Billie Hilliard: Living Her Purpose, One Heirloom at a Time
By Jatika H. Patterson
Oftentimes when we hear that someone is a jewelry maker, we imagine plastic wires, colorful and exquisite beads and other trinkets that make up the intricate hobbies and careers of artists all over the world. But not always does being a jeweler fall into this description. Sometimes, it can bring out the inner blacksmith in you and have you creating some of the most exquisite and immaculate heirloom jewelry pieces on the market today. In steps Billie Hilliard.
As a one-time triage nurse for an OB/GYN she always knew that nursing was not her end all, be all. Like many of us, nursing was a means to an end. It was a guaranteed pay check, health insurance and just plain job security. However, she couldn’t deny that there was always a creative, artistic being that dwelled in her that was pining to get out. “While I loved nursing, it was stressing me out,” she recalls. “I knew I wasn’t supposed to be there. I remember the day I turned in my [resignation] and the physician said ‘bravo. what took you so long?'”
If you’ve ever taken a step out on faith, you know how intimidating and life altering that can be. After she left the world of medicine, a series of events and newfound acquaintances came into her life that led her to believe she was finally on the right path. One of her first friends was British blacksmith, Mark J. Hopper.
The first day she met Mark, he taught her the lost wax method of casting for jewelry making. This method was one she wanted to learn previously but needed proper training. “I wanted to do [metalwork] but I but I didn’t have the resources or training to make that come to pass. So, when I came here and met with him, he just took me under his wing, which was amazing.” The method allowed her to bring to life all the designs and sketches that lived in her creative mind. After learning the method, her confidence grew and she went on to live her dream.
When you walk into Billie’s studio, it brings to mind old photos of a blacksmith’s studio of concrete, cold and a world of creativity. Her small frame can be deceiving. She is physically stronger than she might look to the average eye and her wisdom truly adds more height to her frame. Even though she has not always carried the confidence that she owns today.
Her first collection of jewelry was called “Jimmy”, after her grandmother. Her tradition of naming her collections after family members is her way of paying homage to her influencers. It’s also the source of one of her proudest moments. Not only because of its beauty, but because it was evidence that she did it. She made it despite any fears or uncertainties she faced. With more confidence than ever, Billie will release her Summer 2015 campaign plus and will soon release her first men’s collection. Also, she’s planning to share what she’s learned in her first ever casting and jewelry making series based on a curriculum she created. It’s time to share the joy of being your own creative self.
Even though her family has been most supportive, she notes specifically that there are sacrifices to going your own way and living your dream. “It has costed but it’s still so rewarding to still just push through. I went through a stage where I had to stop thinking about what people thought about what I was doing because, at the end of the day, my life is mine,” Billie states.
If starting an heirloom jewelry line was enough, this woman of many talents was recently named manager at the famous Doppler Studios in Atlanta, GA. Yes, that Doppler - where Beyonce, Kanye and other musical powerhouses have recorded and made history. “You have to fight for yourself. I feel good about it. I don’t have any regrets. It’s been an amazing ride. I always compare it to being the closest to God. He’s the ultimate creator and I know I’m only getting this creativity from Him. So, that is beautiful.”