Do we choose our life's work, or does our life's work choose us? In Alison Storry's case, it's a little of both. On the outside, she designs jewelry. On the inside, she finds joy. It has not been an easy discovery.
When Alison was seven, her father, a major in the Royal Artillery Army, stepped on a booby trap planted by the IRA in Northern Ireland, and died. Alison's mother, young, widowed, and unemployed, needed to find a way to feed her three children. She resorted to her one known gift - a good eye. She zig-zagged all over England, buying houses and renovating them into smart-looking showplaces, then flipping them for cash. With each house - there were 10 in all -- she moved the family into a single room where they would live until it was time for the next project.
Alison was sent to Saint Teresa's Convent, a private boarding school, by fourth grade. Overnight school did not suit her. She was shy and reserved, lonely for her family, dreaming about her late father. But then she auditioned for the school play - and discovered that she liked pretending to be someone else. It relaxed her. She felt safe.
She married young and moved to Hong Kong with her new husband. The marriage dissolved, but Alison's acting showed promise: she landed parts in dozens of Asian commercials. With each role, she felt, in some strange way, that she became a stronger person. She moved to Los Angeles to try and make it there but she thought the acting culture was different, crueler and more cutthroat. Disillusioned, she decided to accompany her girlfriend, a jewelry designer, to a gem show. Alison walked up to the first booth and gazed at the trays of dark rubies and shiny onyx. That night, she stayed up late designing necklaces and rings, wrapping wire and staring at her new stones. Within weeks, she set up shop at a local flea market where she quickly developed a cult following. Like her mother, Alison was born with an eye.
Six years later, she lives in a home surrounded by woods west of Boston, far away from cameras and stages. She lives with her boyfriend and their daughter, Lola Blue. It's a quiet life, and it feels right. Days are spent in the studio sketching turquoise cocktail rings and tumbling necklaces with clusters of peridots, jade, and garnets. Her designs are feminine, gypsy, organic. She describes them as "beautiful, random chaos." Somehow, though, they seem to be in balance. So does Alison.
Alison Storry Jewelry available at Saks Fifth Avenue stores
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