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Life & Work with Sarina Saletta

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sarina Saletta.

Hi Sarina, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
In June of 2012 I had just moved back to Austin from San Francisco and moved into this beautiful loft that had high ceilings and cinder block walls. I would say that’s where my love for design was born. It was hard not to be inspired. I have a background in fashion photography and graphic design so the concept of having an eye for something wasn’t new to me but starting out with a life-size blank canvas became a whole other obsession. I was constantly looking at design inspiration on Tumblr (Pinterest didn’t exist at the time) and trying to find ways to furnish my new place on a budget. So I would go on Craigslist and look through the free section then take it back to my garage which I turned into a hobby refurbishing shop where I would give everything I found a little facelift.

A couple of years later, I had moved out to LA and the door guy where I bartended at had a furniture workshop so I asked if I cleaned up sawdust  would he teach me how to weld and I guess the rest is history. I went from cleaning up sawdust to learning how to fabricate on the shop floor to project managing and designing.

A few years later, I had started working for Meyghan Hill. I went from being her assistant to her art director. I had always been a huge fan of (wh)ORE HAUS Studios and always looked up to her as a woman in an industry run by men and doing it with style. Having her as a mentor taught me a lot about the ins and outs of the industry, staying and being inspired and what it really takes to build a brand. The good, the bad and the ugly.

Around May 2021, I ventured off to start my own brand, SSALETTA. I currently just opened my own studio where I can lock the doors for days and play mad scientist. I like to tinker so I’m the most creative when I have a bunch of random materials and shapes in front of me and get to basically play adult legos. Right now, I’m designing and fabricating custom furniture and have a line of decor objects. I’m currently represented by Hammer and Spear which is surreal because I remember walking into their store eight years ago and being in complete awe and thinking “I want my work to be in here”. It’s been an endless learning process and definitely a labor of love but I’m continuously excited and inspired to keep creating.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Ha! Have you ever been on an install? 8 out of 10 times you need something that’s not in your toolkit and have to somehow pull it off while acting like everything is running smoothly. There is this meme that I really like: it’s a panel from a comic where a dog is slowly engulfed in flames while proclaiming “this is fine”. You would think after the course of seven years under two different mentors that I would have learned through their trials and tribulations to avoid certain struggles but nope, some of those lessons you just have to learn yourself. As far as challenges go I would say there’s the two different sides of it, the bumps in the road you run into while fabricating and then the personal struggle that comes with knowing when to say no, when to ask for more time/money and to not burnout. I sometimes have a really hard time juggling it all because naturally I’m a people pleaser to a fault. Obviously, it comes with the territory but it happens more often than I’d like but I’m learning. I think all artists go through the “knowing their worth” process. With each project, I learn something new on how to be more efficient and also what not to do.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
People have always asked “what do you do?” and my response has always been “what do you need, I do a lot.” But currently I’ve finally honed into my niche. I’m a contemporary metal worker and furniture designer. I work with all kinds of materials but metal is the main one. It’s my favorite.

The work that is most recognizable of mine are the decorative objects and incense holders. A lot of my pieces have a minimalist architecture edgy feel to them. With my personal style, I have a bit of a suggestive approach that’s a little racy and it translates into my work. I enjoy being able to identify with my pieces. It’s like when someone says a dog looks like their owner. It’s like well there’s Sarina turned into a provocative blackened steel object. Reminding myself of that keeps me authentic.

I recently had a project that I’m pretty proud of. It tested me not only as an artist but as a person as well. It was like going through a masterclass on determination. It was a marble and brass sewing machine table. I had to really push the boundaries with my skill set and learned as I went. There was a short lead time so I didn’t have time to second guess anything, my only option was to just go for it. After the piece was finished and delivered, and I had gotten some sleep, I went to visit it and saw it in a completely different light. It was one of those “okay you’ve got this” moments.

Before we let you go, we’ve got to ask if you have any advice for those who are just starting out?
Try everything. Don’t limit yourself to one avenue. Do it all. I always joke that I’m a jack of all trades, master at none when in fact everything that I did before is what led me to where I am now. Being a swiss army knife is not all that bad. Also be persistent. You can be a hard worker but the more persistent you are the more likely you’re going to make it happen. Learn from people that are better than you and soak up all of their knowledge. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask questions. I know people always hear that but you’d be surprised how willing people are to give you advice because they’ve gone through it. Some of the best advice my dad gave to me early on in life is to “never lose your sense of humor”. Don’t take yourself too seriously because when you’re in the thick of it, it’s really easy to spiral but you gotta just laugh your way through it and just keep going.

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