Sally Haysom is the Bristol-based jeweller behind myBearHands. Her creative upbringing embedded in her a love of craft and admiration for ‘the talent and years that go into honing a skill to create a beautifully executed piece of work’. Although she always loved drawing, she also had a passion for making, so she developed a way of transforming her illustrations into a tangible product – and the beautiful jewellery of myBearHands was born. We talked to Sally about her work, her inspirations and growing up in Devon…
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your work?
I’ve always been creative, and growing up in the Devon countryside with an artistic family definitely nurtured my love of making and the outdoors. I love nothing better than a walk by the sea, which is an absolute fail-safe for me if I’m feeling a bit down or in a creative slump. You can definitely see the influence of a country upbringing in all the animals who populate my illustrations! I have also recently discovered a competitive streak in myself through my local rowing club, which I absolutely love. I like to be active and it’s great for clearing the mind and getting rid of the tension after a day in the studio.
Did you have a very creative upbringing?
Yes! I am extremely lucky to have grown up with creative and supportive parents, who have nurtured my artistic side from a young age. This began with ‘quiet drawing’ on my dad’s floor as a wee thing while he worked in his illustration studio – a huge treat! My family have been big supporters of my choice of career and I couldn’t have done it without them. They always encouraged my love of craft and pattern which definitely features heavily in my work.
Where does the name myBearHands come from?
myBearHands was initially going to be a joint venture with a friend called ‘Big Bear Little Bear’ but in the end didn’t happen, so I decided to go it alone. My work so far has very often been animal focused, so I decided to stick with the Bear part, and I wanted to convey the idea of making things by hand, so thought this worked quite well.
You originally trained as an illustrator. What was it that drew you across to jewellery?
I love drawing, but from a young age I have always made things and been drawn to craft. Working as an illustrator didn’t feel quite right, and I began looking for ways to apply my images to products. I tried all sorts of things until I settled on jewellery.
Can you explain how you create your pieces?
It starts with an idea. I’m always jotting down inspiration or ideas as they come to me – quiet times at craft fairs are great for this. My work is all based on my own illustrations or designs, so that gets jotted down in my sketchbook first. I then either transfer it to my computer or watercolour paper to create the final artwork. After this comes the making, which mean getting the image printed professionally, applying it to wood sheets, getting that laser cut around the images, coating these pieces individually in resin and finally adding the chain or findings. Phew!
Do you keep a sketchbook? Can we have a peek?
Sure, come on in! My sketchbook is actually often writing rather than sketches, as I’ll write down my ideas as they come to me. I often have a concept for a range which I want to remember and these aren’t necessarily image based.
You live in the creative hub of Bristol. Does that influence your work?
Yes, I’m sure it does. I share a studio with six other lovely creative people, so we bounce ideas around a lot. It’s also really inspiring and motivating to be around other people making and creating all day. Bristol as a whole is a really creative city – illustration particularly is very prominent. There are so many craft fairs and pop-up shops you can’t really miss it.
What inspires you?
I’m very much a craft, design and product fan rather than fine art – I love to see the talent and years that go into honing a skill to create a beautifully executed piece of work. I like things to be aesthetically pleasing, but also love work with a clever twist or idea behind it. I love work with a narrative side to it, and have often used this in my work. I’m also inspired by nature and find getting away from the city really rejuvenating – in particular the sea!
Are there any artists or designers you particularly admire?
There are so many! I love Helen Noakes Jewellery – tiny figures set in resin and finished with handmade silver. There’s also a guy called Mr Finch who makes beautiful textile creatures as art pieces. Having said I’m not into fine art, I actually really like a lot of Grayson Perry’s work as well – he combines some interesting ideas with skilled finishes in his pottery and tapestries. His Reith lectures were great as well – he talks really openly about the elitism in art and makes it more accessible to the general public.
We’ve heard that you’re working on a new monochrome collection. Can you tell us more about that?
I’m pretty excited about this actually. So far my work has been based on animals and characters in the main, but I want to move away from this to more design-based pieces. My monochrome range is based on four black-and-white patterns I designed myself. These are contrasted with a single vibrant colour and gold vinyl accent – either a stripe or shape laid over the top. They are simple shapes like triangles, arcs and hexagons and I’ve made some bangles which are a first for me too! Luckily they are selling well, which is always a worry when you spend time creating something new!
Where do you work? Can you describe your studio?
I have a studio space in Eason, Bristol. It’s a converted commercial garage, hence the name: Garage Studios. It’s fairly small, there are seven of us in total, but this means we all know each other and have developed a good working environment together. It’s a really light, functional space, but has been nicely converted so it looks great too. I absolutely love it and find it so helpful to have somewhere to go each day to work. It separates work life and home life, which is really important.
What’s your favourite part of the creative process?
Ooooo, that’s tricky. I’d say either creating the artwork or seeing the prototype of a new product for the first time. I do still love drawing days, when I can put on some music and just doodle away in my sketchbook. On the other hand, when I’ve spent ages creating a new range and finally get the finished product made for the fist time and can actually try it on, that’s pretty good too!
What are your three favourite tools?
I’d have to go with jewellery pliers (I use these for everything); my pencil (mechanical, 0.5mm B lead); and my computer – where would I be without it?
What do you listen to while you make?
A whole range of things. I get really bored listening to the same things every day, so I mix it up. Radio 4 and 6 Music get a lot of air time (I’m ashamed to say that I know what’s going on in The Archers!), but I’m also partial to a podcast (This American Life is good), audio book or Spotify playlist.
Is there a piece of your work you’re most proud of?
Currently I’m really pleased with my ‘Monochrome Statement Necklace’. It’s the feature piece of the range and I really like the cotton rope instead of chain, which I usually use. It’s proving fairly popular as well!
Where in the world would you most like to go and why?
I’m desperate to go Husky Dog Sledding! You get assigned a ‘pack’ for the trip, and travel along a route stop off at huts along the way. It’s a bit pricey for a crafter’s budget, though!
So if you’re not sledging with Huskies, how will you be spending Christmas?
I’ll be at home in Devon with my family. They have a beautiful house in a village with a log fire. It’s all very traditional and the perfect remedy for post Christmas Market Season fatigue!