We’re always on the lookout for inspiring brands and individuals that share our kind of ethos, and when we came across US-based jewellery designer Leigh Miller we were instantly drawn to her aesthetic. The organic yet sculptural shapes of her pieces seem straight out of nature, which is not surprising given that nature just happens to be one of her biggest influencers. We had to know more, and chatted to Leigh about her methods, identity and inspirations.
Jewellery design wasn’t always Leigh’s calling - she started her career working in the fashion industry for companies such as J.Crew and Calvin Klein, but was missing a more tactile, hands-on creative process. Whilst living in Rio de Janeiro she started taking jewellery classes, and continued them at a studio when she moved back to New York. These classes provided a strong foundation for experimentation, and eventually Leigh came up with the wax melting technique that led to her first jewellery collection, and which seems to be the secret to the molten forms she creates.
Crafting a piece of jewellery is a multi-step process, as Leigh describes: “The first step is creating the initial shapes by melting organic beeswax - I am able to create very fluid, almost topographic forms with the wax” she says, “Second I have the wax forms cast into sterling silver, at which point I will refine the castings further and then hammer the form and refine the motifs. Third I have the moulds made and the final pieces cast and for the final step I do whatever fabrication, soldering, finishing and polishing - whatever that particular piece calls for.”
Leigh favours working with silver, commenting that “It’s a soft, forgiving metal and looks so stunning when it’s polished. It is also inexpensive enough that I can use it to make larger, more sculptural forms without being an unattainable price point, but precious enough that the pieces can be passed down over generations.”
Nature and art are her biggest inspirations, and her second collection was inspired by stones found during a recent trip to Costa Rica. “I happened upon the most beautiful stones that had been burrowed into by crustaceans to create these unique hole-y forms” says Leigh, “These stones combined with my love of mid-century sculpture (by artists such as Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore and Jean Arp) created the collection.”
Sustainability is very important to Leigh and the brand, and she makes a conscious effort to use recycled silver and conflict-free stones. Her pieces are not intended to fit with a specific fashion moment or trend, and are designed with a wide age bracket in mind. She describes the ‘Leigh Miller girl’ as having “A classic sense of style but a sense of humour as well, as most of the pieces have a bit of quirk infused in them.”
Outside of work, Leigh loves being outdoors and moved back to California for the lifestyle - going on hikes, spending time at the beach and learning to surf. Some favourite local spots are Pine and Crane in Silverlake and The Mandrake in Culver City.
So what’s next for Leigh Miller? She wants to work on developing the brand and is enjoying it being on a smaller scale for the time being so she can keep an eye on quality and doesn’t have to compromise on design. That being said, homeware and collectables are on the horizon, and she loves the idea of creating functional pieces of art for the home. So do we!
Words: Rosie Herdman