Lilja Hastie, winner of the 2015 says, “The Greatest Gift in My Professional Career”

Lilja Hastie

When I won the highest accolade in De Beers Group’s Shining Light Awards for 2015, I was in my second year studying jewellery design and manufacture at Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria, and my life as I once knew it was irrevocably changed.

My prize was a year’s scholarship to study my Masters at the prestigious Domus Academy in Milan, which will begin next year. The gravity of receiving a prize of that stature has taken over a year to sink in and has become the greatest gift I could ever have received in my professional career.

The exposure this competition has given me has been incredible – from being featured in Shine Magazine, in newspapers and countless international news websites, to having my made collection, Forever Intertwined, exhibited at the South African Jewellex trade show two years in a row. And all sorts of other opportunities in the industry have opened up too.

All this while completing my course and being a student. It has given me a boost that has helped catapult my career in a way I would not have been able to achieve for myself at the time.

However, the most significant way this award has changed my life is in knowing what I have to look forward to and what I am working towards. That excites and drives me the most.

It has instilled a level of confidence in my work and has influenced my thought processes and design approach. Yet the sweet part of this is that the hard work has only just begun. I am eternally grateful for a stepping stone as big as this.

I am keen to begin my year in Milan for various reasons, mostly because it is the fashion and design hub of the world, and what better place to be in while completing what will be one of the most career-defining academic years of my life?

It’s the ideal place to be inspired and influenced, in a high fashion and innovative design culture that will cultivate my career in catwalk jewellery.

From a personal perspective, I am most looking forward to being surrounded by other international students. I love connecting with people and a lot of my inspiration comes from interesting conversations and new experiences. So spending a year in a city full of culture, attitude, fashion and gelato is bound to add a new dimension to how I see the world, and it will have a tenfold impact on my personal growth.

My family were thrilled at the award. My mother, Desa, is extremely proud of what I have achieved. She says it took me a few years to find what my passion was, so it is a relief to see me flourishing in something. She and I know that this is an opportunity to study and work at a world class institution that we would never otherwise have been able to afford.

My primary love for jewellery design is that I feel I have found the perfect medium that allows me to express my creativity accurately. I like playing with concepts, whether the inspiration comes from a song lyric I resonate with or a particular building I admire, and then stripping away elements to adapt into shapes and forms.

The story and motivation behind a design are always the most crucial starting point for me and are my design handwriting. The other aspect of why l love jewellery as a medium is that a number a technical skill sets are required that go into a piece, from concept to a manufactured, polished, finished product.

By the end of a multi-faceted production process, I feel a great sense of belonging and that I have created an extension of myself.

This year, I complete my Bachelor of Technology degree in Pretoria before I am scheduled to leave for Milan. I have a keen interest in contemporary jewellery and am dedicating my degree thesis to contemporary neckpieces designed for the catwalk, and I aim to be active on my social media forums during the course in the hope of interacting with other like-minded creatives.

Lilja Hastie

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