HI-Arts Reflections: Gilly Langton
Pamela Conacher explains how jewellery designer Gilly Langton made her move to the Highlands & Islands.
GILLY LANGTON is a highly regarded international contemporary jewellery designer living and working in Plockton.
ORIGINALLY from Chorley, Lancashire, Gilly first arrived in Scotland in May 2005 to take up the post of maker in residence at Plockton High School as part of the Highland Council Exhibitions Unit’s ‘Over the Hills and Far away’ project.
Gilly was seeking a new direction in her career and she immersed herself into a completely different cultural environment and surroundings. This proved to be a life changing experience, and the difference living and working in a Highland village compared to Manchester was understandably immense. The people, language, music, environment and daily rituals all influenced her work and herself.
After her Highland residency she moved to Ayrshire to become artist in residence as part of the ‘Elements of Change’ project. At the end of this residency Gilly had to make a decision on where to move to next – back South or back to the Highlands where she had had such a positive time.
As Project Manager for the Highland Council residencies, I had supported and encouraged Gilly, and when she was trying to make up her mind on which direction to go in, it become clear that her heart was in the Highlands! However, she had to be practical and needed to make a living from her craft.
HI~Arts had just commissioned the Scoping Study that would lead to my post and, realising that there was support and that with new technologies she could actually live in Plockton and still be a successful jeweller, Gilly jumped and moved up permanently .
Throughout the ensuing years she has become a key person in the craft community of the Highlands and Islands, creating her jewellery here and exhibiting worldwide. Exhibitions have included Origin Craft Fair, London Fashion Week, The Museum of Art and Design, New York, Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show and Eu-nique, Germany. Everywhere she has gone, Gilly has spread the word about the Highlands and has been a true ambassador for us!
Gilly is one of HI~Arts mentors and has worked with makers on our Making Progress programmes, passing on her considerable skills and experiences.
To take the story full circle, she is now mentoring new graduate Heather McDermott from Sleat. Heather was inspired by Gilly when she attended one of her residency workshops back in 2005 and went on to study jewellery at Edinburgh College of Art. A key reason for returning home after her masters was the realisation that she would be supported by HI~Arts Craft Development and she was delighted to be awarded a place on Making Progress and to be back working with Gilly!
Throughout Gilly’s career in the Highlands and Islands she has been hugely supportive of the work we do and appreciates that much of what she has achieved would have been impossible without our assistance.
“Without the support and encouragement of the HI~Arts team, I would not be living and working as an international maker in the Highlands and Islands. My life would have been so different if I had not taken that first step off the train in Plockton and I have never looked back. Along the way I have known that there is always someone to discuss things with and having that in the background has allowed me to take risks, to grow my business and to feel an integral part of the community’
Gilly is very positive about her future here and we are proud to have been involved in her career and to now see her being such an inspiration for new makers shows how our belief in her has paid off.
© Pamela Conacher, 2012