The jewellery Jenny Gilbert makes is simple and elegant, with spare but beautiful detailing. Her current collection sets the darkness of oxidised silver against the purity of pearls, but after spending seven months travelling and working in Nepal, her next collection is taking a different direction. We talked to Jenny about her background, her travels and her inspirations…
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m 25 and currently living in Birmingham. I am a jeweller, animal lover and real ale lover. I’ve been designing and making jewellery for seven years.
How would you describe your work?
Unique, simple, elegant, ethical :)
How did you find your way to jewellery making?
I studied Contemporary Jewellery and UCA in Kent and graduated with a first-class BA. The work I produced at university was very concept driven and experimental in both design and use of materials. After Uni I decided to make jewellery that was based more in traditional gold-smithing techniques. For my next collection I’m aiming to find balance between these two areas.
Did you always want to be a jeweller?
I started making jewellery during my Art Foundation course at college when I was 18. Before that I wanted to be an illustrator. My tutor recommended I try my hand at jewellery because I’m patient and have a good eye for detail. I instantly fell in love with it. I mostly worked with alternative materials during my foundation course, such as resin, porcelain, plastics and pewter. It wasn’t until my first year at university that I tried my hand at metal-smithing.
Your current collection is centred around silver and pearls. Is there a reason you’re particularly drawn to these two materials?
I love working in metal – I enjoy the process of starting with sheet and wire and turning them into 3D objects. I chose silver and pearl because of the way they work together – when silver is oxidised I love the contrast between the black industrial metal and the dainty natural pearl. I also love how polished silver and pearls complement each other for a different, very feminine aesthetic.
How do your pieces develop?
It varies from piece to piece. Usually I start with research, image collection and drawing. I then develop these into designs that then expand into collections. I make items in brass or copper before the final version in silver. Occasionally I get really carried away with an idea and skip the drawing stage and make it directly in metal.
What and who inspires you?
I’m inspired by reading, nature, things I find. A lot of jewellers inspire me – Katja Prins, Jess Dare, Esther Knobel. You can see my favourite jewellery on my Pinterest page.
You recently spent seven months in Nepal. Can you tell us about your travels and what you did while you were there?
Nepal is a wonderful country, full of incredible people. In my free time I was able to trek in the Himalayas, rock climb, white water raft and paraglide. The rest of the time I spent volunteering in a jewellery workshop set up to provide vocational training to combat trafficking. While there I taught new techniques, designed and prototyped a new collection with the jewellers and provided general workshop support. It was a brilliant experience and I continue to support the charity from the UK.
Can you describe your workspace or studio?
I’m currently working from my conservatory at home. It’s lovely and bright, with a view of the beautiful garden. It makes it a joy to be in there. However, now it’s summer it’s far too hot to comfortably work there, so I’m moving to a workshop in the Birmingham Jewellery Quarter in the very near future.
Do you like to have certain objects around you or listen to particular music while you work?
My workshop is full of inspirational photographs, posters, found objects and little samples I’ve made. I like to have them around to remind me of inspirations, and to make my surroundings feel creative. The music depends on my mood/what I’m doing. I have quite diverse music taste. When designing I like to listen to something relaxing like Thievery Corporation, King Creosote or Joni Mitchell. If I’m hammering/sawing or being generally loud I’ll listen to something a bit heavier like Misfits or Eagulls. There’s certainly always something playing in my workshop.
How do you relax?
I like to go indoor rock climbing to do something physical after being sat at my workbench all day. Other than that I like to go for a drink with friends, read a good book, walk my dog or watch a film with my mum.
Finally, can you give us a hint about your new collections?
Yes! I’m going in quite a different direction with my new collection, taking inspiration from ancient jewellery – particularly Aztec and Egyptian. I find it fascinating that humans have been adorning themselves with jewellery for 7,000 years. I think the urge to wear jewellery is fundamentally human and that’s something that really interests me. I really want to explore how and why people in different cultures wore jewellery.