Sally has been a collector and creator of jewellery since her childhood. Each piece has a story, a history, an eclectic mix of inspirations and visual language inspired by her travels to remote places and the cultures she has encountered and fallen in love with along the way. 

The journey is not at an end – Sally continues to lead an inspired life, a melting-pot of treasures and creative avenues. She is a woman who truly lives her art. Passionate about telling stories, her pieces are infused with symbolism, talisman and something mystical, as though each story intends to continue, passing down through generations to come.

 

"Jewellery is a part of my life. A part of me."

 

One of Sally’s earliest childhood memories is sitting in a bath in Karachi, the place of her birth, admiring the glass bangles layered up the arms of her ayah:

 She was attired in a vibrant sari, her elegant neck adorned with amulets. She loved to share her adornments with the young Sally and long after they had left Pakistan, the ayah continued sending gifts of sparkling jewels, silks and talismans.

 

It was a childhood that gave her a taste for an adventurous life and a lifelong curiosity for other cultures.

In Singapore Sally wandered the markets in the mellow evenings, dazzled by the extravagant fireworks and vivid lanterns celebrating the Chinese festivals.

Later living in Mauritius, a country infused with Indian, Chinese and African influences, she lived by the Indian Ocean. She spent many hours happily wading in the warm azure waters of the coral gardens, admiring the deep pinks and purples of corals and feathery anenomes and the electric colours of tropical fish. This, and her early passion for collecting shells and fossils, is still visible in her Oceanic collection today.

 In the vast bead markets of Accra in Ghana, Sally wondered at the ancient trading beads from all over the world, that sat side by side with brass and gold Ashanti weights heavy with symbols and proverbs that she was yet to understand. These beads and jewels signified rites of passage that demarcated the journey through the stages of life. With her first pocket money she started a bead collection of her own that was to last a lifetime, and at thirteen she made her very first necklace.

Sally has always loved the story-telling aspects of jewellery – pieces handed down from one generation to the next “It has an almost mystical energy from whoever was wearing it before, as if a piece is laden with meaning”. She studied anthropology and history of art at university, specializing in the symbolism of adornments and their use in rites of passage. When her parents moved to Yemen,  all of this knowledge was brought to life by the people she encountered and Sally’s career designing jewellery began.

Yemeni adornment fascinated Sally and to be amidst a culture where jewellery was so important was a turning point. Tribal women were laden with silver, much of it fashioned by the exquisite craftsmanship of the last of the Jewish community.  “Women wear their jewellery like a bank account and at the time, silver was just not valuable enough.”  

Yemeni wedding heirlooms were being melted down and silver was being abandoned and replaced by gold - this made a deluge of unique pieces available, which Sally bought eagerly in an effort to save them from being lost forever.  Amongst the Bedouin of the Hadramaut she found treasures of exquisite flowered filigree, fertility talismans and heavy wedding belts. Some of these, curated over many years, remain in her collection to this day. Her discerning taste, she discovered, gave her the impetus to roam the world further to find inspiration for her work. 

Sally’s love of other cultures was beginning to take hold:  

 

Spurred on by her obsession with silver, Sally moved to Cairo to learn to make her own designs from the local silversmiths.  Downtime was spent in Khan-Al-Khalii buying ancient silver and treading the museums of Cairo where the ancient pharonic jewellery brightly set with lapis and turquoise were to prove a huge inspiration.

“I was in the middle of the wilderness,
I had independence. Freedom.
I was without a care in the world”. 

As a young adult, the world opened up to Sally, and opportunities to travel were in abundance. This time in her life became an inspired adventure, a mosaic of experiences which stimulated the development of a unique personal style.

 

 

A generous birthday present of a trip to Kenya opened up the vast landscapes of Africa, from which came a six month anthropological thesis; living with the Maasai, researching the symbolism of their beadwork.  A friendship with renowned photographer and writer Mirella Ricciardi and her adventurer husband Lorenzo took her on a journey into the wilds of the Selous game reserve in Tanzania.  They crossed Africa from East to West by way of its rivers and lakes, documented in the book “African Rainbow’.  “I was fresh out of university”, she says, “I was in the middle of the wilderness, I had independence. Freedom. I was without a care in the world”.

