Published on November 22, 2012 | by Carleanne O'Donoghue

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Jewellery Design student glows at Cartier

Beavering away in the back of the Jewellery Design Workshop at Central Saint Martins you’ll find third-year student Benita Gikaite, 24, working hard on her final collection. Having taken on a few internships in the world of jewellery design and already had her jewellery sold by the Barbican, it’s clear that Gikaite is ahead of her game.

The intern

Gikaite has just recently won and undertaken an internship with the renowned jewellery and watch maker, Cartier, in Paris. Speaking about her time there Gikaite says: “It was a really good experience. To win the competition we had to produce a portfolio of our second year work. Out of all of us [the applicants], four were picked to be judged. Paris as an industry was very challenging as there are a lot of conflicting companies and everything is of such a high standard, so to have been able to do an internship there was amazing. I got to see how the company works and saw everything on a broader perspective. “

“Paris as an industry was very challenging as there are a lot of conflicting companies and everything is of such a high standard.” Benita Gikaite

It is clear that prestigious internships with established companies are hard to come by. Whilst hammering away at a piece of copper Gikaite says: “I have to say I worked really hard for it. The second year in general was really intensive and demanding. I really wanted to win the competition because I thought that it was the right thing to do and it was an experience I really wanted to have. I put in all I could to get there. When I found out I won, I cried. I was so happy. I’d won a few things before. Not all of them had prizes but previous to Cartier I was selected to sell my jewellery at the Barbican as part of the Bauhaus exhibition. Previous to that, in my first year I won a British art medal society for an honour that I designed.”

The opportunity to sell her pieces at the Bauhaus exhibition proved to be a valuable experience for Gikaite, “For the Bauhaus pieces my aim was to produce something flat that turned into a 3D shape. The pieces were directly inspired by the Bauhaus movement in Germany. For me, simplicity and functionality were the main elements of the movement so I channelled that into my pieces.”

Having her work selected by the Barbican is just one of the many of Gikaite’s achievements. Between running backwards and forwards to collect various tools and materials she tells me that: “There was also a competition for Women in Science; I designed a piece of jewellery to be awarded to a woman in science. This is a tradition that was started recently so the piece will be passed from person to person which means that over time lots of people will get to see my work. All of this made me feel really good and like I was going somewhere. It was really rewarding. To be picked was an honour. All the hard work and all the hours spent in the workshop are worth it.”

“I changed my mind [ about studying fashion] and then I met some people that introduced me to the world of jewellery. I think jewellery just chose me.” Benita Gikaite

The student 

You would think that a student with this amount of drive and determination has been working toward a career in jewellery design since the day she was born, but for Gikaite this was not the case. Originally wanting to study fashion, she found that jewellery design picked her.

“I originally wanted to study fashion. It seems that all the things in my life happened in a certain way, I changed my mind and then I met some people that introduced me to the world of jewellery. I think jewellery just chose me. A lot of it came from my childhood. Every little girl dresses up her doll and makes it clothes so I guess it stemmed from there. While I was at school I started studying textiles so for me it was a natural choice, then for various reasons I wasn’t able to study what I wanted to. I realised jewellery was more me because I enjoy working with my hands,” she shouts over the sound of a soldering iron.

The inspiration

Hailing from Lithuania, Gikaite is now revisiting her heritage as part of her final collection. “In the beginning I tried to steer away from my background and explore contemporary jewellery the way that it’s done in England and in the rest of the world. Back in Lithuania there’s not much of a contemporary jewellery scene and I didn’t see how that could help me. Now everything’s changed and I’m digging back into my heritage and my background, which is the main theme of my final collection. People’s attitudes have changed a lot in Lithuania in the last few years, so I’m taking a more personal view.”

Mixing up various liquids with a pestle and mortar Gikaite remarks: “I’m enjoying looking at Lithuania’s recent history and how I can interpret it into my designs for my final collection. I’m mainly looking at when the country gained independence from the Soviet Union, which was about 20 years ago. I’m very interested in people and how they went from having nothing to having something. I’m aiming to give my work a big cultural perspective, looking at the way people change.

“I tend to use symbolism, colours, and signs that express particular movements and ideologies.” Benita Gikaite

“Incorporating these ideas into my work is not easy so I tend to use symbolism, colours, and signs that express particular movements and ideologies. So for socialism I could use red and capitalism, bright rainbow colours. But I am specifically looking at the moment at the fact that people in the Soviet Union didn’t have much so they took care of every single object they owned. Then when we gained independence and capitalism took over, new products came out and people started buying again which sparked a lot of creativity that’s the change I want to capture in my pieces.”

Choosing CSM

By now Gikaite is again hammering away at a piece of metal so I decide this would be a good time to ask her why she chose CSM: “I came to London for what I thought was going to be a few months of work to get over a few bad experiences I’d had back home. I wasn’t able to go and study fashion like I’d wanted to the timing just wasn’t right. I was disheartened by the whole thing because I’d taken a whole load of evening classes and things like that so I came here. I ended up liking it so much here I decided to stay.  I decided to design jewellery during my work at the V&A. I worked there as a sales assistant. I was introduced to contemporary jewellery and that was the start of it for me. Slowly I became more and more engaged in the subject.”

So have Gikaite’s massive successes had an effect on the way she is viewed by her peers? “I don’t think people come to me for advice because of the awards and stuff. Nothing’s massively changed, we’ve always communicated with each other. I ask advice and so do the others. Everybody on my course is in the same position as me. We all ask each other what we think of this and that. We’re all just constantly changing our minds. My tutors and lecturers have been really supportive. I’ve loved every single minute of this course and I couldn’t imagine it being any different.”

The future 

When talking to Gikaite you get the feeling that she really is taking everything in her stride. She has a very relaxed temperament except when she has a hammer in her hand and you’re wincing at the sound of a piece of metal being shaped which you might not necessarily expect for a student who works so hard.  With no immediate plans for after university, Gikaite has found herself swamped with the number of paths that she can take once she graduates.

When asked what she wants to do after graduating, Gikaite said: “Over the summer I did this internship and was given the opportunity to explore the different ways I could work after I graduate. Obviously I would like to have to have my own workshop and work for myself. There are so many different ways you could work in jewellery. I’d love to do some collaboration, so we’ll have to wait and see if that will happen”

 

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