Monday 18 October 2010

Senufa Salley

1   Fine Silver Pendant - Afro Goddess Series

Q. How did you decide to become a maker?
It was my early twenties (20?) and with the moral support of my husband and with his fabulous sales skills, I found the courage to stand in my truth and try my hand at this craft. We couldn’t afford to send me to school so I sent myself to the library, unleashing a beast. Since I had no idea what I was doing, I did whatever I wanted, learning by making lots of mistakes. I had very low self esteem and many body issues. Creating the work that I did, helped to heal me in a way and helped me to love me exactly the way that I was.

I attracted clients who delighted to see my ‘real women’ earrings and necklaces, and wanted to celebrate ‘woman’ and who wanted to support me as an artist. I also attracted artists who mentored me and loved me like family.

Q. What country do you live in?
Living in Austin, I would say the “country I live in is TEXAS...” (Editors Note: Just in case you don’t know - Austin is in the USA)

Silver, Leather and Turquoise Ring
“totally a work in progress”

Q. Do you have a studio base or a home base?
Currently, my living room serves as my studio....and actually, any flat surface in my house ends up becoming “my studio” I’ve enjoyed studio spaces in a few Art Centres in South Miami and in South Beach for years and years. Being in those environments and having amazing, creative energy around me from the public and from the other artists, plus having my kids, (and me!!) grow up in that environment was priceless.

Sadly, like most run down areas in a city where the artists move in, the people come, the restaurants come, fancy boutiques come, the gap comes, then, viola....rents go through the roof!
3 Bronze Faces - works in progress

Q. What made you choose the materials that you work with?
I’ve transitioned from using only a metal (silver and gold) to working with more organic and softer materials. My love of nature draws me to these materials...woods like ebony, driftwood and cocobolo: seeds and seed pods like tagua and mahogany pods: shells of slow moving snails and turtles.
Now, when I work with metals, I choose to deeply antique silver and bronze, wishing the wearer to feel like they were found in an ancient burial site.

I pick up lots of things on the side of the road (rocks, leaves, twigs, shells, bones, rusted metal). Some things I hunt up sit for years in my studio, staring at me, telling me their secrets and answers to things I’ve known only inside dreams. Sounds super weird, I know, but for me it’s natural. I want there to be some magic now in the materials I choose. Sometimes it’s hard breaking old patterns of work but it’s been extremely rewarding.
4 Bronze Face – Work in progress
“the face is sitting on a vertebrae  ...don't know how it will end”
Q. Crafts in the 21st Century – what does this mean to you?
More and more I see people all over the world taking their craft and showing this passion to the world in their own, unique way. When I was a pup, it was the rare bird that became a success without the help, support, and backing from a gallery. Now the only thing preventing a person to publish and sell directly to their public would be the loss of an internet connection. Not only can you sell your works over the world wide web, but you can connect with your “people” and sell, or just find your like minded people, just as crazy as you, and find connections and support that money (sales) alone cannot buy.

Someone telling me that my work touches them is my wish.

5 Avocado Seeds that i Gourded
“my idea is to have a whole bunch of them cascading as a neck piece...we shall see!

Q. How do you sell your work?
Word of mouth and referrals to my website, and on my etsy shop,

Q. What is your working style?
To be honest, I’m a bit of a mess and very undisciplined in my working style....a bit of a scatter brain! I can be easily distracted by the way something on my bench lays on top of something else, sending me away from what I originally started out to do. That, and being a perfectionist but NOT anal, makes for a very interesting blend of styles! Because I have been happy with pieces made in this falling down the rabbit hole way, I’ve come to just accept the way that I work and have stopped comparing myself to others!

Knowing that some of the ladies and gents who own my work, literally, never take it off, helps me. It helps me while I work, in having that piece NOT be, not about me, but about the person sleeping or showering and cooking with this on, or their lovers or kids associating that jingling sound to their love.

6 Bronze and Silver Earrings - from the Pieces of Prayers Series
“ for my brothers and sisters who believe in the  power of their prayers as they pray for peace for all of us

Q. 3 words of advice for an aspiring Craft artist/maker...
Work is problem solving. Love your mistakes. Don’t think you will always know the outcome, and don’t be married to that outcome. Magic happens when you are the channel for whatever has decided to use you to manifest it.

