John Miller, a self-described “rebel of the jewellery industry,” has been honing his skill for 50 years. His elaborate pieces are some of the most recognised works of art that are inspired by the flora and fauna of WA’s South West.
The 67-year-old artist works for hours every day in the studio he established on a lovely bushland property close to the sleepy seaside town of Yallingup.
Mr. Miller’s lifelong love for creation and exploration began in the backyard of his childhood home, and he has no intentions to slow down anytime soon.
I had a secret chemistry set hidden behind the garage where I kept bottles of methylated spirits that I used to set steel wool and other items on fire. I was enamoured with metal and tools.
“I like disassembling clocks, transformers, and ancient coins. It’s a miracle I didn’t detonate.
When Mr. Miller enrolled at the Claremont School of Art, it became clear, according to him, that he was rather obsessed with his work and enjoyed sketching very thin lines.
“One of my drawing teachers told me I’d be very good at jewellery, but I kind of dismissed it because I thought jewellery was a bit like crochet or knitting or embroidery,” he said.
Stamping his mark on the industry
Mr. Miller started handcrafting stamping tools with native flora and fauna motifs cut into the tip using skills he learned in his high school metal shop.
“I thought if I make a little punch with a boab tree, a pearl lugger, and a pearl shell, that’s Broome,” he remarked.
“I can stamp that onto a ring, and it turned out pretty well. Everyone wanted to buy them.
I then continued to build upon it, repurposing old tools to create fish and kangaroos, sharks and dolphins, and finally mermaids and divers.
And it appeared that there was no end to what I could accomplish in that regard at that time.
Outside of his distinctive stamps, Mr. Miller experiments with numerous other jewellery techniques, including hand engraving background details and carving landscapes into each item.
“I prefer to think of myself as the jewellery industry’s outlaw. We do make our components from the ground up, even if it probably doesn’t benefit us monetarily,” he remarked.
I’m working on other techniques like hot metal fusing, where I join small pieces of metal to create silver or gold rings or bracelets, because I didn’t really want to be just the stamping person.
“Even though I shouldn’t be drawing at night, I do when I get home.
“I’ve got enough books, I’ve got a shed full of sketchbooks, that would keep me going for five lifetimes with ideas. But I keep doing it anyway.”