Seamus Gill is forging ahead with a unique twist on silver

Seamus Gill is a silversmith and jewellery designer. He spoke to Aileen Lee.

What’s your background?

I’m from Dublin. I first went to Grennan Mill Craft School in Kilkenny and there was a teacher there, Peter Donovan, who was a brilliant silversmith and teacher. I discovered through him that I loved silversmithing and I stuck with it from there.

I continued my studies, later graduating from NCAD, the National College of Art and Design, in Dublin. Then I worked with silversmiths in New York and Toronto. I set up my own business in 1988. I have other strings to my bow in that I also do jewellery and sculpture and I have done some teaching. 

I’m lucky that over the years I’ve been taught by some brilliant silversmiths and it’s just passing on those skills. In the past, it would have always been taught by apprenticeship but nowadays it tends to be done in a college environment.

From Séamus Gill’s Squiggle collection — Pendant and Earrings (€175 each) and bangle (€225).
From Séamus Gill’s Squiggle collection — Pendant and Earrings (€175 each) and bangle (€225).

What’s a typical work day like for you?

In the morning, I try to do a bit of admin when I get in. I try to block out my time then, so that I’m spending a good amount of time making pieces rather than getting distracted with my admin work. I try to work on fixed hours from 9am to 6pm. Now and again, you end up under pressure or you get so involved that you just have to stick at something and you work late into the night, but I try not to do that as much now

Tell us about a recent project or design favourite you have worked on?

I’ve just finished a new collection of jewellery that has been launched in Stonechat Jewellers in the Westbury Mall in Dublin. It’s called ‘Squiggle’ and is based on the technique of forging which is hammering out of a bar of silver, in the same way, a blacksmith works with iron. 

Flowing Curves collection - bangle €400.
Flowing Curves collection - bangle €400.

I’m doing it on a jewellery scale. The whole collection is based on a little twist that you can put in a piece — that squiggle is what the whole collection is based on.

What’s your design style?

I would describe it as contemporary Irish craft design.

What/who inspires your work?

Most of my inspiration comes from the material, silver, and the traditional techniques of working and trying to capture the essence of the material. There’s so much you can do with silver, and I’m always discovering new ideas with it.

Low Flowing Curves Candlesticks.
Low Flowing Curves Candlesticks.

What’s your favourite trend at the moment (if you have any)?

I haven’t a clue about trends, to be honest.

What’s your most treasured possession?

For me, it’s my hammers and anvils.

Silver Squiggle Swirl Drop Earrings (€175).
Silver Squiggle Swirl Drop Earrings (€175).

They’re my working tools, and the hammers I have, I’ve been using them for years. Some of them have belonged to silversmiths before me —they’ve been passed down through generations — and some of them are ground to specific shapes and are different weights and have different balances. They’re like an extension of my hand at this stage.

Who would be your favourite designer, or style inspiration?

The one thing that would really influence me would be the early Bronze Age work in the National Museum. We’ve got one of the best collections of this work in the world here on our doorstep. Every two months or so, I drop in to admire the work.

From Séamus Gill’s Squiggle collection.
From Séamus Gill’s Squiggle collection.

What would be a dream project for you to work on?

One of the nice things with my silversmithing work is that most of it is commissioned, so I don’t know what I’m going to be doing next. It’s often from a phone call with someone and leads to lovely things. 

When the Pope came over recently, I made a Cruet set for the water and wine, which was presented to the Pope as a gift for him to take away because he didn’t have his own set. It was lovely to do something like that.

Have you any design tips for us?

Keep it simple and keep it with the nature of the material.

Séamus Gill will have a stand at Gifted, the Contemporary Craft and Design Fair, which runs from December 5-9 in the RDS Dublin

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