People don’t have to ‘like’ your work for you to have done your can elicit fear and anger and still be a great success/good artist. Plus, not defining yourself by one piece you’ve made has been good advice for me. YOU are the collection of everything you have made and everything you will make. Plus, you are more than your art/craft. You can be a ‘great painter’, but if you beat your wife, I’ll add that tag...this is a great painter/singer/glassblower, that beat his wife”.

Teach and give away what you have learned to someone who wants to learn something from you. Study humans and animals that attract you. Writers and painters and birds and whales...lots of interesting stories in those lives....lots of inspiration too.

Is that more than 3 words?

Sterling Silver Links
“I solder together about 1/2 inch jump rings, then form and hammer them into the heart shapes I like to leave in all the markings from the old anvil I use, making each one love, a little rough around the edges...”

Q. What inspires you?
A sky full of stars.

Wood, Bone and Something from the Sea (Coral?)
“this is one of the pieces that has looked at me, while i contemplate it since as
long as i can remember...”

Q. Who is/are your favourite artist(s)/maker(s)?
That’s a hard one to answer! I’ve fallen inside many a painting, photograph, sculpture, song, movie or a poem...and have been deeply moved.

I love ancient arts from all over the globe. The Africans Arts take my breath away when I see the pyramids and anything carved by those royal hands. I love exploring the jewellery arts made the world over especially b4 electricity came along. For some reason, this intrigues me...cutting stones and bezel settings, polishing gold, casting....smithing and raising metal...all these with no power tools always blows my mind.

I love artists (including writers and musically) who stand outside of their time frame, making something fresh. A small taste of these lovelies would include Virginia Wolf, Julia Cameron, Paul Robeson, Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keefe, James Baldwin, Eugene O’Neil, Zora Neal Hurston, Josephine Baker, Henry Theroux, Dale Chihuly, Saul Williams, Salvador Dali, Jenny Holzer, Guillermo Gonzalez, Brother Bob Marley, Nil Lara, Charles Loloma, Patty Smith, Stanislaw Szukalski, Buelah Ecton Woodard, Audre Lorde and Andy Goldsworthy.

One of the features I do love on etsy is their hearts/favourites page. There are lots’ of fresh new artists there that I have hearted. When I see artists that I like and then see their favs, it’s the dance that goes on and on. I am in the process of adding more artists’ web sites to my links page too.

I have to add my parents to this list. I grew up with my mom’s sculptures all around me. To this day, I can look at one of her pieces and still be deeply moved by its power.

My dad  is one of the most amazing painters I have ever seen. That said, he still gets the wife beater tag. It always amazes me how some the world’s most creative and talented people can swim inside dark deep waters and still create works to make us and help us, the viewer, see and feel something new and even wondrous.

Bronze and Silver Earrings - from the Pieces of Prayers Series
“for my brothers and sisters who believe in the power of their prayers as they pray for peace for all of us”
Q. You walk into your bathroom and see a crocodile in the bath tub....what would you do?
Because I would probably shit myself, I’ll choose another question, thank you!!!! I grew up in south Florida, and these buggers were in your tubs, and lawns, eating little Muffie the Poodle.....

…….OK here is another question  - What do you do to relax?
I re-read books that I love. Right now I’m reading Keri Holmes, the Bone People.

Senufa Salley
“me in my studio in the early 90s on south beach...oh the days!!! “


Hazel Terry said...

WOW, that was fun, love that leather and turquoise ring. Thank you.

Tash Goswami said...

Hi Hazel, thanks for your comment - I agree its lovely work and a great interview!

Anonymous said...

A true artist to the core. You have inspired me in your studio even when I am not there.

Tash Goswami said...

Dear Anonymous - thanks for your comment. I think Senufa will continue to be an inspiration to many people.

red road studio said...

Great review - and 'love your mistakes' I'll take that reflection with me!!!

Michelle S. said...

I love your blog. The interview with Senufo Sally was really good.

My blog is I doing a blog challenge to post daily arts and art organizations on M & W. I would love to do a blog on you and your experience in blogging. I'm and EOAC artist.

Unknown said...

Alice Miller has something to say to us all especially if we come from a dysfunctional family i.e. a father who was a wife beater was probably a daughter beater etc.. The faces of some of your pieces show pain and hurts from your past and are not handsome in a conventional way. I like your spirit and strength. Brook said...

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