Leather, Jewelry Making, Friendship, and Family

Die Cut and Leather Love, with Jill MacKay

Jill MacKay and I met on a favorable day in Tucson about 10 years ago. I was walking by her booth, admired the metal components and fabulous leather cuffs she was displaying, and was easily drawn in to Jill’s world, and was hooked on her design style.

Jill MacKay Leather Bracelets and Jewelry Making with Sizzix leather cutting dies

Jill and I enjoyed a conversation that day then our paths didn’t cross again until our next fateful encounter during a Craft & Hobby Association event. From then on, we’ve been friends and have shared a close connection.

Jill MacKay Leather Bracelets and Jewelry Making with Sizzix leather cutting dies

Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of working with Jill, designing samples for her new line of leather cutting dies manufactured by Ellison® Sizzix®. I’m in love with all she is doing and am so glad her new videos Working with Die Cut Leather and Embellishing Leather Jewelry Components are now available with a limited kit of precut leather components, so you, too, can fall in love with this amazing and innovative new line of tools and products.

Here’s a sample of a few recent designs by Jill using her new line.

Jill MacKay Leather Bracelets and Jewelry Making with Sizzix leather cutting dies

And a few of the dies in her line used to cut leather on the Sizzix Big Shot® machine.

Jill MacKay Leather Bracelets and Jewelry Making with Sizzix leather cutting dies

While together in Tucson this year, Jill and I sat together for an interview to share with the you so you could get to know the amazing journey she has been on and what brought her to this point in her career. Here’s the inside scoop:

BD: Jill – thank you so much for sharing a bit about yourself and your history in our amazing industry. Please tell us how you started out and anything about what got you to that point others might find inspiring.

JM: I had an amazing high school teacher named Miriam Brigham who, at the time, was one of the only people in the country teaching silversmithing in high school (she and I are still friends today). I did a lot of lost wax and loved the glow of turning silver from a solid to a liquid and back to a solid again with a new shape – I was hooked!  My instructor had a small well-equipped professional jewelry-making studio in a small building in the countryside and invited me to share the space.  This was pretty amazing good fortune. So I’ve basically been working in a professional shop/studio since the time I was 16 years old.  I was so lucky to have this women shape my life.

BD: Given so much of your background is in designing, and knowing you did a lot of that by drawing illustrations, can you share your process and tools you love to work with. Either in the past or what you love working with now?

JM: Pencil and paper are still my favorite mediums. I love the feeling of ideas flowing through me and out the pencil onto the page. I taught myself how to do perspective drawings, in which I show a piece of jewelry at every angle and give the measurements of each aspect of the piece. These drawings go to the factory where the piece is hand carved in wax and the original is cast; the first casts then come back to me for corrections. I’ve also used CAD (Computer Aided Design) drawings and had pieces 3-D printed in wax, but they’re too perfect — these pieces lose the slight imperfections of the human hand that I think makes them so beautiful.

Jill MacKay Leather Bracelets and Jewelry Making with Sizzix leather cutting dies

BD: You have clearly put a lot of love and attention into your new line with Sizzix – the die shapes are so on trend – the florals, the paisley, the cuffs! Can you share how you project trends/how you keep your designs evergreen (Jill whichever way you feel you approach designs and if not based on trends or if you don’t care if they are evergreen whatever it is you feel would be a good term to use)

JM: Trend forecasting for me is very much a study in anthropology. If you pay attention wherever you go, and are attuned to what’s around you, what’s coming at you, and what’s rising and falling, you find patterns emerging. Tracking trends is a crucial way to be informed about society and understand people, their behavior, needs and mindset, and how that could impact the future. Also, I really just go by my own personal taste. For me, trend prediction is more qualitative; I don’t use any services that give you quantitative, numerical information. It’s all about being a keen observer. I also think I have been doing it so long now it’s instinctual and intuitive.

Jill MacKay Leather Bracelets and Jewelry Making with Sizzix leather cutting dies

BD: You have a strong love for family and worked hard raising your children as a single-mom. Meanwhile, you also developed your amazing and long-standing career. Any advice for those in a similar situation or advice you can offer to all who are working hard to have a voice in this industry? 

JM: Learn how to do battle with fear. Fear is your enemy. First and foremost believe in yourself even if no one else does. I would have to say work smarter not harder. Do the things each day that are the most important things towards reaching your goals and reaching your dreams. Life is very complex. Make it simpler. Boil it down to the very essence. Know yourself very well, have integrity, perspective and priorities. Work hard and love fiercely.

Jill MacKay Leather Bracelets and Jewelry Making with Sizzix leather cutting dies

BD: Jill, there are so many accomplishments listed on your resume, what’s next on your list to work toward? Anything you can share with us that’s coming up next?

JM:  I have a couple of public art jobs here with the city of Fort Collins, Colorado this summer. I’ll be working hard launching the Sizzix line and there are some pretty great things happening that I am not at liberty to speak of yet.  Just had to say that, create some mystery and be a total tease!!

Love that, Jill! Thanks for keeping us on the hook. And thank you again for your time, all you shared with us, and all you put into your new line and videos.

Have you tried the new Sizzix leather cutting dies design by Jill MacKay? Please share your design with us in our member gallery.

Yours in creativity,


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