Interview with Sasha Tierney

Sasha Tierney is a San Francisco-based jewelry designer who makes gorgeous, covetous one-of-a-kind, repurposed vintage, costume jewelry.

I recently contacted her to tell her how wowed I am by her work, and she was gracious enough to allow me an interview.

Quick Said the Bird: “Repurposed vintage” is a neologism that we’re seeing more and more among fashion blogs and the like. It’s something that appeals to both a green living and a DIY mentality. What appeals to you most about using pre-existing and antique pieces in your work?

Sasha Tierney: Yes, it’s certainly a buzz word these days, and while I’m all about being green and eco-conscious–my husband and I eat mostly local and organic and do what we can in general—for me, repurposing vintage jewelry is just about using what I love. It’s what I’m drawn to. I don’t particularly care for super shiny modern pieces.

Seashell and Pearl Charm Necklace, $76

QB: Tell me a little about how you got into the jewelry making biz.

ST: My mom is a clothing designer. She started her own business when I was a kid–a local children’s clothing line called Mousefeathers that some of [you] may remember. I really grew up in the fashion business. I was one of their models and spent my afternoons after school watching my mother work: designing fabrics, picking trim, and really putting a cohesive line together.

I’ve always dabbled in creative processes, but I never really found my stride until I turned to jewelry design. I guess I just couldn’t compete with her sense of fashion in terms of clothing. I’ve been doing this for quite some time but I only recently started selling my pieces.

Think Pink Necklace, $68

QB: What do you look for when shopping for materials? Do you have an idea in mind when you go in—for example, maybe you’re on a pearl kick–or do you let what you find inspire you?

ST: It’s funny that you should mention pearls: I just love them. There is such a huge range of hue and sheen in them and I seem to want to collect them all these days. But the irony is that I have spent most of my life hating pearls. I always thought they were too traditional and drab for me. I don’t know what suddenly opened my eyes, but now I can’t seem to get enough of them. When I’m designing a piece and can’t figure out what to insert, I grab a pearl and usually it works.

Flea markets have always been one of my favorite places to shop for just about anything, and I’ve always been drawn to colorful, vintage, rhinestone brooches. But how many of those can a person own? Plus, I really don’t wear brooches. I wear a necklace almost everyday but a brooch just never seems as practical. So one of my favorite things about shopping for jewelry supplies is that I get to buy the things that I have always wanted. Making new things is a great justification for buying.

I should add that while I do a lot of my own shopping for materials, I have also received several jewelry donations from friends and clients. These donations are always fun because they usually contain some items that I would never buy myself. But then I’ll find the perfect use for them in a piece. It’s always a pleasant surprise and really does add a new dimension to the work.

Turquoise and 1922 Peace Silver Dollar Necklace, $68

QB: Tell me a little about your process.

ST: Sometimes I have something in mind before I start–you know, an image will just come to me and I need to create it–but most of the time, I am just experimenting and I don’t have a goal in mind when I begin. The majority of my necklaces are not only unique from one another in terms of materials used but are also unique in terms of style and design. I don’t have a formula that I follow, and I don’t ever want to have one. I like that my pieces are cohesive [as a collection] while still being different and unique from one another.

Vintage Brass Copper and Silver Grapes and Leaves Necklace, $60

QB: Do you have a clientele in mind? Do you cater to a particular kind of women? Do you aim for a certain aesthetic?

ST: [I believe that] my pieces really do appeal to a broad spectrum of women.  I make some real statement pieces, which not everyone can wear every day. [But] I also make more understated elegant designs, such as my “Sweet Whimsical Charm Necklace”—it’s the type of piece that you could wear almost every day, just to add a little something to your look.

Plus, I design both long and short necklaces. I think this array of styles is what makes my pieces appeal to so many. Like I said before, there is variety within the cohesion of my designs.

Sparkly Rhinestone and Pearl Statement Necklace, $88

QB: What inspires you?

ST: I think that Anthropologie has really broadened the market of women’s fashion and accessories. Their success in bringing what used to be on the fringe into every day fashion is really inspiring. I credit them with a lot of the success of repurposing vintage both in clothing and accessories.

Also, Etsy is a fantastic marketplace. It’s really inspiring that someone with a passion for creation can so easily get their products out there to the world.

Repurposed Tour Eiffel Charm Necklace, $68

QB: Do you sell anywhere besides Etsy?

ST: I’ll be selling at the Alameda Flea Market this coming weekend, Sunday June 6th at Booth C7, near the entrance. I’ve got a bunch of brand new pieces that haven’t been posted online yet. I sell through word of mouth locally as well and use my Etsy site and my Facebook fan page for an online presence. I’m hoping to place my jewelry in a few local stores in the near future.

Note: Sasha will be closing her Etsy store on Sunday, as she’s taking these pieces to the Alameda Flea Market. So if there’s anything you have to have, do it now. Or swing by the flea market to see what else she brings to the table (har!). And of course she’ll continue to stock the Etsy store, so it pays to keep checking back.

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