Meet the Maker - Isla Gilham
Posted on 23 Mar 08:00
This week we speak to Central Saint Martins Graduate Isla Gilham, with her iconic 'Juicy bite' gemstones jewellery. Isla creates decadent, playful pieces inspired by tales of a delicious Jelly tot tiara created by her grandfather, with an admiration for high-end costume jewellery and cocktail rings.
What was the inspiration for the rings in the exhibition?
My work was originally inspired by my Great Grandfather's 'Jelly Tot Tiara'. Although, I never got to see it, my mum always described it to me; filigree, timelessly beautiful and, most importantly of all, adorned with ‘Jelly Tots’ in place of gemstones. It was gifted to my Great Aunt Beryl for her birthday, but everyone wished it was theirs. Almost half a century later, inspired by this story, I began designing and making my own precious pieces with delicious twists.
As my work reimagines traditional fine jewellery forms and gemstone cuts in a world where they really are good enough to eat, I frequently research food to inform colours, textures and finishes. At the moment, I'm really drawn to piping forms, a tempting mirror glaze, chocolatier counters and beautiful wrappers.
The Boodles' Greenfire Necklace (left) and Van Cleef & Arpels Rubelite and Turquoise Cocktail ring (right)
High jewellery is a big source of inspiration for me too. I have always been amazed by the designs, materials and craftmanship and I particularly remember being in awe of the Boodles’ Greenfire necklace as well as many pieces from Van Cleef & Arpels. I especially love one of their rubellite and turquoise cocktail rings.
Please can you tell us a bit about your creative process?
Nearly every piece begins with either a Promarker sketch or a gemstone that I find delicious; maybe it’s because of the stone’s colour, inclusions or striations beneath the surface. I often source stones from gem fairs where I feel like I’m in a sweet shop; each stall laden with jewels that glisten and tempt like delicious treats.
I love creating small batches of work, one-of-a-kind pieces and bespoke; hand carving the bitten gemstones for each. I’m always excited to see the qualities the bite mark will unveil or enhance. There’s nothing more satisfying than carving a gemstone and discovering an even more delicious pattern whilst doing so.
What is your favourite piece that you’ve ever made?
I think my favourite piece will always be the Jelly Tot Tiara that I made for my final collection at Central Saint Martins. As I never saw my Great Grandfather’s original, I made mine exactly as I have always imagined it. At my degree show, the tiara proudly sat in the middle of pieces it had inspired; squished pearls, precious wrappers and my first bitten gemstone rings.
Finally, for fun, what would be your dream piece to make or person to make for?
I would really love to design a bespoke piece with a chocolatier or patisserie chef. I think the collaboration would be so fun and I would love to see my work worn in this realm too.