Belinda Giles - Jewellery and Furniture Designer

Belinda Giles
'I love the freedom. I can choose what hours I work, what products I design, how they're presented and, with stockist approval, where they're sold.'

Belinda is the managing director of her own jewellery design business in Sydney. Working from her home workshop, she sells her jewellery ranges wholesale to design and fashion stores, and also creates specially-made jewellery for individual clients. Belinda began her tertiary education in mathematics and finished it in industrial design. She brings ideas borrowed from fields as diverse as scientific illustration, mass manufacture and a strong preoccupation with numbers. Belinda has also studied silversmithing under the accomplished Swiss master Ernst Pfenninger.

What do you do in your job?

All aspects of the business – product design, sales and marketing, accounting, manufacture, packaging, graphic design, commissions and everything else.

Where do you get your inspiration for new products?

I find inspiration everywhere, in unlikely places – but it’s sometimes only after something is finished that it’s obvious to me where some of the ideas have come from. At the moment I’m particularly interested in the idea of products gaining value through their usage, wear and accumulated history.

What materials do you work with?

The pieces from my current range are in silver and gold. In the past I’ve worked with a lot of different materials, including plastics, wood, resins and a wide range of metals, as well as some less common materials like sand and antique forks.

What do you like most about your job?

I love the freedom and complete self-determination. I can choose what hours I work, what products I design, how they’re presented and, with stockist approval, where they’re sold. It’s very satisfying to take something from conception through to realisation and to control everything in between. It’s also very rewarding creating bespoke jewellery because you get to make pieces that are very meaningful to the people who commissioned them.

What do you like least?

Having to do everything myself. A lot of designers starting out by themselves are surprised by how little time is available to actually design, because of all the other things that must be taken care of. I actually enjoy all aspects of running the business, but finding the time to do them all is sometimes difficult. There are invariably things you’d prefer someone else handle, but in the beginning stages of running a business when cash flow is critical, you don’t always have the choice.

Have you ever received any prizes for your work?

My jewellery has won a Georg Jensen award and I have been involved in numerous exhibitions both locally and internationally. Exhibitions expose my work to a larger audience and raise greater awareness of my designs.

What aspects of industrial design interest you in particular?

I’m interested in the blurred line between art and viable business – being able to design something once and capitalise on it many times over. I think in this industry most opportunities have to be invented, not discovered as they might be in others, like industries highly dependent on new technology.

What should people know about industrial design?

Many people think they need to work in a company similar to the one they intend to start up before going at it alone, thinking that they can learn about the industry and build confidence before starting out on their own. I did the opposite – I jumped into my own business and learnt as I went. Experience is important, but fresh approaches and ideas uncontaminated by other questionable preconceptions can also be quite valuable. Both approaches can work.

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