This week I caught up with one of the best new jewellery designers and makers from Birmingham, Abbie Gaiger. Not long graduated from Birmingham’s School of Jewellery, her graduate collection was awarded runner-up at the RBSA Gallery’s Prize for Innovation & Creativity in 2016. More recently, she has been tipped as a trend-setter by Mail on Sunday’s You Magazine for her quirky acrylic jewellery. Today she continues to create contemporary, ombre pieces in acrylic, from her studio in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter.
I wanted to hear more from Abbie Gaiger about her unconventional, laser-cut acrylic jewellery designs, which are receiving SO much attention.
When did you first become interested in designing jewellery?
When I finished secondary school I was actually convinced that I wanted to study fashion or textiles. I went on to do my A Levels, followed by an Art Foundation, and it was during that year that I realised I really enjoyed making 3D objects rather than clothes. I started a degree in Contemporary Crafts in 2012 but very quickly realised that it wasn’t for me – I liked designing objects for the body, and I missed the fashion side of things so decided to leave and apply for jewellery design courses instead. The course at the School of Jewellery seemed perfect for me as it was much more experimental than a traditional silversmithing course, and I could bring in unusual materials and elements of fashion too.
Where do you take inspiration from for your jewellery designs?
I’ve taken inspiration from architecture, optical illusions, kaleidoscopes and mathematical patterns to design previous collections, but I guess it all boils down to geometry and symmetry really. I’m always drawn to strong lines, order, repetitive shapes and bold colour, so those principles tend to be present in all of my designs.
When did you start making acrylic jewellery, and what inspired this choice?
I first experimented with acrylic and the laser cutting technique on my Art Foundation course at college, and then gained more experience with it during my degree. I think I always ended up returning to laser cutting because of my love for precision and lines! The more I experimented and researched, the more I realised how many possibilities there are with acrylic – this led to working out the perfect technique for dyeing acrylic, which is probably the most recognisable element of my current work.
What kind of person wears your jewellery?
I really like the fact that there tends to be two types of people that my jewellery appeals to. There’s the young female whose style is colourful, fun and maybe a little quirky who’ll wear a small pair of playful earrings, then there’s the older woman who might dress in a more classic, simple way but who wants to wear a huge bold necklace to make a statement. Seeing how people style my jewellery in their own way is probably my favourite part of being a designer.
Do you wear your own jewellery?
Yes! Ultimately I design pieces that I would personally wear – I don’t wear jewellery every day, but I do love being able to dip into my collection of pieces when I want to make a bit of a statement with my outfit!
Can you tell me about the process for creating your jewellery? How long does it take to turn a design into a finished product?
My inspiration usually comes from architectural shapes and patterns, so I tend to pick out simple bold shapes that really appeal to me from photographs or drawings. During my degree I worked out that although I was terrible at traditional drawing, my skills lay in drawing in a very stylised, methodical way, so I tend to go straight to digital drawing. This then allows me to quickly layer, repeat, rotate and tesselate shapes to develop them further, which helps me to visualise designs as slices of laser cut acrylic. It’s then a case of experimenting with materials – this is much easier and quicker now that I have my own laser cutter.
Colour is such a vital element of my work that I spend a lot of time perfecting colour combinations and shades too, which can involve a lot of trial and error, maths and timing! Some of my largest neckpieces can involve a couple of hours of digital designing to ensure that the individual slices of acrylic are perfectly accurate and will line up correctly when assembled, and then it may take another 8 hours to achieve a perfect dye gradient and to assemble all the pieces. It definitely takes a lot of patience!
What is it like working in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter?
I absolutely love being based in the Jewellery Quarter. It was an amazing place to study, as there is such a huge wealth of resources, knowledge and inspiration in such a condensed area, and it was my aim after I left the School of Jewellery to set up my studio within the Quarter. It’s a brilliant, supportive community to be part of – there are always interesting events going on and I love that I can pop down the road to buy some materials and bump into several people I know along the way!
Where can people buy your jewellery?
My work is for sale through my website and Etsy store, as well as being available at a few stockists such as the RBSA Gallery in Birmingham, Craft Centre Leeds, and the National Centre for Craft and Design in Sleaford.
You can lust over Abbie Gaiger’s modern, acrylic jewellery designs on Instagram too.
Want to discover other Birmingham jewellery makers? I recently featured the concrete designs of Gemma Stanley.