Interview with David Mills: Head of Communications and Marketing of The Goldsmith’s Company

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The Goldsmiths’ Fair is recognised internationally as the UK’s premier event for contemporary designer jewellery and silverware.  It is a celebration of the best of British goldsmithing and silversmithing talent and a treasure trove of creativity and craftsmanship. In preparation for the opening of The Goldsmith’s Fair 2014 we spoke to David Mills, Head of Communications and Marketing for The Goldsmith’s Company to find out what was in store this year.

Give us a brief outline of the Goldsmith’s Fair.

As the premier showcase for precious metal and jewellery design in the UK, Goldsmiths’ Fair is literally a treasure chest of exquisite design.  170 designers over two weeks (85 in each week) show their latest collections.  The Fair is a truly unique luxury shopping experience.  It’s not just the bling – which of course is well represented by some of the most fabulous jewels you’ll see outside of Bond Street – it’s the innovative, cutting edge contemporary gold and silver objet d’art – tableware, accessories and decorative pieces.  An amazing selection of future heirlooms from the UK’s most exciting designer-craftsmen.

Goldsmiths’ Fair is recognized internationally for contemporary designer jewellery and silver. What do you think it is about Goldsmiths that puts it in another league compared to other similar exhibitions?

This is our 32nd year and in that time some of the biggest names in British jewellery have shown at the Fair including Stephen Webster and Shaun Leane.  Each year we get over 300 applications to show at the Fair.  The selection criteria are rigorous. Even established makers sometimes don’t get in.  The focus is on new work.  Established makers are encouraged to push their practice and to unveil their latest creative directions at the Fair.  Our clientele knows what they’re looking at and they come back year after year to see how the best precious metal artists-craftsmen in the UK continue to develop.

Can you give us an idea of the variety of different pieces that will be on show?

I’ve had the pleasure of getting an early preview of some of the work to be shown at Goldsmiths’ Fair and I can assure you – it’s stunning.  Alexandra Raphael’s plique-a-jour bowls; intricate gold and silver pens by Jack Row; statement gold brooches by Andrew Lamb and Jacqueline Mina and sensuous silver tableware by Adi Toch are some of whatI’m most looking forward to seeing.

Goldsmith’s Hall is a luxury itself, before even considering the stunning pieces on display. What is your personal preference when it comes to styles?

My personal tastes run to the minimal, sleek and modern. I love clean lines and dramatic geometry but appreciate subtle and surprising colour combinations. I’ll be spoilt for choice.

Are there any pieces or exhibitors that you remember as particularly striking to you over the years?

Some of my favourites include jewellers Sarah Herriot, Hee Young Kim, Kayo Saito, Shivani Patel, Sarah Wars

op, and silversmiths Ana Meneses, Nan Nan Liu, Esther Lord, and Mary Ann Simmons.  All of their work is incredibly striking, original and accomplished.

As the Goldsmith’s company individually selects every exhibitor at the fair, what would you say it is that they are looking for when they make their choices?

Superb craftsmanship united with originality of design, innovative techniques and a ‘signature’ style.  The Fair strives to showcase consistently excellent work across a spectrum of creative visions.  Regardless of your technical skill, if the final piece looks too much like something that can easily be found elsewhere, then we’re unlikely to include it.  This is what makes the event so exciting for collectors.

How did it come about that architect Zaha Hadid was the first guest curator?

This year we set out to refresh the Fair not just with new exhibitors and a new look but also new initiatives to engage audiences like never before.  Aside from a series of Breakfast talks and afternoon ‘Conversations’ with exhibitors we came up with the idea of asking a prominent designer to add their point of view to the mix through a special curated showcase of their personal highlight pieces.  A contact in the art-jewellery world introduced us to Zaha Hadid and she generously volunteered to be our first guest curator.  She loves jewellery and her selection provides a window onto the kinds of jewellery (and silver) she’d wear and own.  It’s a fascinating range from a diverse group of designers but it actually works as a collection!

What do you think the ‘Zaha Hadid selects…’ showcase adds to the Fair this year?

Zaha Hadid’s selection adds a signature point of view to the Fair.  If anyone else were to choose their favorite pieces it would be a completely different collection.  Zaha Hadid is one of the biggest names in design and architecture today.  Her design aesthetic most definitely comes through in this selection of pieces designed by others.  Hopefully Zaha Hadid will inspire other to express themselves through commissioning and collecting distinctive jewellery and silver.

Can you explain and give details on the increasing popularity of your Bursary Scheme?

Goldsmiths’ Fair runs a Graduate Bursary each year benefitting five jewelers and five silversmiths – all recent graduates.  They each receive a free stand at the Fair, a grant of £1500, and a loan of up to £3000 in silver bullion.  For the first time this year graduates were provided with technical and business mentoring sessions with experts from the Goldsmiths’ Centre.  Not surprisingly the Bursary scheme is very popular and we received more applications in 2014 than ever before.  The selected graduates are truly the ‘best of the best’.

Can you tell us about the changes made to make this year’s Fair even more innovative, contemporary, and accessible?

We’ve made too many changes to list here however one of the most significant has been the launch of www.goldsmithsfair.co.uk.  We’ve had a great response to this website which features profiles on designers, updates about the Fair, early release of our stunning marketing images, listings of all the talks and conversations and much, much more.  I urge you to check it out and see for yourself.  I expect you’ll come away as excited about Goldsmiths’ fair as I am!  And if you follow social media be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter (@GoldsmithsCo).

The Goldsmith’s Fair runs from Monday 22nd September to Sunday 5th October 2014 at Goldsmith’s Hall.