Sally Bridge grew up in a creative environment. Her father is “a sculptor, blacksmith, jack of all trades. He can make anything.” Their home was a Mecca for artists. As a child, Sally would hang out in her father’s studio crafting small things like bowls and boxes. She developed a love for metal, gravitating to it when visiting the Toledo Museum of Art. Sally drew, painted, worked in papier-mâché, and customized a world for her Barbie dolls, sewing clothes and patching together houses and furniture out of boxes, tape, fabric and found objects.
One of her grandmothers, “a complete glamour puss” taught Sally to sew, supplementing her wardrobe with garments they made together. She also took her granddaughter shopping “to endlessly swanky clothing stores. We always looked at the insides to see French seams and finishes.” An art major at college, Sally went on to study psychology and then theater where she found herself making costumes. She married, had children, divorced, and, aria da capo, began to sew again working at first on other designer’s samples.
At 36, after some business courses, Sally Bridge Design Inc. opened as a business specializing in dresses and high end sportswear with a 50s spin. For 14 years, the collection successfully sold both nationally and abroad. It was a matter of pride and principal to Sally that she manufactured in the US. By 2008, however, everything relocated to China. Factories she used were barely hanging on. Reluctantly, she closed the business. And flew to Italy to think about the next step.
The ongoing Italian chapter of her story is like the film “Under the Tuscan Sun.” Sally serendipitously found a ramshackle 400 year farm property which was about to create custom apartments and bought the first one. “My friends and family, of course, thought I was a lunatic. Renovating it was such a great project…with laughing, crying, and wanting to pull my hair out.” Like the film, materials were secured locally, designs were executed by neighboring contractors and artisans. Sally became part of the community. “With all these beautiful elements, I wanted rustic country furniture with a modern organic look.”
Sally decided to create her own. She sketched, made life-sized drawings, then, employing what was readily available, built 3d models out of wine boxes and used her dinner plates as patterns (for the big dandelion heads.) Furniture stores were visited to research what makes a chair comfortable, photos taken, proportions tweaked. “I made a list of Italian adjectives that would quickly convey bigger, smaller, wider, etc. Fabro, the man who makes her furniture, speaks next to no English. The two communicate with detailed specs, models and undoubtedly extensive gestures. “He’s a truly skilled craftsman who loves what he does. These are the things that give people purpose and are the simple pleasures in life.” Almost all the furnishings in her Italian home are designed by its owner and constructed nearby.
“I remember watching my father bang away in his shop until a desired object came to fruition, so I had an idea of how to get certain things made. For the rest, I just found people who could help and learned from them.” “I do the cutting, burnishing, and I’m good with a torch so I work on the decorative elements to insure they achieve a delicacy.” Very basic tools are used. Everything is cut by hand with snips, visegrips and a vice. “We work in a beautiful, old stone barn on Fabro’s property breaking at siesta time to share food from the garden with his family. They help me with my Italian and I help with their English.” Could you get any more cinematic? Much of the raw material is recycled metal. Antique rivets are bought in Arezzo at the antique mercato.
Sally’s pieces offer unique interpretations of natural forms like dandelions, fig leaves, trees, birds, and flowers. They’re strong, but never heavy, somewhat whimsical, intentionally primitive (resembling folk art), and extremely handsome. They are functional art. “I’ve always loved wrought iron furniture. I see my designs as kookier, souped up versions of those in 1950s pen and ink drawings of French cafes. They’re couture pieces for thoughtfully curated homes.”
In March 2011, Sally’s Dandelion Bench (below) was featured in Architectural Digest (Russia.) Russians and Italians have commissioned not only that bench and coordinating bed, but coat trees, kitchen work tables, shelving brackets, and gates. “Here in the states, people tend to prefer the Bird/Flora collection which is a little more subtle.” Designs are shipped from Italy in shared containers to cut the cost. May 2012, Sally Bridge Metal showed at Manhattan’s SOFA show (Sculptural Objects and Functional Art) and was picked up by the Maria Elena Kravetz Gallery, Argentina.
When not in Italy, Sally lives in a mid century design deckhouse in Wellfleet, Massachusetts where she’s often surrounded by family and friends. She cooks, gardens and sails. Able to work anywhere, she uses a computer and roll of brown paper to create designs and carries them abroad. Furniture is made there. Design heroes at the moment include Paolo Navola, Patricia Guild, Ron Mann, Phillip Stark for his humor and scale, and Peter Gee who was a Provincetown neighbor. She could happily renovate full time and is looking for another house to recreate, this time in Southern Italy.
Meanwhile, there are courses to be taken at the Castlehill School of Art in Truro, Massachusetts on the Cape. “I’ll be taking a cement course- I want to make a totem pole of large cement bead reliefs for the New England house, two ceramics courses, and one in resin work.” The indefatigable, multitalented Ms. Bridge could be making anything a year from now. Check back and see.
Her extraordinary, sculptural, modern-rustic furniture and décor pieces can be found at www.sallybridgemetal.com
Please allow each piece 8-10 weeks for delivery as each is made to order by skilled hands in Umbria.
Opening Photo: Marigold Bench detail
Dandelion Bed- Queen 96” high, 80” width (also made in twin, king, and special order sizes)
Dandelion Table- recycled/reclaimed and new metal?specs: without glass, 30 1/4” high, 70 1/2 “ long, 31” wide?glass measurements for 10-12 ppl. 96” long by 48” wide. Please inquire for sizes.
Chair- 60” high, 23” wide, 23” deep; upholstered 4” linen pillow –not shown
Bird/Flora Bed- Queen 72” h, 78” w (also made in twin, king, and special order sizes)
Ottoman- Oval- 21” x 15” wide x 14”; 4” cushion. Upholstery in citrus yellow, oatmeal or cyprus (ivory)
Dandelion Bench- 47 ½ high 55” wide, 18” deep