Minilith

architectural jewellery in recycled silver. made in London.

Juan in the workshop

My name is Juan Castro-Varón. I'm an award-winning designer and engineer. I love tinkering and making.

In 2023 I quit my job as an engineer at Google to spend more time making.

I design, make and ship every minilith myself, from my shared workshop in Somerset House, central London's historic arts center.

Goldsmiths Award logo
GOLDSMITH'S CRAFT AND DESIGN AWARDS
Gold Award Winner 2024
Somerset House
I make every minilith in my workshop in Somerset House, in the centre of London (Photo by Stu Smith)

Somerset House has been a cornerstone for London's creative community since 1776. It has been home to institutions such as the Royal Academy, the Royal College of Art, and London Fashion Week. Today it serves as central London's hub for innovation and creativity, home to hundreds of creative businesses.

Minilith is part of Makerversity, a community of designers, craftspeople and inventors. I started Minilith during my Under-25 Residency at Makerversity. The Under-25 programme provides workspace and guidance to young creatives who are looking to start a business.

Juan in the workshop
Cutting off sprues from the lost-wax casting process.
Juan wins award
Receiving a gold award at the Goldsmiths' Craft & Design Awards

My process involves both digital and traditional handmade processes, through a combination of lost-wax casting and 3D printing.

All my pieces are cast using the lost-wax casting method, in which molten silver is poured into a mold that has been created from a wax model. Lost-wax casting dates from the 3rd millennium BC.

I use 100% recycled sterling silver, which minimises the environmental footprint of silver and allows better transparency of the supply chain.

Juan in the workshop
Notebook pages, photos and early prototypes of the croydon ring
Juan wins award
Notebook pages and one of my earliest cast pieces, inspired by Preston bus station

Much of my inspiration comes from the built environment. I'm fascinated by the post-war architecture of Britain, from the large concrete structures that proliferated in the 60s & 70s, to the more playful high-tech 80s & 90s, to the iconic London structures of the 21st century.

My design process is all about playing with the tools as I learn: I like pushing the boundaries of 3d software using my years of experience as a software engineer. I'm drawn to generative designs and parametric design tools used in architecture.

I regularly post details of my process on social media: minilith is on instagram, youtube and tiktok.