My jewellery informs my life and guides me to the next adventure. My job is to allow the pieces to tell their unique story. I’m a steward of sorts and can’t think of a better role. There’s nothing I’d rather be doing. I am so blessed.

I have lived in East Africa, England, Australia and America and have developed relationships all over the world while experiencing different cultures. I absorbed the colours, textures, patterns, rhythms and aesthetics of each and through that process of discovery. I have particularly come to value embrace the rich histories and beauties of ethnic expression.

I take the vibrancy of each piece, infuse it with experience and only then does the finished piece finds its rightful home, not the other way around.

There are times I find an absolutely fascinating object which that doesn’t seem simply to doesn’t go with anything and that’s where patience comes into play. It’s often years later that, the perfect complement arrives to complete something totally unique and rich with character. Another life lesson is reinforced: rarely does anything happen in my life that is just random chance.

The decision to make jewellery came long before it sustained me financially. I put some pliers in my backpack as I traveled the world; my fascination with the expression of beauty in all mediums was channeled into every piece of jewellery I designed.

I moved to the States in 1990 from Australia, with nothing to my name and built a new life. In much the same way, I do this in my jewellery making, I try to give cast-off and recycled materials a new beginning.

Nothing is ever truly lost, just transformed.

I find the creation of jewellery a very spiritual and therapeutic process. The materials share their spirit with me and I invest some of my own into each piece.

Q: Is there any connection between then and now?

My previous counseling practice prepared me for being out in the world. I create safe places for people to reveal themselves – the jewellery provides the catalyst.

Through my traveling, I’ve developed relationships all over the world; other cultures, nationalities encouraged me to trust, as far as business goes and to hold on when it’s tough knowing that it evolves.

It’s a spiritual journey without sitting in a meditation room. Don’t get me wrong, I love climbing the mountain to the ashram, but that’s not where the real learning happens. All of it’s intertwined – from the angst of employee or supplier relationships to covering expenses, etc. – it brings up all the issues I need to learn in life right in my business.

Q: What ‘rules’ have you thrown off in order to be where you are?

I shed my 9-to-5 job so I can earn a living with my art. For years I was told I couldn’t; it could only be a hobby, not a livelihood. But the greatest success comes from not trying to do what others do, but by being true to who I am.

My work has been my best teacher… I’ve learned to never take a reaction personally. I don’t create to fill a predictable niche in the world.

I’m not a purist – I love mixing different eras, different cultures and seemingly disparate materials to create unified pieces – pieces that become artifacts and testaments to beauty in their own right.

Any awards or accolades come from the fact that I surprise the artistic jury process – it surprises and delights them and helps them to break out of the industry’s molds. You have to smash the crate from the inside to discover the creative process.

Q: What motivates you to keep going?

The materials I find speak to me – they are my muse. Each piece I make comes with its own unique story. I am lucky – thinking up designs comes easily to me. It’s a story just trying to be told.

I’ve always considered the next travel adventure a mandatory component for joy in my life. I have never shied away from the thrill of the hunt – from constantly seeking diverse cultural experiences and rich relationships to discovering long-forgotten found objects along the way.

I want to travel, find cool things, make them into beautiful pieces and sell them so I can travel more – it’s a perpetual cycle that I have turned into a reality.

I love the hunt and creating jewellery BUT the most important things to me are the friendships that develop along the way. Those relationships enriched my life in more ways than I could ever have imagined – from beautiful pieces of art came the enduring beauty – deep, meaningful friendships.

Q: How do you re-energize when you feel your energy slipping?

I re-energize by spending time in my studio, or by switching the TV off and spending time in nature, with friends and at the breakfast club.

I live in Tucson, Arizona, a beautiful place; I sit in my home surrounded by incredible artifacts. I think about where they’ve come from, the beauty that they’ve brought into my life.

I always try to put myself in a beautiful environment at home and in nature – all renewing and revitalizing.

When I’ve finished a huge show, the drive home soothes me. I need space; although physically exhausted, it is mentally and spiritually a renewal time.

Q: What advice would you give to another woman who is 50+ and feeling a huge pull to do something outside of the ordinary?

I would ask them, “What have you got to lose?”

When the pain of staying is greater than the fear of letting go, that’s when you can take action. Allow the desire to become bigger than the fear. Of course, change is scary AND if you desire it enough you can overcome fear.

Surround yourself with people who let go of limitations; I’m actually not interested in people who are the naysayers. Surround yourself with your advocates and champions.

Create a tribe of your own to support you: build that support group, leave that tall poppy syndrome behind, and celebrate people’s success instead.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: You can find Sally Bass and her jewellery at www.sallybass.com