Creative Hillary has found her people

Hilary Tillin at work on her latest designs. Picture Sandra McEwan.

By Tania Phillips

Looking for something to do as a young mum led Hilary Tillin turned to Silversmithing and never looked back.

“I’m a jewellery designer and a metalsmith, I don’t know what the technical terms for these things are but that’s what I describe myself as – really working in the artisan space,” Hilary of Jocal Design explained

“It really started years ago when my children were really small. I had a two-year-old and then I had twins.

“Once we got past those early hectic years, my husband was away a lot for work and I thought, I can’t actually go out much, so I need something to do in the evenings.

“I started off just beading in my loungeroom and it kind of progressed from there really. I got the bug and then I went and learned to make glass beads. Then I made my own beads and I went oh yeah, I need some silver to go with it. So then I had to learn some silver smithing.”

It all started back in 2010 and she has been learning and creating ever since.

So where do the ideas for her designs come from?

“I tend to say the places around me and also the people as well,” Hilary said.

“Interestingly enough I did a course earlier on this year, I thought I needed to explore my own style a bit further.

“They got me trying all sorts of different things and different ways of expressing myself.

“One of the ones they did, and I thought oh this is really weird, they said think about your sense of place. I thought what on earth is that? The sense of place is all about thinking of a place that means something to you, whether it’s your garden or somewhere you’ve been on holiday.

“The place I was thinking about, strangely enough, was Emerald Beach on the NSW Coast near Coffs. And the only reason that means something to me is that when I’d go on road trips with the family in the car for ages, we’d stop off there first thing in the morning or last thing at night and it was just beautiful.

“There are loads of beautiful places, it’s not one of those places that you say – oh it’s stunning you must go there, it’s just a real nice peaceful, calm.

“Sunrise and sunset you go on the headland. I thought I will think of this place. For the moment this is my place. In the course they said go get a box and put things from your house that remind you of this place.

“This point I’m like a grumpy teenager – I’m hunched over I really don’t want to do this. I wandered around the house, thinking what reminds me of a beach and I randomly walked around picking up various bits and pieces and I thought yep that’s enough.

“But then I stood back and I looked in this box and I went oooh, I really like the combination of stuff in that box it speaks to me. So that’s really where my inspiration is coming from at the moment. The things I’m making, I don’t think anyone is going to sit back and say – oh that reminds me of Emerald Beach too but I think that it’s just enough to give me inspiration.”

“When I get bored with Emerald Beach I’ll move on to somewhere else,” she laughed.

Hilary makes silver jewellery and at the moment is experimenting with putting a little bit of resin into what she makes.

“I have done stone setting but I’m beginning to realise that maybe stone setting is not where I necessarily want to go. I don’t want to be, and I’m not, a jeweller – that’s difficult for people to understand but if you go into a jewellers shop and they’re setting diamonds and whatever else. I’m not at that skill level so that’s why I say I’m an artisan. I make, more one off pieces and do something different.”

Hilary will be one of the local artists taking part in this year’s Granite Belt Art Trail opening her home studio for people to come and see what she does.

“I’m principally running workshops for complete beginners who can come along and make a silver bangle,” she said.

“That will be from my home studio. I’m very lucky but to be fair we only moved up from Brisbane a couple of years ago and obviously one of the criteria for the house was to have a room where I can have my studio. All the courses are pre-booked but people will come up to the house and I’ll take them from complete beginners and they’ll go through the process to make their own silver bangle.”

This will be Hillary’s first time participating in GBART which will be held from 27-29 October around the Granite Belt.

“We moved up a month before GBART two years ago which was too late for me to participate but I volunteered to get an idea of what was going on,” she said.

“But the thing I hadn’t appreciated when we moved up here is what a creative area it is. We kind of moved up out of the city because we wanted a small property. My husband’s a massive cyclist and he said the cycling was really good around here. I know there’s a little art gallery but it seems like every second person does something creative. It’s a phenomenally creative area. I’m not sure that this is well-enough known.

“I’ve never lived somewhere that is this creative.

“It will be nice to be part of it this time. I don’t think a lot of people appreciate what’s here.”