One budding Midlands jewellery designer has been given a unique opportunity with the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter to be its first Jeweller in Residence, a project which aims to support emerging jewellery designers.
Winner Fiona Harris, who previously studied at Birmingham City University School of Jewellery, is the first designer to be crowned with the title. As part of the prize Fiona, now based in Nottingham, has the unique opportunity to work from the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter’s perfectly preserved jewellery workshop for the next year and have her bespoke handcrafted jewellery sold in the museum’s acclaimed shop.
The initiative by Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, in partnership with Birmingham City University’s School of Jewellery, aims to offer opportunities to up-and-coming jewellery designers and asked entrants to design a two-piece jewellery range inspired by the historic Smith & Pepper jewellery manufacturing firm at the museum.
Fiona shone through to win the competition with her creative ideas for a pendant necklace and earrings inspired by one of Smith & Pepper's most iconic designs and the snake-like features in the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter logo. She is now spending some time at the museum immersing herself in the history and looking through the archives to develop her designs further.
The designer has a strong belief that jewellery shouldn’t be saved for a special occasion but loved, cherished and worn every day. The winning designs will go into production and be available to buy online at shop.birminghammuseums.org.uk and in the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter shop from just before Christmas.
The prize also includes £1000 to support Fiona’s work and she will be based at the jeweller’s bench at the museum on a regular basis from October to showcase her work.
The Museum of the Jewellery Quarter is built around the Smith & Pepper jewellery manufacturing factory. In 1981, when the proprietors of the firm retired, they simply ceased trading and locked the door. Today, this factory is a museum, which tells the unique story of the Jewellery Quarter and Birmingham’s renowned jewellery and metalworking heritage.
Alex Nicholson-Evans Commercial Director from Birmingham Museums Trust said: “It has been fantastic to partner with the School of Jewellery on this project. At the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter we celebrate the heritage of the area, but it is also important to support the next generation of jewellery designers too.
“Fiona’s designs stood out as she had carefully considered the history of the Jewellery Quarter to inspire her modern take on the brief. The designs are very wearable and we are looking forward to welcoming Fiona to the museum and to begin selling the stunning pieces.”
Dauvit Alexander, senior lecturer in Jewellery and Silversmithing at Birmingham City University’s School of Jewellery, said: “This is a very exciting opportunity for a graduate from the School of Jewellery to work in an important historic environment and create something unique from that experience.
“We are delighted that the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter invited the School to be part of this project and look forward to supporting Fiona in developing her collection. While this is the first time that the project has run, we are encouraged to hope that it will run again in the future.”
Fiona Harris, Jeweller in Residence at Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, said: “I am absolutely thrilled and honoured to be chosen to be the first Jeweller in Residence at the museum and I am excited to get started and finalise my designs. The Museum of the Jewellery Quarter is a fantastic place and I still cannot believe I am going to have the opportunity to work at this amazing site surrounded by so much history.”