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Style & Beauty

From singing the blues to making jewellery

Thursday, 15th August, 2019 8:51am

StickyBackBailey is a handmade and custom made jewellery line, which started by accident, about three years ago in New York by Cork woman Caroline Wilkins.

We caught up with Caroline recently to talk about life, work and meeting Patti Smith, someone she has admired for a long time.

Tell us a little about yourself and how StickyBackBailey was born:

“I grew up singing blues in my dad’s rock bands, first in Rock Hard, and then in The Angels. Over 10 years ago, the Huffington Post published out a ‘find your blues name’ post and my initials brought me Sticky Back and Bailey! When the jewellery line started, I realised that making these pieces gave me the same release as I got when singing - specifically, blues music. I would start out perhaps, in a mediocre or not-so-great space or mood sometimes, and sing some blues or these days finish a piece and I’d be happy out!

“Four years ago, while living in New York, my health took a bad turn, and I found myself with no insurance, in America, with a good stint in the hospital. I was in a pretty stressful place and found it difficult to understand why the so called shit was hitting the fan. I couldn’t go out for drinks with friends until I was fully healed, which quietened my social life for a couple of months. I felt a bit lost on how to express what was going on for me on an emotional and creative level.”

So what did you do?

“I went out to Brooklyn to a jewellery class that I got on Groupon and it was like a spark of excitement. Looking back I think, I must have gotten a bit cocky because I didn’t go to another class after that! I would just think of something in my head and then find a way to make it, through trial and error. I had and still have so much to learn so that notion amazes me now.

“I noticed also, that the more I hung around the East Village and Lower East Side, the more my head was buzzing with ideas. I saved for a while and I eventually moved there. I soon started to realise that making a piece once was like having a cup of strong coffee, and making the same piece twice, made me feel like I’d five days of laundry to sort out - depleting my energy completely it seemed.”

Is that why you make custom pieces now?

“I put them up on Snapchat, explaining every detail about them and I would wear them in the bar I worked in in Times Square. I couldn’t believe it when friends and acquaintances would offer words of encouragement and then started asking if they could pay me to make something for them. Other bartenders in New York started to spread the word, wearing them at work in bars in Hells Kitchen.

“I was so surprised and so grateful, that the natural thing seemed to be to make custom pieces. Now this is something that is so important to me, and I only make one of everything. Sometimes people would post and send me pictures of themselves wearing them at different occasions and I couldn’t get over how happy and satisfied it made me feel to receive these.”

You’ve had lots of success with your collections to date but tell us about being a vendor at the recent All Together Now festival in Waterford:

“On the first night Niamh Cullen, an Irish influencer, came to the tent and took a bunch of videos and pictures saying the kindest things.

“At one point, I was standing, joking with my friend Linda, when a man came to my tent. He asked me how it was going and if it was worth it bringing jewellery to the festival to sell. I told him I couldn’t complain. After a brief exchange with him, he asked how he could help to make my business better.

“I laughed and said ‘if you know Patti Smith, I’ve a piece here for her.’

“He said okay and gave me his number, and an hour and a half later, I’m standing in front of Patti Smith, in a private tent, shaking with excitement, and probably being weird, with a piece I custom made for her with absolutely no notion of ever meeting on the cards, except for a feeling.

“She was graceful and kind, and said ‘well, what better way to give a gift, than to give it to the person themselves, right?’ I then, went on to see her perform an intimate gig, where she read her own poetry, some written at 16 years of age and sang songs to a small crowd with Tony Shanahan, before her set on the Main Stage. In the end I ended up selling almost four times the amount I had ever hoped for and to people who seemed truly interested in the pieces and their story.”

Visit stickybackbailey.com to explore Caroline’s latest collections.

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