Mary MacGill is a Hudson Valley, New York and Block Island, Rhode Island - based artist working primarily in gold and semi-precious stones. Her minimalist style finds root in the ever-evolving shorelines of the American Northeast.
I am a jewelry designer and maker, and I just recently opened a store in Germantown, New York. I primarily make jewelry out of semi-precious stones, pearls and wire, so there is a lightness of aesthetic.
When I started making my own jewelry, I wanted to pare it down to the essence of what wire and stone are. Those are heavy elements, but how do you make them feel and look light to the wearer, so they’re not a burden to wear? So the wearer almost feels elevated herself by that quality?
It’s interesting to me to think that the stones that I work with were taken from a larger piece of stone, and whittled away to this unique shape. When you see the jewelry in person, you’ll have the same stone in three different bracelets, but each one is a different shape. You think what does the rest of the stone look like? Or why am I choosing this one over that one? Why is it that this one so special to me? In this way it becomes personal. Gold is the opposite: it’s these little tiny pieces that are collected and then made into one big piece and then refined into small pieces again. If you talk about the process of these elements being made, they’re gradually built up and then whittled down.
A light approach
Our approach to jewelry making is very light, reducing our ideas and inspiration to really basic, human things. This notion of the imperfect as being light is important to our process, and it affects the tone of the jewelry, by saying, look-there are imperfections everywhere and that’s what we celebrate. Each piece is one of a kind, you can see it’s been touched, and held, and worked with. Over time, you see that everyone’s attracted to something different because everyone is unique, which may sound trite, but it’s also true.
My work is very rudimentary. I spent time with my mentor, Kazuko Oshima, whose only tools were wire cutters and her hands. I’ve spent a lot of time looking at Alexander Calder’s jewelry whose only tools were a hammer, an anvil and an array of strong plyers. Calder drew inspiration from African art and jewelry, which was again, was created with the hand and a few hand-tools. So, although I was trained to solder, and I worked at David Yurman where we produced with molds on a mass scale, it’s a special challenge to make jewelry and adorn oneself with objects made purely by hand.