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The everlasting nature of beautiful jewellery has always been a fascination for me.  I have a beautiful handmade piece.  It’s a pendant.  A disc of silver with a pink gold edge and an amethyst set into the middle of it.  I wear it often.  I’ve had it for nearly ten years now and hope that one day my daughter will treasure it and wear it and every now and again, remember me. It’s a tangible holder of memories.  The inventive jeweller who made it for me is Gillian Hillman.

I was reminded of her recently when I discovered her in a publication called Handmade in Melbourne. Your Guide to 200 of Melbourne’s Fine Artisans, published by Geoff Stattery. It wasn’t too much of a hardship to set up a time with Gillian to go down to her studio in West St Kilda and surround myself once more with her unique jewellery.

She’s been making jewellery for thirty years now. Having completed her training at RMIT she realised that the only way to be a jewellery designer was to start her own business. Over twenty years ago she set up her studio in West St Kilda.  Today she has a book of orders as long as your arm.  She has a dedicated following of repeat customers. An earlier interest in economics and business management has served her well.  Her unique combination of artist with business acumen works beautifully for her.

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This gold piece was inspired by a wax casting workshop she attended led by German jeweller, Karl Fritsch. It was created by simply stretching and thinning out a piece of wax. She saw potential in the shape immediately.  Gillian describes it as rough but “not messy, dirty rough”. The tiny black diamond is sheer jewellery genius.

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Some of her work, like this silver and gold pendant, has a real handmade, dare I say even tribal feel to it. The tribal/handmade influence is there but then it’s finessed and made with precious metal and precious stones until it’s a work of superb quality. Nothing shoddy leaves her workshop.
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I was curious about how she keeps coming up with new ideas. Gillian has been finding a lot of inspiration from workshops. They provide not only time away from the rigours of her studio but also new ideas and techniques which become springboards for innovative uses of silver, gold and precious stones. These divine silver and gold necklaces (above) are made using carefully crafted handmade metal stamps. She was taught how to create the metal stamps recently, at a workshop led by jeweller Helen Britton. The possibilities they offer are endless.

Gillian also uses paper and card to play with ideas for expanding the boundaries of her metal work.  The paper and card is cut, folded, collaged and strung together with string to replicate a piece of jewellery. She has a magic storage box full to overflowing with ideas she has explored using this process. I’ll be really curious to see her next exhibition with these ideas realised in silver and gold.  She holds one exhibition per year, usually just before Christmas.  Last year it incorporated photographic paintings by Tiziana Borghese and a wine tasting from Barwon Ridge Wines.  It’s worth getting yourself onto her mailing list.

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Gillian’s website includes a comprehensive catalogue of her work.  Her business is by appointment only.  To make an appointment call her mobile on 0412 682 673 or contact her via her website.