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Mary MacGill

As an artist & designer, can you tell us about your journey in founding Mary MacGill Studio?

From a very early age, my parents always encouraged me to make things, whether it was sewing my own clothes, painting, or baking. I first delved into metal smithing at a summer camp in Putney, VT and fell in love with the materials and process immediately. From that point on, I made jewelry as a hobby on the side through high school and college.

After school, I worked for a big jewelry company, learning the ropes of scaled design and production. I truly never thought my hobby would turn into my full time job, but my love for the medium was undeniable. After working for two years, I decided to go out on my own and really explore my visions for what jewelry I wanted to make. I moved to Block Island, RI for the summer, worked in a boutique during the week, and sold my jewelry at the local farmer’s market on the weekends. It was so simple, and so much fun. After the summer ended, I needed to figure out how to continue selling pieces, so I learned how to create a website and filed for an LLC with my name.

As your mentor, how did you get connected with jewelry designer Kazuko Oshima? How did she help shape your artistry?

After the Putney summer arts experience, I told my parents I wanted to continue making jewelry but there weren’t any resources close to where we lived. My father is a gallerist and was connected to some of the world’s greatest artists and Kazuko happened to be in that realm. There were many things that were amazing about Kazuko, but perhaps the most interesting to me was that she was making jewelry that was entirely different from anything else I had ever seen — because she refused to use traditional methods of soldering, setting, and casting.
She instead made her etherial pieces using only her hands and pliers, wire and beads.  We would meet for tea at takashimaya over the years, and have these wonderful days together. She brought me to the jewelry district and introduced me to all of her stone vendors and truly let me into her special world.

Where do you find your inspiration? Whom & what are you most influenced by?

Kazuko was a huge influence, but I also spent a lot of time with Calder’s work as he was another artist creating jewelry with very rudimentary materials and processes. It was freeing to think outside of the norm and allowed me to create jewelry that was very different from what my peers were producing. 
My surroundings have a huge influence on my work as well. The ocean and grasses on Block Island, the trees and snow in the Hudson Valley, all play a huge part in my color palette.

Walk us through your creative process.

With jewelry, I’ve learned you have to come up with your own language and design vocabulary with different components. For instance, the first thing I made was our Stone Cuff— that consisted of hammered wire and a drilled stone. Once that was made, the next question was, okay, now what would the necklace look like? Using the same materials and methods, you build out collections and flesh them out with color. New forms come to me every few years and they’re always informed by whatever I’ve just done. It’s like following a story.

As we’ve recently collaborated, what would you say the differences & similarities are between designing jewelry compared to garments?

Designing with Demy was so exciting. We were able to meld our two languages— hers of knits and shapes, and mine of texture and color as informed by the stones I work with. It was a very fluid process and I really enjoyed seeing the collaboration come to life from the initial design meeting, to the development of the tag, and finally photographing the sweaters on Block Island where much of the inspiration was born.

Lastly, as brand that works with a multitude of artists & designers, how would you describe the ethos of Mary MacGill Studio?
At first the brand was a solitary pursuit, but over the years it has become such an incredibly dynamic community and home. I think that has been the most inspiring part of all of this, that jewelry, art and design have the power to bond people and that celebrating these pursuits is important and worthwhile.


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Michele Wong McSween

Michele Wong McSween

Author of Gordon & Li Li

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