Greenville metal artists Danielle Miller and Ben Gilliam are married to their work . . . and to each other. The two share one household (with their two boys and beloved cats), but their artistic creations are largely individual pursuits. Danielle crafts fine jewelry—necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and rings—with precious metals and stones, while Ben turns forged silver, cast bronze, alabaster, and other materials into sculptures and works of art for the home.
“Art runs in my family,” says Ben. His grandmother was a ceramicist and an art teacher, while his father was a sculptor. Ben remembers his rst foray into art, pouring and casting little metal soldiers. “While probably not the safest activity for a child, I loved casting metal,” he says.
In college, Ben studied bronze casting and wound up at the graduate program at Tyler School of Art at Temple University, where he and Danielle met. A Pennsylvania native, Danielle discovered her love of working with metal during high school. She transferred from Moore College to Tyler School of Art after becoming entranced with jewelry making. “I began to see jewelry more as small sculptural work,” she says.
Forging Ahead // Ben Gilliam and Danielle Miller have a marriage of steel. The two met in graduate school and now create beautiful work together, with Ben teaching at the S.C. Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities and Danielle offering couples the opportunity to help craft their own wedding bands. To find out more, check out their websites at daniellemillerjewelry.com and benjamingilliam.com.
Ben and Danielle have worked together on a project or two: Ben often casts Danielle’s rings, while Danielle finds design inspiration in Ben’s work. A tendril shape employed in his sculptures informed the inclusion of a similar shape in several of her rings. Likewise, the spheres that dot one collection in Danielle’s jewelry line reappeared, slightly different, in Ben’s sculptural work. And when the Society of North American Goldsmiths put out a call for collaborators to craft tableware, the pair designed and produced a knife that reflects both of their styles.
For the past 17 years, Ben has taught at the S.C. Governor’s School for the Arts, where he says, “The students are so passionate and have a mature idea of what they want to do within their disciplines.” Prior to the Recession, Danielle primarily wholesaled her work to museums and retail outlets. After the Recession, she diversified her business, changing her focus to online sales (via her website and Etsy), commissioned work, and jewelry-design workshops, including teaching a novel course wherein she works with engaged couples to craft their own wedding bands.
“I’d seen an artist in New York doing this, but no one in this area was doing anything like it,” Danielle says. In her wedding band workshops, couples meet with Danielle one-on-one to craft the rings that symbolize their lifelong bond—from casting their metal of choice to finishing each detail. “The workshops create a special experience for the couple to always remember,” she says.
Ben and Danielle use their annual anniversary as an opportunity for professional development. In recent years, they took a two-week silver-smithing workshop with Brian Clarke in Ireland and completed an advanced stone-setting class from the New Approach School for Jewelry Making. The pair plans to take a computer-aided drafting course next.
“But, wait! That will be our 20th anniversary,” says Danielle. “On second thought, maybe we can put that class off for next year.”