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Meet the Maker – An interview with Sally Herbert

What do I make?

I make contemporary jewellery that is organic and sculptural in form and feel.

I work primarily in silver and bronze with highlights of gold, brass and copper. My designs focus on the finished surface of the work.

I love to use patterns and textures to change the appearance of the surface of my work. The pattern and textures are captured from a number of sources including antique lace and fabrics, volcanic rock from our Mt Eden garden, the interaction of different materials and hand applied and worked surfaces.

How did you first get into jewellery-making?

Growing up in NZ and being part of a creative family meant I was encouraged in whatever artistic pursuit took my fancy. I had attended numerous diverse classes over the years without finding a decisive direction. Then, during a session at Hungry Creek, I came to the sudden realisation that I could bring together all my many skills and creativity in one medium, jewellery.

Do you have any formal training and qualifications?

I decided approximately 5 years ago that I would take the plunge and enrol on a part time basis at Hungry Creek. I had some skills but by working alongside the tutors I was able to stretch myself trying new processes and learning how to put some more formal disciplines into my work processes.

Hungry Creek has helped me to develop and clarify my creative ideas and has given me confidence to find my own unique style and voice.

What is your process and how has this changed over time?

I learnt very early on that my drawing skills did not match what I was seeing in my mind, so my designs rarely start life as drawings. Instead, since I have always preferred to work with my hands, I adopt a process of modelling with various mediums – paper, wax, and metal.

I have developed my processes which over time has allowed my work to move in new directions and capture a sense of fluidity and movement.

My favourite material has to be wax, from melting, engraving and carving, the soft modelling wax used to build sculptures to the soft pink wax sheets which allow me to build up a piece by layering.

I have moved over time to looking towards texture with the confidence to embrace the random and less precise nature of more organic pieces. I love working texture into the pieces, either from leaves, bark, flowers or stone from around our garden in Mt Eden.

What is it you love about working and living in New Zealand?

I love the intense colours, the vistas, the variety of landscapes, the sea, taking a walk along a beach with just the seagulls circling above. Climbing around Mt Eden and being able to see a 360-degree view of Auckland and how the weather can paint the sky, harbour and city in a wash of colours while all the time being close to nature.

I love the space living in Auckland allows, we are so privileged to be surrounded by greenery and natural beauty, while still having a thriving city that has a great mix of people and cultures.

Where do you find the most inspiration for your work?

My work is inspired by simple forms and textures. I draw from the past from classical art and jewellery and weave into it the beauty and freedom found in Nature.

Describe your workspace

I originally worked from our garage and dining room table. I think the family got tired of fighting for space as I spread out. So, after some dropping of hints and some heavy negotiating, we built a workshop which nestles amongst the fruit trees and beautiful plantings in our garden. Complete with a Crystal chandelier, a repurposed cabinet maker’s workbench and a painted jeweller’s bench this is my perfect place to work in.

How has the digital space effected and changed your work?

The changes in the digital space for contemporary jewellery have been dramatic and at first, I found it difficult and confronting to keep my head above the tidal wave of visual imagery that bombards you. I have had to learn to ignore the noise and instead focus on developing my own thoughts and designs with references to specific historic and cultural imagery only as needed.

Being online has huge positive impacts and has helped me to critique my work in a more objective manner to ensure that it fits with the look I want and depicts my signature style of work.

I can post images or stories and I can get instant feedback on my images and work. This helps me ensure that the work I develop also resonates with the people who will wear my jewellery.