Barbara Salinas: A Wave of Inspiration

Barbara Salinas, the owner of Sammy Skye Jewels, creates whimsical, beautiful pieces that tell stories. Inspired by the ocean, Salinas uses sustainable materials to embody the beauty, movement, and the power of sand and sea. Here she sat down with Pietra Communications, to delve into her background, process, and designs.

When I first heard your story, you spoke of wanting to inspire your children when you decided to become an entrepreneur. Can you share more about this with our readers?

Two years ago, I decided at my age to go back to school for my second career and second passion…I am a photographer, a sculptor, a mom and now a jeweler.   I am divorced with two kids who will be going to college in a few years.

Family is the most important thing to me. I put my life on hold to raise my children, but I never stopped making art…and most importantly, never stopped being me…and now that they are older, I wanted them to experience firsthand what it takes to be an entrepreneur. The challenges we face and how we overcome them. I wanted them to see firsthand and get inspired by not “look what I can do” but “look what YOU can do.” You can do anything.  Find something you love to do get really good at it and share it with other people.  Put yourself out there. You do not have to wait until you’re all grown up to make an impact. Challenges are like waves, we either ride them to shore or get pulled under. Every piece I make comes with a tiny pendant for the children to wear and get inspiration.

Your pieces perfectly encapsulate beachy vibes; how does the ocean inspire your designs? What is your connection to it?

I live on a barrier island surrounded by the ocean and the bay. The ocean is literally my backyard—a sanctuary of endless inspirations—for which I am grateful.  I am entranced by it.  The ocean tends to seep into my designs without conscious effort. It has a profound impact on my work.

The 18k Gold Plated Shackle Bracelet with Rubies and White Topaz is a gorgeous piece; what is the story behind this design?

Restrained for years by the responsibility of being a full-time mother to young children, my Shackles piece not only pays tribute to this time, but also represents my release into the next chapter of my life as a jeweler.

I took a common utilitarian device and made it beautiful to wear, like Cartier did with the nail.

What is the biggest challenge you faced when starting your brand? Was creating a collection different than you imagined it?

I knew I wanted to be a Jeweler and an entrepreneur.   My wanting this raised a lot of questions.  How am I going to design it? What am I going to design? What skill sets do I need?   I needed to understand why I was making the jewelry and who I was making it for.  I realized that my brand concept was already there; my love for the water had seeped into my designs without conscience effort, so my brand created itself.  My biggest challenge was how to bring it into reality. I bought a vintage 1962 Airstream Bambi to turn into a mobile retail store, and enrolled at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Then, I began to bring it into reality.

Creating a collection was not different than I imagined. I knew I would be facing challenges. It’s how I handled those challenges that got me closer to my goal. I challenged myself with every piece I made because I knew it would be the best way to learn. I also worked backwards, not on purpose, but having done so kept me going. Since my concept/brand was already there, my Airstream was waiting to be filled, and I just needed to work on getting the skillset to design and create my collection.

The wave necklace in exotic wood is a stunning piece, working with the material in a unique way, how challenging was this piece to create?

The prep work on the wave piece was immense. I had a vision; the challenging part was making it come to life.  It represents the power and beauty of the water, the sense of never ending, the different depth, colors and textures I wanted the necklace to highlight the beauty of the ocean.

This piece is a work in progress.  This is just a small piece of what it’s going to be.  I plan on making a whole exhibit on the wave, several variations; I’m constantly tweaking it and adding more to it.

Have you always had an interest in jewelry design? How did you get started?

I have not.  All my other experiences led me to jewelry.  As a child, I spent countless hours watching my dad, who is an excellent Blacksmith, transform unshapely metal into beautiful works of art and I was the photographer. I would photograph all his pieces. I later became a photographer…I have been a freelance photographer, home with my kids their entire lives. Roughly two and a half years ago I started experimenting with metal and I was immediately hooked and realized I want to do what my dad did, but in a much smaller scale and with gemstones…I realized, I wanted to be a jeweler. It was always there, finally it felt right, and nothing was going to stop me. My kids got older, and I finally got the nerve to go for it and what better way than to have my kids experience it with me, see how I handled all the challenges that came with it, and instill in them my work ethic. Stick to it, when you think something cannot work, you make it work! Don’t let anything get in your way! Keep grounded and focused and got for it!

Which is your favorite sea creature to design?  Do you have any more designs in the works you can tell us about?

I am very drawn to whales. Especially the tails.  The whale’s tail represents strength due to the power that the tail provides to the whale. I guess the whale is my spirit animal, in a sense being that is symbolizes growth and power and they are also associated with unbridled creativity.

The wave necklace is a work in progress, I have some big ideas. Stay tuned!!

What are your favorite gemstones to use in your pieces?

In a way of creating, I love using sustainable materials.  Exotic woods, Tagua Nut, different types of rawhides shagreen being one of them.  When it comes to gemstones, I love the big three: rubies, sapphires and diamonds. I love adding a hint of patriotism is my pieces with these beautiful gemstones.

What is the creative vision behind your social media posts?

I want people to understand my creative vision, my love of the water. I like to put items together to make a statement.  I understand the juxtaposition of two images together and does it relate to my creative vision? It turns out that it does. I’m not doing it with forethought, but doing it more with a stream of consciousness.  I do this without realizing why it goes together, but after I create a blog and post it. It is part of my vision of my philosophy of my jewelry and of my life.  What I post is how I view the world at that moment, and I’m able to do it in the context of my jewelry.  My creative vision is when a mood, an image or a thought strikes me that I like to put down and share because it supports my image of who I am through my jewelry.

What advice would you give to others wanting to break into the jewelry business?  What advice was a piece of advice that was given to you that helped you?

My advice for woman or men wanting to break into the jewelry business is:

Find out what you love passionately to do and find out what you’re good at and put them together.

Dig down and find out what makes you happy and what doesn’t make you happy.

Make a list.

Don’t be afraid of failure.

Expect failure because with every failure you make, you’ll make it ten times greater than the next time.


Enjoy successes.

Treat yourself nice.

When you think something can’t work, IT CAN!!

Do not look for rationales, look for passions and ways to make money with your passions.

If someone wants to learn more about your brand, what is the best way to get in contact with you and learn/view more?

I am very accessible.  I prefer face to face or to hear your voice.  To view more of my pieces and learn more about my brand, anyone can go to my website, which is www.sammyskye.com or my Instagram, which is @sammyskyejewels and the best way to contact me would be to ring me at 646-295-7100 or if you prefer to email I can be emailed at Barbara.salinas@mac.com

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