If I was to write an article about warning signs your child may grow up to be a jewelry fiend, there is one warning sign I would stress the most - a penchant for beads at a young age. I had a kit-and-caboodle full of them, I coveted them, I hoarded them and spent all my allowance on them. Emily Gill who this is interview is with and who is a new favorite designer of mine shares the same common ground - a childhood love of beads.
Now back to business! You may have seen the news my next pop-up is a collaboration with Diam Diam a diamond company out of Canada. I partnered with them match to 10 unique diamonds with 10 amazing designers. Emily Gill being one of them.
She is an amazing designer, with a lovely aesthetic but perhaps most unique is her use of enamel in modern day pieces. (hint, her piece for Shop Hunt might have enamel and these photos are a sneak peak). I thoroughly enjoyed this interview and shining the spotlight on Emily as she is a wonderful soul, talented designer, and true jewelry fiend.
Tell me about your background and how you got into jewelry?
I remember the first jewellery I ever made when I was under the age of ten, from a book my cousin lent me. In my teens I was crafty and spent a lot of spare time making presents for everyone, I remember people giving me jewellery and sometimes taking it apart and putting it back together, I was dead-set on creating pieces that looked just as good as things in a store, even when I was a kid.
We were a hands on family, making things was in our nature. My uncle made stained glass, had a lathe, and was literally building a boat in his house, my cousin in Switzerland is an artist and works for Warner Brothers. I didn’t need a push, I knew it was possible to make a living if you worked really hard, and for a really long time!
While in University at Concordia Montreal for graphic design, I had a part-time job working for a lady in her mid-seventies who owned a very special antique bead shop in Montreal. I spent most of my paychecks on beads and got better at exploring designs and trying to make really elaborate time-consuming pieces.
I taught workshops too. The following spring I met a friend who was going to the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, one of the best art schools in Canada. I went to visit Halifax, saw the jewellery and goldsmithing studio and sent in my application for transfer. I was really lucky to carry over a lot of credits from my first degree, took out a big student loan, and spent 3 years mostly working in the studio because I never had to write a paper again. I worked everyday in the studio if it was possible, still, do!
What’s your personal jewelry mecca?
I have had many over the years. As a six-year-old, I went to Kenya with my family for a month. I remember being intrigued by how the Massai women would bead giant collars from seed beads with so much speed, I still have a few pieces from that trip I’ve carried around with me since childhood.
Since moving to Toronto I’m discovering so many inspirational spots because the city is growing, there is so much to see. I come from Montreal but Toronto is huge and so diverse, I love it! One place I keep going to is a strip of jewelry stores in Little India on Gerrard Street East. I love Indian jewellery, and art deco jewellery, and see many similarities between them.
Rich yellow gold everywhere, gems, diamonds, enamel and so much amazing detail down to the tenth of a millimeter. It’s as close to being in India as I can get for a dose of creativity, and I can bike over on a Saturday, grab a samosa, and if I have time, stick my feet in the lake at the beach.
Do you have a favorite gemstone you like to work with?
I love to work with diamonds and sapphires, looking forward in my business I want to create lasting heirlooms with durable gemstones. I love how versatile they are when working with gold and traditional glass enamel. The process of enameling with fine glass powder onto gold alloy at very high temperature is generally done before stones are placed in the ring, but should the ring need repair need to be done to the ring in say, 20 years, knowing a diamond is in the ring that can withstand re-heating the glass in a kiln at 1450 degrees Fahrenheit or re-setting, means I have done my job well and prepared for the long term for my clients.
What’s your greatest inspiration?
I’ll notice a pattern on an old building, or a piece of furniture, and jot it down as a starting point for an engagement ring. I certainly look outside of my field for inspiration rather than dissect existing jewellery. My favorite time to get inspired is walking at Golden Hour through the city….you know the time about one hour before sunset when the light is really soft and redder, making everything appear rich in color?
This is when lines and shadows exaggerate shapes, and colours of trees and leaves are at their richest jewel tones. To me, inspiration doesn’t have to come from tangible objects, things or jewellery. The hardest projects are ones that start with “I want my ring to feel like this”. How do you make a ring “feel” like an emotion, a place, a personality? Stories and a bit of detective work come into play, and I have to say that my clients are my greatest inspiration.
What’s on the horizon for Emily Gill?
Doing this GemHunt collaboration with Dream Diamand reaching a wider audience online is one stepping stone towards my bigger dream, which is to create more pieces using diamonds, sapphires and enamel for younger people who appreciate the throw back to traditional glass enamel.
I feel it’s important to keep putting that work out there (online and in select stores) as it’s slowly attracting clients who appreciate it. I only started my custom business full time 2 years ago, and have surpassed my goals, employing 2 people part time to help with my orders is a huge accomplishment for me, and it’s important to keep the momentum forward moving.
If I can keep filing orders, selling my colleague's stones, helping employ talented people to work along side me and making beautiful things that are of my own design, I will be happy!
Why do you love what you do?
There is a certain rush you get from turning precious raw materials into a tiny piece of gold that gives you goose bumps when you see it finished. I also learn something new every day. Seeing a client’s face light up or say “it’s way better in person” make me feel incredibly successful, no matter how big the job.
I am creative every day, but inspiring clients who may not think they are inherently artistic to get super excited about making a one of a kind piece that contains a bit of their personality is energizing. It’s like putting pieces of a puzzle together everyday, some days I have to work hard to solve the puzzle, other days someone gives me a piece of the puzzle in passing. I love what I do because I know it’s attracting what I need in my life: creativity, collaboration, help, love, sentiment, and craftsmanship. Creativity is my air supply.
Why do you like working with Dream Diam?
I met Dream Diam years ago and always enjoyed the positive attitude they have towards collaboration and cross promotion. The diamonds are beautiful and sell themselves, in my opinion. I had a conversation with Dream Diam while visiting Vancouver over coffee, and their idea of having diamonds at more accessible price points in rose cuts and gray/champagne/milky white tones is a way to provide young designers with diamond products they can help build their brand with.
I had this idea to create diamond and enamel rings for 5 years but only wanted to do it with diamonds or white sapphires. When Dream Diam came to our studio to show us new gray rose cuts they were going to carry, it was the answer and was even more creative looking than I had hoped for. It’s genius!
Very forward thinking attitude, both in aesthetic and business. I feel a connection to the buzz and energy we create online for our fans and followers, and knowing we have amazing product makes it a satisfying partnership. What many people don’t realize is how many jewelers work alone. When you have a full plate, it’s not all glam and champagne, it’s hard work and our neurons are firing a mile a minute during busy seasons. Making business happen because of this connection we have through a phone or tablet is important, invigorating, energizing.
What excites you about this project with Shop Gem Hunt?
I love that ten designers are creating amazing rings, not for competition, but to help promote, share, and expand our networks to the world, using amazing stones. No two will be alike, and so far I posting process photos I feel the enthusiasm and appreciation from all designers.
I work from a brick and mortar shared studio in downtown Toronto, but enjoy the connections I am making daily through Instagram. A pop up online is the ultimate way to bring quality products to the public in a very accessible, fun, global way. I admire what you’ve built, Catherine! Next level! Let’s do this! So Excited!!!!
Emily's piece for Shop Gem Hunt launches May 1st.