When Sarah first came back to Gibraltar to live, it was hard for British citizens to get ‘proper’ jobs, so she spent several years waitressing before landing a job at a sign writing company here. Sarah says that her time working with lettering forged her love with letters and type “and that morphed into art”. When Sarah’s children were born though, she said that the creativity stopped for her “I couldn’t be creative and have kids”.

Sarah found her stifled creativity frustrating so began making cakes but says it was a lot of hard work. Then three years ago, a friend suggested that she should get involved with Gibraltar Arts & Crafts Association, she says “it gave me a purpose and reignited everything! I had always drawn and painted, so I started on paper maché”.

Sarah began experimenting with paper maché “I love getting dirty so I enjoyed making it”. She was soon producing bowls, brooches and other items for the Gibraltar Arts & Crafts Association’s two shops in Casemates Square and the cruise liner terminal. One of her best sellers has been fridge magnets with collages of the Rock of Gibraltar, of which she has sold “hundreds” – there may be one lurking on a fridge near you….

Along with the Arts & Crafts Association, Sarah has been a stall holder at the annual Convent Christmas Fair. Her beautiful Gibraltar baubles are a real hit at the fair and in the shops as visitors like to have a souvenir from their holiday to hang on their tree.

Sarah became part of the committee which runs the Arts & Crafts Association, although she has now stepped down to allow her to follow her creative journey to the next stage. “I feel torn” she says, having to produce a lot of stock for the shops limited her time for other creative endeavours but “it was a catalyst for me, I got clients through being with the Association and they wouldn’t have known about me otherwise”.

Sarah’s paper maché creations led onto collage, another passion of hers.

Sarah has been able to put her love of all things paper to good use and recently created a piece of work to raise funds for a very worthy cause. After attending a talk given by Dan Teuma, a Gibraltarian who has worked in migrant camps in Greece, Sarah decided to make something to raise funds for the cause  The World Wide Tribe on the Rock. She covered a chair with découpage made of Beano comics and managed to raise a substantial amount of money.

The power of Facebook meant that the chair was seen by thousands of people. Sarah says she now plans to make more items like this and donate the proceeds to The World Wide Tribe on the Rock and support the work they do.

The future looks bright for Sarah, who is currently working on a project she has always fancied having a go at “I’ve been asked to illustrate a children’s book, I’m really excited by that”. Sarah also teaches craft classes to middle school aged children at the Gibraltar Heritage Trust. Working alongside Eli Farrell, a retired teacher, she says the children are taught about a subject from Gibraltar’s history and then they create something along that theme, be it a mural of the Battle of Trafalgar “with water skiers and piranhas or cannons which the boys really enjoy!”

You can find Sarah on Facebook  and for more information about the Gibraltar Heritage craft classes for children, please contact Gibraltar Heritage Trust.

Other posts in the Creative Gibraltar series:

Creative Gibraltar : Watercolour painting with Deborah M Lawson

The Postcard from Gibraltar Podcast Episode 004: Rebecca Faller 

Creative Gibraltar: Fashion Design & Dressmaking with Dorcas Hammond 

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