 

 

This 3 month adventure engendered a thirst for further African exploration and took Sally and best friend Emma McCune deep into the heart of Dinka and Nuer culture (now in South Sudan) where she was delighted by the exotic use of animal bones and brass, melted from bullets, in their jewellery and by their elaborate beaded corsets. 

 

 

 

 

 

Crosses from Ethiopia, Hands of Fatima from North Africa and travels further afield into the plains of Mongolia where on a riding safari, she noticed the Mongolians’ love of horses, displayed in elaborate silverwork embedded in their bridles and saddles.  She began to collect these together with traditional amulets decorated with striking thunderbolts  ‘the nomads carried their temples around their necks. The best jewellery comes from nomadic peoples. They carry their wealth with them and are lavishly adorned”. 

 

 

 

 

 

Medieval jewellery was also a surprise influence when a dear friend allowed her to access his collection of medieval rings which took her once again into the depths of the British Museum to look at the romans and etruscans.  “I loved their simple unfussy lines. I prefer jewellery in a rough organic form and these suited me perfectly”.  

 

As entering Yemen became increasingly difficult and the old pieces harder to find, Sally decided she needed new challenges.  A study of gemology in Kenya, where Sally began to use precious stones in her designs, inevitably lead to an extended trip to India, where she met a gem dealer with whom she still works twenty five years later.  Jaipur remains one of the great nerve centres of gemology and design, a hangover from the days of the Maharajahs who displayed their wealth using gems to decorate their camels, their palaces and their wives. Sally was stunned by the visual extremities of India, the intense poverty juxtaposed with huge wealth. She found herself intrigued by the gracefulness of indian women, elegantly dressed in vivid fluorescent colours and dazzling sequins, whilst engaged in heavy physical work.  She spent many hours huddled over huge pans of gems sorting through diamonds, emeralds and rubies and it was from this exhausting process of selection she found her own spontaneous way of working.  Rather than a pre-conceived idea, she found the stones that attracted her and then worked out what she might do with them. The accomplished craftsmanship of the continent, finally gave her the creative freedom she had yearned for. “ I could take the images of moon and stars from the helm of an African dhow and make the amulets and pendants I had dreamed of. The Navratna with its nine different stones symbolizing the planets; brass seals from Iran could be forged into the setting of a roman ring. Everything was possible. I felt as if I could bring it all together.  Make new things inspired by the old, crescent moons, suns, fish everything all mixed up.”

Sally visited India and its neighbouring countries many times in the years that followed :  where the borders of China, Pakistan and India converge is Ladakh and for Sally this mountainous district was a revelation.  She fell in love with their talent for combining jewellery into their clothing.  Cloaks heavy with turquoise and coral, textiles embedded with pearls and silver, all of this she would examine and discuss with the local people taking many careful weeks to observe their customs and rituals.  Her enjoyment of being steeped in another culture has never diminished and she says determinedly of Bhutan “the next time I make that journey I am doing it on foot. It’s the only way to do it”. 

At home in Soysambu…

These days Sally is more settled and although still travelling she spends a great deal of her time on a nature conservancy in the heart of Kenya’s Rift Valley. Inspired as always by her surroundings, her latest collections are derived from the wildlife she observes from her verandah or as she horse rides through the bush.  She occasionally spends time time at her home in Nairobi, where Out of Africa was filmed. 

The heat of the day finds her absorbed in her intimate workshop talking with beaders and silversmiths. She is more relaxed in her own style and is comfortable making more classical pieces with an historic feel.  Her favourite bespoke piece is a Tuareg cross in the shape of a compass.  She loves its meaning:  we can never lose each other because we hold the world in our hands .

"It never feels like work” she says. “Jewellery is a part of my life. A part of me”.