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Antje Illner


  • Antje Illner is a graduate of the Royal College of Art and the Fachhochschule für Gestaltung in Schwäbisch Gmünd, Germany, in Jewellery Design. She taught for four years at the University of Plymouth in 3D Design. Since 1999, Antje Illner has been a senior lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire, in 2010 she became the Programme Leader for Contemporary Applied Art. Antje Illner joined the Royal College of Art in 1996 as a visiting lecturer and became a tutor in jewellery in 1998. Antje Illner is responsible for the course elective Designing for Industry‚ which offers students the opportunity to design and gain an insight into related creative industries. Antje Illner has exhibited her jewellery in the UK and Europe and worked as a design consultant and industrial designer.

  • Biography

  • Antje Illner undertook a three-year goldsmith apprenticeship before studying Jewellery Design at the Fachhochschule für Gestaltung in Schwäbisch Gmünd in Germany. She subsequently moved to England, graduating in Jewellery and Metal 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, in both specialist, tutoring and course management roles, as programme leader for Creative Design, and as a jewellery tutor at postgraduate level at the Royal College of Art. The focus of her responsibility at the RCA is offering students the opportunity to gain insight into related creative industries where craft technologies have practical applications.

    These diverse cultural contexts have shaped her work as a jeweller, designer and educator: the formal design education and emphasis on technical excellence, integrated with a playful and creative approach to materials and forms – integrated within the design process, these 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 animism, which induces a calming effect, both visually and through continuous wear. By interacting with the pleasingly simple shapes, the wearer achieves a relaxed contemplation. A distinctive feature of Illner’s design practice is her selection and treatment of a range of raw materials and metals– ceramic, glass, jet, horn – which are explored through the use of digital technologies such as rapid prototyping and laser cutting to achieve a contemporary aesthetic applicable in many contexts.

    Illner’s recent research expands on the concepts implicit in her craft practice, linking haptic knowledge and desire to practical needs: holding, touching, feeling a practical object on a daily basis – the external aesthetic engages a human response, while the internal technology activates the function. Approaching this dilemma as a jeweller, who mainly works with accessories for the body, she views medical devices in the same way, as an accessory and as personalised ornamentation for the body.

    Several of her recent research projects exemplify these values:

    In 2014/5, Illner’s collaboration in the METALLICA project involved using Microsoft mobile technology to develop new aluminium metal surface finishes and their potential technologies, with the theme, ‘Finish follows function’. Emphasis is placed on combining hand crafted skills with industrial processes, aiding grip by combining materials, subtle use of colour, and anti-scratch surfaces – aesthetics balanced with practicality. 

    In 2015/6, through collaboration with DIGITAL HACKLAB, Illner initiated new research into material makeovers for asthma inhalers: a medical application of craft practice. The project investigated ways in which a necessary medical device could be made more appealing to encourage active daily use among specific client groups. Following the results of focused questioning, a series of personalized design solutions were presented for both adult and child users, which treated the medical device with the design sensibilities of a fashion accessory to enhance usage. This project was presented at the CRAFT FUTURES conference in September 2017 as a valid example of how craft practice can be used in a medical context.

    Antje Illner’s jewellery and research profile reveal her deep understanding of design and materials and the potential for craft expertise to transform the use of digital technologies in contemporary industrial design and manufacture.

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  • Practice

      Selected work


      Research interests

      Antje Illner experiments with glass, which is somewhat unusual for jewellery and this she transforms into organic shapes based on forms found in nature. The mainly functional chains and settings are restrained in their design and only give a hint of ornament. The predominant use of silver underlines her sensitivity for materials and the purity of forms she strives for. Her language as an artist jeweller is poetic and her jewellery intends to create a calming effect, either visually for the viewer or by touch for the wearer. Antje's jewellery is meant to have a playful element.

      Illner is conducting a funded research project, which aims to explore ways in which molten glass can be fused with sterling silver, to create wearable pieces of jewellery. Using the magnification property of clear glass to highlight intrinsic pattern on the metal and experimenting with different form and pattern creating techniques, like rapid prototyping and photo etching to hold and attach the glass to the metal.