Gotta have it: British handcrafted furniture & jewellery
Fourteen handcrafted furniture and jewellery pieces by British designers we love at Birmingham’s Artisan Alchemy - a contemporary gallery in the city's creative Jewellery Quarter.
Michele White set out to create a fine furniture and jewellery gallery space uniting her love of good British design with 30 years’ experience as a jeweller, bringing together artisans at the top of their profession in a showcase of British and Irish talent. And gotta tell you, she’s gone and done it.
Based in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, Michele exhibits everything from British made bookcases to bowls, bracelets to brooches, chairs and cabinets, tables, lamps and all manner of interior accessories.
And the fab news is, you can now browse and order everything on display in the gallery from the newly launched online shop here. Michele and her staff were excited to reopen their doors to visitors in April 2021, but during the last year of intermittent national Covid lockdowns they’ve been incredibly busy revamping their online presence to connect with both existing and new audiences – in Birmingham and beyond.
Here are 14 pieces we love, along with the lowdown about the designers and their work:
Michele White: Chalcedony Necklace – No. 45
Michele has worked in Birmingham’s historic Jewellery Quarter for 35 years. She designs innovative collections which often incorporate unusual gemstones and minerals which are set in precious metals. Trees are an important source of inspiration for Michele and often the central element of her designs.
Five years ago, she opened Artisan Alchemy where she now works in the basement beneath the gallery. Her silver handmade necklace with 18ct gold detail has layered wires and granules over oxidised detail. It’s set with drusy white speckled chalcedony and hangs on frosted rock crystal beads. Rather niftily, it can also be worn as a brooch.
Michele White: Silver Ring – No. 36
A silver contour ring set with a green agate cabochon. Green agate is known as the stone of harmony, balancing emotional and physical energy – and who doesn’t want some of that?
Mizuki Takahashi: Enamel Dot Marked Hoop Earrings – No. 25
Playing and practising with paper has always fascinated Mizuki, who’s influenced by her home country, Japan. This process helps to nurture her ideas before she begins making jewellery. She often uses the enamelling process to create striking monochrome designs – the black lines cast like shadows contrast with the scratched enamel marks.
Dot marked round studs with circular wire drops.
Steven Medhurst: Citrine Ring – No. 30
Steven’s an artist jeweller who turns to the natural world for inspiration. He’s immersed in beauty all year round, in the rural setting of his Somerset home and workshop where he makes all his pieces by hand. He says his best work comes from nature – from the hedgerows and the beech trees with their great roots, up on the Quantock Hills. It’s the stuff of fairy tales, like an Arthur Rackham illustration. This large silver ring has 18ct gold detail, with floral and leaves design surrounding a yellow citrine.
Dovile Kondrasovaite: Flow Stud Earrings – No. 27
Dovile’s collections focus on natural ageing processes. The lines created during ageing are central to her designs, evoking a sense of time passing. Dovile enjoys using materials which are very old and continue to visibly age while worn as jewellery, such as bog oak and natural raw Baltic amber. Her jewellery is sustainable and after wearing could be dropped into the bog or the sea again to continue the processes. Contemporary asymmetric hand-carved ebony earrings with oxidised silver pin and butterfly.
Irena Varey: Sapphire Flower Necklace
Irena Varey learned how to make jewellery during an apprenticeship in Caracas, Venezuela. Her work reflects not only Latin American skills but also her Polish origins and her time in the UK. She aims for her timeless jewellery to boost confidence and uses textured surfaces and a three dimensional effect. Her 18ct gold flower design pendant has a blue sapphire and hangs from an 18 inch chain.
Laurent Peacock: Piper X Credenza
Explaining what’s important in his furniture making process, Laurent says, “the hands have to be involved, not just the head and heart”. Artisan Alchemy display three pieces from his Piper Collection featuring an award-winning surface material handcrafted from whole peppercorns and bio-resin, suspended within simple, hardwood joinery with artisanal detailing. How amazing does that sound? The credenza combines open end sections for showing off oversized art books and a central drawer with two more discrete drawers tucked away inside.
Thomas Perceval: Hawthorne, The Whimble, New Radnor
The landscape and woodlands which surround Thomas greatly inspire him. Based on the border of Mid Wales and Herefordshire, Thomas loves to explore the countryside extensively before embarking on his creative process. After photographing a chosen tree, he returns to the studio to draw it, which can take hundreds of hours. The final piece is made using a laser which etches the drawing onto wood.
Drawing etched into Birch. Mounted onto a Lime wood frame. Original of 50.
Dan Morrison, the founder of Blottworks, is interested in the relationship between human engineering and the engineering of nature. His lamps bring together delicate natural elements and heavy industrial design. Both pieces on display at Artisan Alchemy feature ‘rack & pinion’ gear assembly, which is engaged by turning a brass handle to adjust the reach of the lamp. The position of the shades can be adjusted by turning the beech sphere ‘eyeballs’.
Jonathon Vaiksaar: Yew Desk Box
Boxes have always been popular at Artisan Alchemy, showing off the maker’s skills through their sophisticated joints or complex inlay designs. Jonathon Vaiksaar’s Yew Desk Box is a fine example highlighting the imperfections and irregularities of the wood grain.
Erich Fichtner: Double Fluted Jewellery Box
Erich Fichtner’s Jewellery box is a highly tactile and intriguing piece, the deep shadowy grooves of the double fluting contrasting to the white surface. This large jewellery box or chest has two sliding trays providing three compartments, each lined with luxurious purple suede.
Sara Christensen: Concrete Canvas Deckchair
Artisan Alchemy exhibits some of the best chairs in British furniture making. Whether you’re looking for stylish AND comfortable dining chairs (yes, they do exist), or a quirky statement lounge piece, there are plenty of options to check out. Sara Christensen’s Concrete Canvas Deckchair is an unexpected twist on a design classic, with the shape of the canvas held by soaking it in concrete – definitely one to get people talking.
Erich Fichtner: Ladies Stool
This stool is exquisitely crafted from ash and Irish elm – a feminine wood composition with elegant curves and great attention to detail.
Joachim King: Stripe Chair
Inspired by the maker’s family boat building past. The Stripe Chair design makes use of CAD and CNC machine technology to create a 3D form using contoured strips. The seat and backrest surfaces are ergonomically shaped for comfort.
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WORDS: Catherine Vonledebur