q & a with inspired tribe sally clarke...

If you ever step foot into one of our Sydney habitats, you may find our lilys adorned in Inspired Tribe jewels. We are long-time fans of the beautiful boutique based in Wollongong, Miranda and Bondi Junction. Inspired Tribe is a haven full of exquisite textiles, eclectic homewares, precious gems and antique jewellery. Recently we spoke to founder and owner, Sally Clarke, about her growing business and endless fascination with sourcing one of a kind pieces. We are so inspired by Sally's adventures and her mission to respect and promote the origins of each treasure she discovers. During this interview, Sally was actually in Jaipur on a sourcing trip, which we find rather fitting as our latest collection, Maharani, is inspired by our own India travels and the late Maharani Gayatri Devi...

Tigerlily: We absolutely adore Inspired Tribe for its collection of beautiful, hand-selected treasures from around the globe… How did your business begin?

Sally: In the mid 80’s I did a one year working holiday in Australia and caught the travel bug. When my visa finished I set off for Asia, starting in Singapore and over-landing in Sri Lanka. It was the start of a life long love affair with The Orient. Once you start traveling it’s very hard to stop and in reality, I haven’t. After my first week in Australia, I knew this was where I wanted to live so when I finally reached home, a couple of years later, I applied for residency. In the meantime, I did a few trips to Central and South America and India. During these trips, I picked up some jewellery and textiles to sell at markets until I found a real job... I never actually got 'the real' job - 'Inspired Tribe' was born...

Tigerlily: How often do you travel and what are your favourite destinations?

Sally: I am on the road usually three times a year. India is one of those places you either love or hate. I've never met anyone yet that feels indifference. Over the last 29 years I have been hopelessly in love with her. So to answer your question - it has to be India, but not just for the treasure... It casts a hypnotic spell which goes much deeper than the material. I think its most valuable commodity is the people: they are the warmest, kindest and most enduring people. Once you understand the idioscincraties of their culture, it all makes sense.

Tigerlily: Our new collection ‘Maharani’ is inspired by our travels to India and Gayatri Devi herself (the third Maharani consort of Jaipur)… Tell us about your India travels...

Sally: Well, I first visited India in 1987 and in that trip, I made it to most states - from North to South and East to West. It was an amazing experience and one day I intend to repeat it. The difference between areas can be quite surprising, for instance I always think the North and South are separate countries... In a way they were until relatively recently.

You don’t have to go very far back to see a very different India... In fact, only a couple of decades before Partition. Although the British technically ruled India for 300 years, they pretty much left the day to day running in the hands of the ruling dynasties. It was a system that worked well and the last true Maharaja and Maharani of Jaipur epitomised this. The Maharani was better known in Jaipur as ‘Rajmata Devi’ the literal translation is ‘Great Mother Goddess’ (you can see how fond the Jaipurians were for their Princess).

Getting back to your question, I spend most of my time now in the North, especially in Rajasthan, but on each trip I try to spend a few days somewhere different. The next trip I’m planning to revisit Kerala, a state down South on the Western coast. I remember the lush beauty of the place and a very relaxing boat trip meandering down the backwaters, watching the fishermen using unusual fishing nets from the shoreline.

Tigerlily: We understand you are in India at the moment, what are you hoping to source?

Sally: Yes, I’m in Jaipur at the moment having a great time working with the bead stringers. Thank heavens I’ve kept my yoga up... Yesterday I spent 9 hours sitting in half lotus making samples for a collection of necklaces. I’m also working on some very beautiful japa japa malas. I am also hoping to make it to Bhuj - this is where most of the Kutch embroideries are found... All that colour and mirror work!

Tigerlily: What is your most favourite piece that you have ever stumbled across?

Sally: I’ve seen some amazing pieces, most of which I can’t afford! I once saw a 300ct perfect green kunzite gem - unfortunately that didn’t come home with me. Probably the items that are closest to my heart are the antique vintage pieces. Just yesterday, I was incredibly lucky to be with a supplier when an Afghani trader came through and I had first pick of a huge trunk of dazzling pieces. There are a couple of items that might have to stay in my personal collection!

Tigerlily: We love that every treasure you find has a story. Do you think it is important that your customers understand the significance and nostalgia behind each special piece?

Sally: Not only is it important that our customers know the background of our pieces it is also important for me to know they are going to someone who really appreciates their ‘story’. I have an feeling of responsibility to make sure these artworks are maintained and loved. There is only so much left, it would be heartbreaking if we lost this window to the past. Fortunately most of our customers feel the same way.

Tigerlily: Do you have any more trips planned for the near future?

Sally: Yes, I’m only home for a month after this trip and then I am back on the road to Morocco. After Morocco, I will be travelling back to India for a very short trip in June to check out the production of some textiles on order (also short trip due to the thermometer reaching 45+ at that time of year!). I am also trying to squeeze in a trip later on in the year to Guatemala and possibly Peru. I sourced some beautiful textiles from there many years ago and it would be lovely to see it all again. I am usually in India for October, a very good music festival in Jodhpur (No it really is for work!)... Also I want to try and do a side trip to Nepal...

Tigerlily: What do you think could be the next collection inspiration for Tigerlily and why?

Sally: I’m so happy Tigerlily is into colour... I’m not a lover of minimalism! Maybe a Peruvian look? The Incas were interesting people... The native Quecha of Peru also have a great look!

Visit Inspired Tribe online at http://inspiredtribe.com...