Sally Ayling has been making jewellery since 1996. After training at Morley college in London she went on to complete a degree in 3d craft at Brighton. This training has given Sally a vast knowledge of many different materials, a knowledge which she now uses to design and make stunning pieces of jewellery in silver, acrylic, wood and fabric.
From her studio in Stoke Newington Sally designs and makes all her own pieces. Methods include piercing, riveting, collaging, soldering, French crochet, and shaping on mandrels. No matter which material or method Sally uses, a strong work ethic remains consistent; that each piece should be handmade by her in it’s entirety. It’s this ethic that ensures Sally’s work really stands out. You can’t help but notice her pieces have been hand crafted by a true artist.
When did it all begin for you? I went to Morley college in Lambeth and did a jewellery evening class. I started when I was 16 and went for 3 years. I was taught by Barbara Christie who is a fantastic contemporary jeweller. She was so encouraging and enthusiastic I went back again after university (for 2 years this time) to learn more from her.
Tell us about your work?
I design and make jewellery. The latest range I’ve made is based on British birds. I draw from field guide books and design graphic images of the birds which I then translate into jewellery using a variety of materials new and recycled. I’ve been bird watching from either my kitchen or bedroom window for the last few years. Not quite made it to actual outside birdwatching yet but really going to make the effort this year. I especially want to see the grebe weed ceremony which I’m told I might be able to see in the Barnes wetlands in April.
You work with many different materials. Could you pick your favourite?
I love the different colours available from the acrylic, which enables me to make bold colour-ways in my work. But I think I enjoy working with the found metal/tins more, as it’s different every time depending on what I’ve collected. I like selecting the text that once was obscure fine print/ingredients lists and making it the centre of a necklace.
What’s your favourite piece of work?
The acrylic necklaces. As I make the whole piece including the chain on the clasp. I try and make as much of the piece as I can to keep the design running through the whole thing. So on these the clasp is a twig, and an egg shape, the French knitting reminiscent of a birds nest. Keeping the bird theme throughout.
How do you keep your work unique?
That’s hard and I never really know if I have as I’m influenced by so many things consciously and subconsciously. I was once told by a tutor at university that no one will ever make anything new which I found very depressing. While I see his point I think everyone takes inspiration from the world around them and gives their own twist on it. I think my process of drawing the things that interest me and trying to keep the qualities of that in my work must help to put my stamp on the jewellery I make.
Tell us about your work space or favourite place to work?
I work at home. My bench is in the only part of our house that gets the sun. I have a jewellers bench which I inherited from my grandfather along with many of his tools. He was an architect but took up jewellery when he retired. I have 2 filing cabinets next to my bench which are stuffed full of tools, things I’ve collected and are constantly jamming. I’m hoping the next place we live I’ll have a bit more space for some bigger drawers.
Describe your day as a designer maker? Are you organised/disciplined?
As I work at home in order not to go stir crazy I go swimming in the lido most mornings so when I get back I feel like I’m arriving at work. I try to be organised and keep a routine as otherwise working at home it’s easy for the morning to have gone by without having got very far. So the plan is to do admin, e-mails and posting off orders to the lovely people who have ordered through Folksy in the morning. It’s still a real buzz when someone buys something. Then making/designing the rest of the day. But that doesn’t always happen.
And of course eating cake and drinking coffee along the way.
What three tools could you not live without?
My jeweller’s piercing saw, riveting hammer, and a needle file.
What gets the creative juices flowing?
I try looking at things that interest me and other designers/makers I admire. At the moment the birds are keeping me very occupied and I spend a long time going through the many field guides I have. I’ve got a mixture of illustrated and photograph versions.
You’re obviously inspired very much by nature and wildlife but are you inspired by any artists/designers from the past or present?
- What do you love most about being a designer maker?
- Being able to work at home is wonderful. Just making things for my job is amazing. I’ve been trying to do it along side other jobs for years and this is the first year I’ve been doing it full time. I still don’t really feel like it’s work and I’m cheating somehow.
- What would you say to any makers starting out?
Business wise, I really feel like I’m just starting out myself so it’s hard to say. The biggest learning curve for me so far has been marketing myself and allowing enough time for it as well as making.
I find making in itself is enjoyable and though many crafts have many rules it’s best not to get too bogged down by them unless that’s the part you enjoy. I know quite a few people who find the systematic coded knitting patterns the calming part.
Thanks to Sally for taking the tim out to talk to me. You can lots more of her beautiful jewellery pieces in her Folksy Shop Sally Ayling.