“I know that everyone has a unique gift to give the world, and that’s what I focus my energy on.”

– Mariana Barrios

They say, “Love what you do and you will never work a day in your life.” But for Mariana Barrios, perhaps the saying should be, “Love what you do and you may not even realise you’re in a global pandemic!”
 
When we speak to Mariana, she is in the midst of harsh lockdowns in her home in NSW’s Crescent Head, but says, “I actually don’t miss the outside world at the moment because I’m so happy doing what I’m doing. I am making something I love, and I get to share these beautiful pieces with the world right from where I am.”
 
Those pieces – from Mariana’s namesake label – are just that, beautiful. Handcrafted from silver, Mariana’s jewellery is inspired by the sandy beaches and rocky coastline where she lives and works, and is designed to bring joy and happiness to those who wear them. 
 
That precise joy and happiness is something Mariana has cultivated throughout her life, which has not been without its challenges. “I grew up in a little town in Chile, and my mother died of breast cancer when I was 10. I then bounced around a lot, from family to family and eventually boarding school, as my father didn’t quite know what to do.” But the biggest shock was still to come. “I discovered that I was adopted. My name and my date of birth were all made up. While it was shocking, it did give me a lot of clarity. As a child, I’d always looked for similarities in my family and I couldn’t find them. It did explain so much about why I’d felt so out of place and different.”
 
That feeling of being out of place would be something that Mariana would come to recognise, particularly as she arrived in Australia as a refugee in 1987. “At the time, things were getting pretty rough in Chile,” Mariana says. “Police carried heavy guns, I didn’t feel safe speaking to friends out on the street, and people were even disappearing or getting tortured. When it started to get a little too close – hearing about a friend of a friend – I decided I wanted to give my children a better life.” 
 
After applying to the Australian embassy, Mariana received a call one Monday morning saying her family could have four spots on a flight to Australia. “I had to decide immediately and didn’t even get to ask any questions. I just said yes. We were on a flight that Sunday.”
 
Eventually settling in Perth was a culture shock. As well as the clear air, the first thing Mariana noticed was … A distinct lack of Spanish! “I don’t know why this was such a shock to me,” she laughs. “But I didn’t speak English! But I just confronted it head on.” Now completely fluent in English and with the most beautiful accent, Mariana says that even though the majority of Australians are incredibly kind and welcoming (sometimes “too friendly,” she jokes), she occasionally still receives negative comments about her accent.  
 
“I know that everyone has a unique gift to give the world, and that’s what I focus my energy on.” That energy has been most spectacularly channeled into her artistic endeavours.
 
“I’ve given everything a try! Micro-macrame, chunky wool macrame … I learn something, I master it, and then I move on!” Mariana laughs. But lucky for us, the jewellery is here to stay. “I did a three-day workshop in Sydney on working with silver and realised this is what I was called to do, and then COVID-19 hit! I ended up teaching myself everything I know through videos and reaching out to other jewellers around the world.”
 

All made completely by hand, with each piece being completely unique, we’d be proud to wear a bit of Mariana’s magic on our fingers.

Published by Amy Malpass-Hahn, Freelance writer