A modern-day goldsmith rediscovers her roots

When Sharon Chandally founded Chandally in 2009, she stepped into her heritage. Her grandfather, his siblings, and generations before were silversmiths in their native Yemen, but Sharon had not known she would join the tradition. In a sense, she took the long way home.

Before studying industrial design, Sharon traveled extensively, absorbing the colors, textures, and images of cultures in New Zealand, India, Ghana, Benin and Japan. As the NYC native sampled the tapestries of world culture through travel, she awakened a deepening connection to her roots. She soon found herself drawn to metalwork and journeyed to the Middle East to learn from her own flesh the craft that is in her blood. Today, Sharon’s unique artistic vision draws from the hands and histories of the Yemenite craftsmen that preceded her, as much as it does from the materials and mythologies of the places that inspire her.

Upon returning to pursue her degree, Sharon focused her energies on developing a refined understanding of form and ergonomics. A lover of music, she began studying musical instrument construction, where she found herself organically drawn to metal and its compelling properties. Absorbed, she studied metalsmithing, holloware, silversmithing, mechanisms and blacksmithing. As she soldered her own pieces she drew closer to her heritage, visited by vivid images of her grandfather, a traditional Yemenite silversmith, at work. When she found her own hands making “musical” jewelry (pieces that create sound), she was certain she had found her calling.

As the nyc native sampled the tapestries of world culture through travel, she awakened a deepening connection to her roots.

Soon after graduating, Sharon received an invitation that would shape her indelibly: her grandfather’s brothers, both octogenarians, invited her to Israel to learn their craft. Without hesitation, Sharon sublet her Brooklyn studio, packed her bags, and set off to reunite with her grandfather’s legacy.

During what became a three year apprenticeship, her uncles told stories as they worked their magic. They related tales of traditional wedding customs and rituals so vividly that she could smell the rosewater, hear the singing, and see the jingling of the jewelry as the women walked barefoot. As she observed her uncles at work, each with a distinctive technique of Yemenite tradition, images of her grandfather returned. She recalled him sitting on his bed for hours, hunched over a small table, soldering small pieces of silver with a butane torch. At his bedside sat a collection of small medicine containers, in which he kept old stones and coins, scraps of silver, and other artifacts he would collect to later include in his pieces. His work inspired awe in Sharon: she recalls his pieces were more than just jewelry; they conveyed spiritual meaning as well as aesthetic value. To this day, she remains deeply affected by the mastery and spirituality of her relatives, and feels indebted to their skilled hands and wise minds.

During what became a three year apprenticeship, her uncles told stories as they worked their magic.

Sharon’s own work carries this tradition forward, innovating under the influence of tradition. The African Adinkra symbol “Sankofa”, an image of a bird flying forwards while looking backwards, embodies her progressive yet historically infused style. From her past she brings her Yemenite history, meticulous attention to detail, and spirituality, and blends these elements with subtractive sculpture and explorative use of materials and techniques. She challenges herself to elegantly redefine space around the body, and honors it by using recycled or Fairmined metals and conflict free stones.

Her work evokes the ocean, lucky numbers, ancient scents, images from dreams, revelations and surprises, fish/reproduction/multiplication, soundwaves, musical instruments, ancestors, ancient inspirational figures, fertility, tree roots, good luck and protection charms, flight/wings, weight and gravity, female anatomy, movement and kinetics, and ancient cities/gardens. Playful, earthy, and elegant, a Chandally piece is a rare organic fusion of ancient wisdom and modern spirit. Her work reflects this multidimensionality, seeming to span ages and terrains, and has been described as “Medieval, Art Nouveau and Modern all at the same time.”