Former Architect now jewellery designer Cushla Whiting produces a beautiful range of timeless pieces from her studio in Melbourne’s CBD. We visited her and learnt a bit more about her work, her history, and what drives her as a designer.
Cushla studied and worked as an architect before moving to London where she began working as an assistant to the jeweller Hannah Martin & Henry Martin. It was there that she fell in love with the whole process of jewellery design and creation, and decided to pursue it further. Upon returning to Melbourne she founded Cushla Whiting with her brother Hamish, who was completing a degree in Gemmology at the time. Their combined knowledge has allowed them and their older sister Anna to carve out a unique place in the local jewellery design industry.
We couldn’t find any jewellery that we really liked, that wasn’t really commercial looking, especially with engagement rings. So we thought it would be good to do something a bit different and see what reaction we got. We’ve all got very different skills, but together it works quite well.
Cushla grew up around gems and precious stones, as her dad worked as a gemologist. Although he wasn’t directly designing jewellery, he shared his passion and obsession with the science behind stones and geology with his children.
Cushla Whiting produces fine jewellery pieces as well as custom engagement and wedding rings. Her creative process is adaptable depending on the needs of the particular customer.
A lot of it is interpreting what style the customer actually likes, which is sometimes hard for them to visualise. Then we combine it with my style to end up with something that’s a reflection of both me and them as well. Often it is based around a particular gemstone and then we work on the design from there.
Cushla’s work often features bold and graphic designs, with her architectural background showing through her use of geometry. She also takes inspiration from films and vintage jewellery. Her ability to combine the above while adding an element of femininity and subtlety makes her work stand out in an industry dominated by commercial and mass produced design.
MM: Where do you get your gems from?
CW: We get them from all over the world – Hamish has amazing sources. All our diamonds come from major diamond companies to ensure that they’ve been ethically sourced. The really blue sapphires come from Sri Lanka and all of our emeralds come from Colombia - our other coloured stones come from all over the place.
MM: What do you do to relax?
CW: It can be really difficult to switch off, especially with engagement rings because you’re making something so personal to someone and you don’t want to get it wrong.
I relax by doing anything in nature. I try to walk home from work through the park, and that really calms me down. I also love the beach, I come from New Zealand so anything in nature brings be back.
MM: Where do you get your coffee from?
CW:Brother Baba Budan is my everyday pit stop on the way to work, it’s a ritual.
MM: Can you recommend a good meal?
CW: My favourite place is Tipo 00, it’s so good. I just love that they’re so homely and traditional.
MM: What are your plans for the future?
CW: We’re excited about our new showroom that we’re moving into that is going to be cool. It’s going to be more like a gallery space. I’m also launching a capsule collection, which is like a fine jewellery line but that’s more accessible because it’s made in sterling silver.