From her Wellington home studio looking out over a semi-wild garden, Fireworks jewellery designer Melanie Mills creates beautiful, unique metal pieces inspired by ferns, corokia and other flora of the forest. Characterised by elegant botanical shapes, her designs feature intricate filigree and the stunning combination of sterling silver with copper and brass.
What do you make? Silver and mixed metal jewellery.
How did you get into your craft?
I took a few lessons, then took a few more. Then I set up my studio. I have always admired, and wanted to own, fantastic jewellery. Especially handmade by craftspeople.
What inspires you?
Nature particularly, and the work of many craftspeople and designers. I love the ’50s and Modernism. I am inspired by ethnic craft and metalworking.
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
My favourite metal is silver, although eventually I would like to work with high-carat gold too. I have an old tiny 4oz ball-pein hammer that I bought second-hand – my first tool purchase, that I love. I have other hammers but this one is the best! My favourite processes are annealing (to soften metal), forging to give shape and make surface marks, and soldering. I am fascinated by molten metal.
Is there a philosophy behind your work?
I just like to make things that other people will fall in love with and want to own and wear. It’s a great feeling to find owners for my work.
Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
No. I am largely self-taught.
Five words that describe your mind: Open, inquisitive, direct, intuitive, sensitive.
Describe your workspace:
Too small! Or I have too much stuff. It’s mainly tidy, most of the time. I have a view into my over-grown garden. Sometimes birds visit the flowering shrubs nearby.
Your favourite feedback from a customer:
An American customer said that nobody does botanical designs like me. I was thrilled she said that.
What was the last handmade item you bought? Vintage Mexican silver earrings (big ones).
Alexander Calder, artist sculptor and jeweller for the men and Louise Nevelson for the women.
Your favourite childhood book?
The Borrowers by Mary Norton and illustrated by Diana Stanley. My childhood copy fell to bits.
What are you reading now? William Spratling and the Mexican Silver Renaissance.
Do you have any pets?
I have three cats, Pip (the grumper), Phoenix (the plumper) and Coco (the little one).
View more of Melanie’s original handcrafted designs in her Felt shop, Fireworks.