By Pamela Burke/June 15, 2012
Last week we posted a Fun Stuff article about Sara Gallo’s whimsical bracelets and necklaces made from tiny doll shoes. The colors are spectacular and the variety of combinations endless. We, of course, wondered who this talented designer Sara Gallo was and just how she came up with the idea to weave these tiny wonders into jewelry.
“I like making jewelry that requires a second look. It gives you a whole new appreciation for what you’re looking at…” Sara Gallo
So we searched for Sara and found her in Pennsylvania, in the midst of experimenting with some bracelet ideas for the holiday season. Let’s find out what’s coming out of her basement factory next…
EYE: Tell me a bit about your background. Have you always wanted to be an artist?
SARA: I grew up in the small town of Parkesburg in Chester County, Pennsylvania. I went off to college nearby at Millersville University where I studied Art and Art Education. (I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a concentration in Fine Art Metals and also a Bachelor of Science in Education with an emphasis on Art Education.)
I knew I wanted to be an artist at a very young age. I would collect things from around my house and even outside in the yard to make jewelry or wall art with.
This really annoyed my parents as the stones around the house disappeared one by one to be painted and put on a shelf, but as I entered high school they really supported my creative endeavors.
I painted my room with water colors and glue and let the colors just drip down the wall to the floor. It was really beautiful, but in a month I started another project over top of it… and then another on top of that.
EYE: What inspires you now? Where is your studio?
SARA: I’m mostly inspired by artificial colors. I love going into candy stores and toy stores to see the color combinations. I think about branding and how different color combinations are marketed toward different age groups.
I also find inspiration in my visits to Longwood Gardens, which is really close to where I live. There is something about the arrangements there that you just don’t see in nature. They’re very well thought out and organized. Everything is placed just so.
My studio is in the basement of my home. I have a finished basement, and it’s very well ventilated, so it works!
EYE: What ever possessed you to collect all those tiny shoes? You must have thousands. Did you love dolls as a child? Or shoes?
SARA: I’ve always collected found objects! I keep very organized bins in my studio with all kind of things I’ve collected. I have a bin just for used contacts. They dry up in different shapes and harden to each other. It’s probably really gross sounding, but it looks awesome!
I also have tons of glass tiles, erasers, scrap metal, and so many other things among the Barbie shoes I’ve collected. Once I had accumulated about 50-60 Barbie shoes I thought, “This would make such a cool bracelet!”
I wore it a few times and got so many complements I had to make more. I went on eBay and searched online for old Barbie shoes to make them out of, but now it’s to the point where I’m in contact with the manufacturer and get super huge boxes full (think refrigerator boxes) of just one color/style of Barbie shoe.
I like it a lot better this way because I can really design each piece to look how I want, and not just put together a bunch of shoes I’ve found.
I’ve ALWAYS had a love for Barbie. I still keep my favorite ones on display in my studio and in my bedroom. They always lost their shoes. I think most Barbies end up naked, too. That’s actually how I was able to accumulate enough shoes to make a bracelet. Barbie doesn’t need them anyway.
What girl doesn’t love shoes? I wouldn’t say it’s reached “problem” status yet, but I have more shoes than I should. I will say though, I spend way more money on Barbie shoes than on shoes for myself!
EYE: Is a sense of whimsy or fun important in your work? The shoe bracelet makes me laugh.
SARA: It most definitely is! I think it comes with the territory of making something unrecognizable. We all know what Barbie shoes are, but they’re completely taken out of context and given a new purpose. That’s really what I aim to do. I like making jewelry that requires a second look.
It gives you a whole new appreciation for what you’re looking at and makes you want to wear it so you can share that experience with the next person.
EYE: You are a metal artist. Are you always trying to push the envelope in your work? What do you strive for?
SARA: I used to work primarily in metal and incorporate other elements into my work, but my focus has shifted with the goal being to produce something entirely unique and never seen before, using whatever materials I may need to achieve that goal.
All of my jewelry has an accent of sterling or gold—from my Vintage Gold Series (made of leather) to my Candy Collection (using resin)—because I’m not just making fashion jewelry that goes out of style in a year. Even though my jewelry is funky, it’s contemporary jewelry that really gets a lot of wear.
EYE: What is your favorite piece?
SARA: My favorite piece in the Doll Shoe Series is the Original Pink Doll Shoe Necklace. To me, it embodies the essence of the whole collection. It’s an ’80s pink color that Barbie is known for. It’s made entirely of her classic pump high heel shoe (the shoe we all have in our closet), and it takes on a really unique form that is wearable and yet, unrecognizable as shoes.
I have two new favorite pieces of jewelry that I wear a lot. The first is from the Vintage Gold/Leather Series, and it’s called “Vintage Gold Horn Pendant.” I love the way it lies on the body, and it’s so light weight! Everybody always asks me what it is made from because it looks like gold foil, but it’s so flexible.
My other favorite is from my new Sparkle Series. It’s called “Pink Jade &Yellow Sparkle Bracelet.” I don’t have either of these listed for sale yet, but soon I will post them to Etsy. My Etsy is getting revamped this week!
EYE: Has the Barbie company seen your work?
SARA: I can’t say for sure if the Barbie company has seen my work. My series is made using doll shoes, but it’s likely that we get them from the same manufacturer. I’d love to have my work sold through their company, as they have a fan base that would truly appreciate the Doll Shoe Series!
EYE: What are you working on now?
SARA: I’m working on a few different experimental series and, as always, adding to existing ones. I have some metallic leather and suede hides I’ve been sketching into some design ideas and hope to make a few fun bracelets for the holiday season.
I’ve also been incorporating dyed jade (in candy colors) with jelly ankle-strap doll shoes to make Jelly Jade bracelets and necklaces. I’ve had so many requests for doll shoe jewelry using a mix of colors like purple/green, yellow/pink, black/pink, etc., and those will all be up on my Etsy account!
EYE: When is your next exhibit?
SARA: It’s June 23-24, 2012, at the Manayunk Arts Festival, Orbit Art Gallery, Manayunk, PA. I am also having a 72-hour-sale on SneakPeeq.com from June 25th-27th. This is the first chance to purchase my new work, and it will be sold at a discounted price for just three days. You can log in using Facebook and shop with all of your friends!
EYE: Thanks for sharing your creations! Here below are a few of our favorites:
Shoe Photos by Shelah Riley Photography