A Conversation with Kate Gilliland

09 May 2013

Interview by Becky Sexton (Volunteer Gallery Assistant)

‘One man’s weird is one man’s wonderful…’ says Birmingham jeweller, Kate Gilliland, exhibiting in Woodlands, the current craft exhibition at the RBSA Gallery (until 20 July).


Could you tell me about your current work? Is this different from your past projects?

My current work is moving down a size scale. I’m obsessed with natural little fauna, as I always have been, but particularly tiny things at the moment, all inspired by owl pellets that my friend found for me. I found tiny bones and vertebrae in them. 

What led you to make jewellery?

I am fascinated by the notion of a small personal treasure. I have always picked up various little bits and pieces I considered treasures that perhaps may seem unusual to others. I like the notion that I can combine a widely thought of symbol of preciousness such as jewellery and what I consider some of the most beautiful and  most raw parts of nature.

Where did you learn your skills?

I went to the University in Leicester which allowed me to go wild with my ideas and experiment, though I wish I had made more of the facilities at the time. But I have learned so much though coming to work in the jewellery quarter and receiving a place on design space in 2010.

What or who are your biggest influences?

Nature - what I find around me becomes a piece of jewellery. So I am always inspired by foraging in woodlands, parks and combing beaches.

The Victorians and their love of collecting, with their curiosity cabinets. It’s like a 3D encyclopaedia of information on nature. It's another reason I love museums - they're rammed with history and stories.

Fairytales with their dark stories wrapped up in a magic.

OS-kate-gilliland-jewelleryWhere do you find the dead animals that you use in your work?

I find them everywhere and anywhere, I found Mr Mouse (locket), in my boyfriend’s bathroom, a friend found a little dead frog on her walk in the park and I found a little group of dead crabs on a beach in Wales

Are there particular themes that run through your work?

Appreciating both life and death is an important part of my work.

How did you decide to become an artist?

I have always wanted to be an artist, I have always known, so it has never been a choice I made but I don’t mean that in an ‘arty farty’ way. I have just always valued being creative and putting that to use whenever I can.

Where is your ideal space to work? Do you enjoy working alone or with other artists?

I work in a workshop with 10 other Jewellers, in the jewellery quarter in Birmingham and I love working with them. We are not very often in at the same time but there is usually company, I don’t think I would enjoy working alone so much. But ideally we would move the workshop to the beach front and we hope that the Quarter’s trade will follow us too! I would also love to work in a run-down old workshop just as it was.

What can we expect to see from you in the future?


What would your advice be to other jewellery makers?

Practice makes perfect when it comes to making. I still have a lot to learn. Don’t forget to do something really inspiring once in a while.

How fine is the line between the weird and the wonderful?

One man’s weird is one man’s wonderful and vice versa. But I think it’s a very blurred line. It makes something truly unique to have both qualities.