Maeve Gillies has an unusual way of introducing herself and her jewelry. Designers’ press kits usually come in a folder with photographs, but hers came in a square white cardboard box that plays music of her own composition, performed by the artist herself on the ancient Scottish harp, or clarsach. The box was filled not with jewelry or photographs but with thistle (the Scottish national flower), Scottish beach agates (polished by the ocean and more than 25 million years old), and a wonderful smell emanating from a custom-made sachet designed to evoke the pure mountain air of Scotland.
Gillies’s jewelry, branded MaeVona, is inspired by the feminine curves of the art nouveau period, but the Celtic influence of her Scottish heritage is unmistakable in her designs. Indeed, her engagement rings are named for the islands off the rugged coast of Northwest Scotland, while her Goddess Rings (a.k.a. fashion rings) are named for the charismatic goddesses of Celtic mythology. Gillies’s work is predominantly platinum and includes a wide range of both bridal and fashion- driven pieces.
“I design for women just like me,” says the vivacious artist. “Fashionable women who seek, appreciate, and love beautiful, individual design.” Fashionable and artistic she may be, but make no mistake: Gillies is no ethereal Celtic faerie. Rather, she’s down-to-earth, cheerful, and she can argue a point firmly, whether it’s about jewelry making or the particulars of Highland versus Islay single-malt whiskies.
Gillies hails from a nationally renowned artistic, literary, and musical family in Edinburgh, Scotland, and began her jewelry career quite by chance at age 15. In childhood, music appeared to be her future as she’d already mastered three instruments—including the clarsach—by the age of 8. At age 10, she was awarded the first of five annual scholarships to Aberlour School in the Scottish highlands, which offers an exclusive residential course for exceptionally gifted children. There, she specialized in both art and music, winning first prize in all six categories of a national harp performance competition.
But at age 15, while trying her hand at goldsmithing with a jeweler friend, she discovered an all-consuming love of jewelry. Or, maybe it wasn’t such a shocking discovery, as Gillies says the first picture she consciously remembers drawing was of her mother, adorned in jewelry from head to toe.
With the same intensity she applies to every aspect of her life, Gillies graduated from the jewelry department of Edinburgh College of Art and earned a master’s degree in fashion jewelry from the Royal College of Art in London, winning great praise from her professor, the internationally acclaimed jeweler David Watkins.
Knowing the importance of good manufacturing as well as good design, Gillies spent two years as the head of design and product development for Domino, based in Birmingham, England, one of Europe’s largest jewelry manufacturing and distribution companies. She designed eight platinum and 18k gold collections, as well as overseeing state-of-the-art CAD/CAM (computer-aided-design/computer-aided-manufacturing) model making and production for almost 600 design patterns annually.
She also has designed for Vetta International, a major fashion jewelry manufacturer in New York that supplies such private-label brands as Victoria’s Secret, J. Crew, and Nine West; creates commissions for the Swarovski brand; and works internationally in Thailand, India, the Philippines, and Australia. In 2004 she was invited to design and present a collection under her own name on QVC London.
“I’m on this earth to create,” says the artist. “And it doesn’t come much better than making something precious for someone who will treasure it forever.”
MaeVona, 275 Madison Ave., Suite 2110, New York, NY 10016; (212) 557-7300; www.maevona.com.