Art is her passion. Her way of life. This devotion for art shows in everything she creates. Catherine Hills, jewellery designer who also created jewellery for Harry Potter movies, was surrounded by art ever since she was a little girl but it was jewellery that won at the end. Today she creates contemporary pieces with attention to detail and individually designed. Catherine Hills explains why, when and how jewellery took over her world.
How did you start with jewellery design?
When I was at art college, finishing my foundation course, I had to decide what discipline I was going to specialise in for my BA.
Despite always thinking I would do book illustration, I decided I was more interested in 3D design and thought it may be easier to make a living as a jeweller!
Were you always interested in jewellery design?
My parents are great collectors of antiques, decorative arts and all things beautiful. Silver, ceramics, and small objects were strewn around our home, as I grew up.
I have always loved wearing jewellery. I remember when I was in the sixth form at school, we were allowed to wear our own clothes. Most girls wore pearls, or small gold studs, but I wore huge wooden brightly coloured parrot earrings… it was the mid 80’s!
What kind of jewellery comes under the name Catherine Hills?
Catherine Hills Jewellery has a strong identity with an emphasis on detail, movement and texture. All these combine to create stand out, feminine, yet ‘edgy’ contemporary pieces.
The use of individually designed, batch produced, components in singular and multiple combinations, are rhythmic, decorative and tactile, culminating in pieces that are audacious and timeless.”
“Distinctive, detailed and diverse. Catherine’s jewellery is for men and women who value texture organic forms and individual statements from what they wear”.
Retail Jewellery Magazine, 2001.
It is very much of its time but echoes of the past are sustained by the makers attention to form and surface.”
Wendy Ramshaw OBE, 2009.
Lots of your work is custom made. Do you prefer working on client’s wishes or designing from your own vision?
They are completely different jobs; both are satisfying for different reasons. When a client comes to me with their own design, or a design they have seen elsewhere, its lovely when I can make the idea come to life for them. I guess if I had to choose; I prefer making pieces that I have designed myself. I find the design process, the most exciting part. I have so many more ideas than the time and money to create them!
You also created jewellery for Harry Potter films. How is it to design for something so imaginary? And to work on such a big project?
It was really exciting and definitely one of the highlights in my career.
Seeing the actors bring the jewellery to life on the big screen, in the films, was fantastic. I only wish I could have gone on set! I made the jewellery in my workshop in London and later in Kent where I moved, in 2008. It always had to be made to a very fast deadline and was collected; so I never got involved ‘on set’ at Leavesden studios.
Where do you look for inspiration?
My biggest inspiration is nature and the human form and my work is influenced by the granulation technique of ancient civilisations.
I like to visit museums, galleries and aquariums, as often as I can to sketch. Travelling is a great source of inspiration; as not only do I relax and de-stress, but I have the time to see interesting places and new things to inspire me.
Who is a typical woman that wears Catherine Hills Jewellery?
My customers are generally 30 to 60 year old women, who like their jewellery to be slightly different, yet affordable and wearable. Having said that, when I last did Goldsmiths Fair, I sold my one of a kind brand new large statement collar necklace to a woman in her 70’s. It was marvellous to see an older lady comfortably wearing such a striking and theatrical piece of jewellery.
Jewellery is obviously a big part of your life. What does it mean to you personally?
My grandmother gave me a Silver charm bracelet when I was a young girl. I loved the bracelet and every year she would have a new charm added. I had a wonderful relationship with her and the bracelet still gives me much joy and comfort.
I have been making my daughter a charm bracelet with charms that mark a special occasion or are relevant to her life and family. I have found some charms in antique shops and others made by jeweller friends.
I have some very special pieces of jewellery made by some of my dear friends. Sometimes we swap our work; which is a great way to get beautiful jewellery. I, also, on very rare occasions buy, or get given, pieces of jewellery but its never from a shop, or a chain its always made by someone I know and that makes it very special.
My wedding ring was designed and made by an amazing Swiss Goldsmith friend from the RCA. My husband commissioned him. It’s such a beautiful and special piece of jewellery. Most of the work I wear, is made by the hands of very special people and to me, that is magical.
It still gives me personal pleasure when I see a stranger wearing my jewellery, as they pass me in the street. I once saw a lady wearing my necklace at Wimbledon, it was very satisfying indeed.
Do you believe jewellery tells a lot about person wearing it? In what way?
Jewellery like clothes, tells a story. People are more often than not, conservative with their jewellery. They wear small classic pieces, like a pair of diamond studs but sometimes you see someone, who is wearing striking, bold, pieces and I find that very exciting. Large statement rings and unusual necklace always catch my eye.
What about yourself? Do you want to go all bold and big with jewellery you are wearing or do you swear on more classic pieces?
I wear both big and bold and smaller more classic pieces, depending on my mood, or where I am going.
Time is often the problem for me, as it is for many women. It takes time experimenting with your wardrobe and jewellery, seeing what works together. Often I grab the same necklace and earrings, as I know they go with anything. I’d like to make more time to get dressed up in some of my older, more bold pieces of jewellery.
Do you have a piece from your collection that you especially cherish?
I own an Oxidised Silver Baroque Armour Collar necklace, a very large statement necklace that’s fabulous when dressed up for a party, or worn every day with jeans and boots. It’s my most favourite piece of jewellery that I made and people are drawn to it.
To look for more info, visit www.catherinehillsjewellery.com