After the excitement of being appointed “Jeweller in Residence” at the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter the size of the task to design a range for this amazing place meant my feelings of excitement were also joined by nerves! However, I can confirm I have thoroughly enjoyed the process.
I made the decision to use this privileged opportunity, of exploring the museum, to design my range from scratch, rather than develop my competition entry. On my first few visits I immersed myself in the history by attending some of the fantastic tours which sparked lots of design ideas to explore. A highlight has been having a look through one of Smith & Pepper’s original sketchbooks filled with design drawings - absolutely exquisite!
With a tight deadline I quickly narrowed down my inspiration and focused on the iconic swallow. I really loved the intricate nature of the seed pearl brooches within one of the catalogues where the swallow features in numerous brooch designs, alongside floral and leaf motifs and intertwined branches.
The design challenge has been how I pay homage, taking inspiration but also overlaying my own style. I started by sketching the shapes I could see repeated and decided I would leave them smooth and plain without decoration. My plan was to press these out on the fly press using the original tools. My design sketches led me to explore a curved necklace, inspired by a branch and some branch/twig textured hoop earrings.
The fun part was in the factory, I needed to find the matching dyes and punches for the shapes in my designs and with over 7,000 in the museum this was easier said than done! After lots of searching (and some fantastic help) I was able to locate some of the ones I wanted to try and Keith Adcock from The School of Jewellery was kind enough to show me how to set up and change over the tools under the watchful eye of a team from the museum. - Using equipment of this age did present some challenges but we were able to press out some of the shapes I wanted to use.
The age of the tools, and wear on them, meant they were not as sharp as required to cut out crisp, clean shapes but I was able to get some, that with some additional work afterwards, I have been able to use in my range which includes:
• A necklace featuring a simple curved branch with silhouette of a flying swallow and scattered leaf motifs.
• Asymmetric hoop earrings, one with the flying swallow silhouette and the other featuring the leaf motifs, on textured hoops inspired by the branches in the original brooches.
• Simple flying swallow silhouette studs - a simple, unstated stud.
I hope you’ll agree my pieces allude to the intricate shapes within the original brooches but I have also created something simple and modern that can be worn everyday. Over the next year I am looking forward spending time at the museum making my pieces on site and engaging with people on the designs.
Take a look at the Birmingham Museums online shop to see jewellery by myself and other jewellers.