By Beth Logan for Connect Savannah
I meet Gillian Trask in her tiny, meticulously organized, home-based studio on Isle of Hope, curious as to how this relative newcomer to the jewelry world will be representing the U.S., Savannah artists, and Kobo Gallery at the prestigious Milano Jewelry Week this October.
Growing up in New York, New Jersey, and Virginia as the daughter of a government contracting business owner, Trask graduated James Madison University with a BFA, and subsequently earned a second BFA, with a concentration in Graphic Design, from the California Institute of the Arts.
Trask, in her home studio.
She had minored in Art History and in Jewelry Design at JMU, but ended up following her father’s practical advice of pursuing a career in graphic design for the financial stability it offered.
However, a freelance graphic design career proved unsatisfying to Trask’s creative soul, and by 2010, she had moved to Florida and was working in retail sales with Jared, the Galleria of Jewelry, eventually becoming store manager.
Five years later, her father’s illness prompted a move to Hilton Head Island to help her mother care for him.
“Honestly,” Trask says, “That ended up being the best move.” She was able to spend time with family and was with her dad when he died.
During bereavement leave, her store got held up at gunpoint, and that traumatic event, combined with her dad’s death, made her reevaluate her life’s direction. She realized, “If I’m going to do something, I want it to be important. Be something I love. And I want to give back.”
“Literally, that same week, I met my husband Zack,” Trask continues, “And I enrolled at SCAD for jewelry. My goal was to create a recognizable line of jewelry, something that would be uniquely mine, with pieces that I absolutely love.”
She graduated SCAD with a Master of Art in Jewelry degree in 2019, and it was while working on her thesis project, that her goal serendipitously manifested itself…
“I’d been working on this particular piece for three weeks. I was heavily pregnant with my daughter Gabby. It was three in the morning, and I had to show it to my professors at nine, and I melted the whole damn thing! It just collapsed.”
But out of that meltdown, a new technique was born.
“I had a breakthrough.” Trask calls this breakthrough technique, molen sterling hand sculpting.
Jewelry created in collaboration with Savannah’s ‘Love & Moxie’ line
“I want to push the boundaries of what sterling silver can do by melting it down and then riding that fine line between complete destruction and the creation of something empowering and unconventionally beautiful.”
The jeweler goes on to explain how silver has a gorgeous rolling motion when it’s in a molten state and that she is sculpting and moving the metal with her tweezers while it’s liquid.
Other jewelers use reticulated silver (a technique whereby localized heat is applied to the surface of the metal) but, “I’m pushing and pulling the silver while it’s molten. It’s all about controlling the heat with air and with different torch tips so I can sculpt it.”
It is this incredibly unique technique that led to Trask’s acceptance to Milano Jewelry Week.
“They actually reached out to me. I think they saw that I had received a Top Ten Award from Halstead in 2019.” The Halstead Grant National Competition is an annual award for emerging silver jewelry artists, which “put me on the map in the jewelry world. It was an exciting way to start my first year of business!”
More honors followed for Trask’s fledgling business. In 2020, she was appointed an Ambassador for the NYC Metal & Smith Show, an intimate and modern jewelry trade event with a curated selection of indie designers.
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Trask, in her home studio, shows her line represented in the Milano Jewelry Week publication.