Antje Illner originally undertook a three-year goldsmithing apprenticeship before studying Jewellery Design at the Fachhochschule für Gestaltung in Schwäbisch Gmünd in Germany. She subsequently moved to England, graduating from the Royal College of Art in 1994.
As well as working as a professional jewellery designer and design consultant Illner has worked continuously in higher education since 1995, fulfilling her dual ambitions of designing and teaching. She spent four years at the University of Plymouth in 3D Design: Designer Maker option. Since 1999, she has been a senior lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire, and in 2010 she became the Programme Leader for Contemporary Applied Art. She joined the RCA in 1996 as a visiting lecturer and became a tutor in jewellery in 1998, with responsibility for the course elective ‘Designing for Industry’, which offers students the opportunity to design and gain an insight into related creative industries.
These diverse cultural contexts have shaped her work as a jeweler, designer and educator: the formal design education and emphasis on technical excellence, integrated with a playful and creative approach to materials and forms – these contrasting qualities are fundamental to her way of thinking, making and inspiring others.
Antje’s jewellery pieces are pared down forms, hovering between the literal and the metaphorical, evolved from organic elements found in nature. There is within them a poetic quality of understatement, which creates a calming effect, either visually for the viewer or by touch for the wearer. By holding the pleasingly simple shapes, the wearer achieves a relaxed contemplation. It is not surprising to find a predilection for pendants and finger rings in her collections as these traditionally involve a direct sensual interaction when worn round the neck or are viewed on the hand in perpetual motion.

Illner’s research draws on the magnification properties of clear glass to highlight intrinsic pattern in the metal, experimenting with different form and pattern creating techniques, including rapid prototyping combined with casting to hold and attach the glass to the metal, and laser engraving and sand blasting as surface decoration. By combining two distinct materials – glass and silver - the fusion enhances each of their natural given qualities, giving synergy and resonance to both. A new classical look and feel about the piece is achieved through this marriage of traditional craft and subtle use of technology.

A distinctive feature of Illner’s work is her choices and treatment of materials. She has explored the unique properties of glass, allowing its qualities of translucence, distortion and magnification to have a direct influence on the designing and making of the works. She collaborates with glassblowers and lampworkers to achieve her intentions, resulting in outcomes that demonstrate excellence in the use of materials, to create original, surprising and unexpected qualities of warmth and sensuality.

As a material glass is both hard and soft, its forms protectively contained but implicitly fragile. By contrast, the metal, though a functional addition which could so easily overpower its delicate partner, is handled with subtle restraint, here and there injecting a playful touch.

More recently, for the current exhibition, she was inspired by the discovery of a small wasps nest, and pared it down to its basic constituents to evolve starting points for design. A wider conceptual interest in the home as a cell structure has evolved, as a rigid, and yet softer organic environment, within which feelings of protection, security and identity are given space. This led to experimentation with the latest paper rapid prototyping machine, to explore the boundaries of the technology using organic materials.

Antje Illner’s jewellery reveals a passion for design and her work, literal and sensual transforms precious and non-precious materials into intimate and pure forms.

Felicity Cooke

Antje Illner originally undertook a three-year goldsmithing apprenticeship before studying Jewellery Design at the Fachhochschule für Gestaltung in Schwäbisch Gmünd in Germany. She subsequently moved to England, graduating from the Royal College of Art in 1994.
As well as working as a professional jewellery designer and design consultant Illner has worked continuously in higher education since 1995, fulfilling her dual ambitions of designing and teaching. She spent four years at the University of Plymouth in 3D Design: Designer Maker option. Since 1999, she has been a senior lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire, and in 2010 she became the Programme Leader for Contemporary Applied Art. She joined the RCA in 1996 as a visiting lecturer and became a tutor in jewellery in 1998, with responsibility for the course elective ‘Designing for Industry’, which offers students the opportunity to design and gain an insight into related creative industries.
These diverse cultural contexts have shaped her work as a jeweler, designer and educator: the formal design education and emphasis on technical excellence, integrated with a playful and creative approach to materials and forms – these contrasting qualities are fundamental to her way of thinking, making and inspiring others.
Antje’s jewellery pieces are pared down forms, hovering between the literal and the metaphorical, evolved from organic elements found in nature. There is within them a poetic quality of understatement, which creates a calming effect, either visually for the viewer or by touch for the wearer. By holding the pleasingly simple shapes, the wearer achieves a relaxed contemplation. It is not surprising to find a predilection for pendants and finger rings in her collections as these traditionally involve a direct sensual interaction when worn round the neck or are viewed on the hand in perpetual motion.

Illner’s research draws on the magnification properties of clear glass to highlight intrinsic pattern in the metal, experimenting with different form and pattern creating techniques, including rapid prototyping combined with casting to hold and attach the glass to the metal, and laser engraving and sand blasting as surface decoration. By combining two distinct materials – glass and silver - the fusion enhances each of their natural given qualities, giving synergy and resonance to both. A new classical look and feel about the piece is achieved through this marriage of traditional craft and subtle use of technology.

A distinctive feature of Illner’s work is her choices and treatment of materials. She has explored the unique properties of glass, allowing its qualities of translucence, distortion and magnification to have a direct influence on the designing and making of the works. She collaborates with glassblowers and lampworkers to achieve her intentions, resulting in outcomes that demonstrate excellence in the use of materials, to create original, surprising and unexpected qualities of warmth and sensuality.

As a material glass is both hard and soft, its forms protectively contained but implicitly fragile. By contrast, the metal, though a functional addition which could so easily overpower its delicate partner, is handled with subtle restraint, here and there injecting a playful touch.

More recently, for the current exhibition, she was inspired by the discovery of a small wasps nest, and pared it down to its basic constituents to evolve starting points for design. A wider conceptual interest in the home as a cell structure has evolved, as a rigid, and yet softer organic environment, within which feelings of protection, security and identity are given space. This led to experimentation with the latest paper rapid prototyping machine, to explore the boundaries of the technology using organic materials.

Antje Illner’s jewellery reveals a passion for design and her work, literal and sensual transforms precious and non-precious materials into intimate and pure forms.

Felicity Cooke