From now until the 22nd July, Tina Francis will be exploring the various businesses who will open their doors in this year’s Jewellery Quarter Open Studios Trail. You can also follow the official @JQOpenStudios Twitter and join in the conversation with #JQOpenStudios. For further information about the Jewellery Quarter Festival 2016 please visit the webpage by clicking here.
31st May 2016 – A Maker’s History
This blog will be looking at Heritage venues, so it seems only right that we look at some history returning to the centre of the city. It’s great to see the return of trams to our city centre. We have two tram stops here in the Jewellery Quarter, St Paul’s stop which links you to the St Paul’s Square end of the Jewellery Quarter, and Jewellery Quarter stop which brings you up right in the middle of one our main streets, Vyse Street. What better way to begin your visit to our first venue Wonderful World of Trains & Planes on Mary Street.
A visit to Wonderful World of Trains and Planes gives you the opportunity to visit 6 countries, land planes on 5 simulators and see 10 large layouts – all without moving from this venue! It is a model maker’s paradise with experts on hand to give you advice on building your own set-ups at home. Whilst modellers use “blue block” to create their scenes the skill of modelling is very much part of the Jewellery Quarter’s history and also processes used today. Jewellers, for example, carve and sculpt designs into wax and then get a mould made from the cast. You can learn more about this process, and the skills of jewellery making, at The Museum of the Jewellery Quarter on Vyse Street.
The Museum of the Jewellery Quarter is housed in a building that used to belong to Smith and Pepper Jewellery Manufacturers – In fact it is the old factory as it was left in 1981! As with much of the Jewellery Quarter today, Smith and Pepper was a family business run by nephew and uncle which remained so until it closed in 1981. The door was locked, the buildings purchased and they remained locked for a fair few years afterwards. A bit like the Egyptian style jewellery that they were famous for, the factory and contents were “rediscovered” some years later and the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter was born. A visit to this museum is definitely one to write home about, talking of writing (seamless!!) did you know that Birmingham taught the world to write? A trip to the Pen Museum on Frederick Street will give you all the details.
We still make pens here in the Jewellery Quarter and the Pen Museum is a celebration of all things involving the written word. Again, as another museum built on the passion of its founders, The Pen Museum provides a history of the pen trade and the lives of those that ran and worked in it. Make your own nib, type in braille; write with a feather and learn about all the different types of nibs. Be sure to spot my favourite nib, the music nib. To make a nib you will have used a stamping process, and this process was also used by Newman Brothers manufacturers of coffin furniture in Fleet Street. This factory is now known as Newman Brother’s Coffin Works.
The Coffin Works is a relative newcomer to the museum and heritage scene but that has not stopped it winning numerous awards for customer service, conservation and heritage. A family business, Newman Brother’s specialised in making coffin furniture from 1894 until 1998 on the Fleet Street site. As well as coming to see and learn about the trade, getting demonstrations in the stamp room and learning about the people who worked at Newman Brother’s you can visit a silversmith and a tapestry artist here too! At Quarter Workshop, Victoria creates fantastic silverware and also runs workshops enabling you make your own rings for special occasions, the workshop is full of tools both new and inherited from family it is a real feast for the eyes. Last year, Tina Francis opened her tapestry studio for Jewellery Quarter Open Studios, this year is a little different in that she will be stitching at her exhibition in the Coffin Works. Drop in and see the exhibition and talk the skill of stitch with Tina.
The courtyard at the Coffin Works is a great example of the manufacturing architecture here in the Jewellery Quarter — our next blog on Friday will look at how to fit 14 jewellers into one courtyard when we look Centrepiece’s offering for this year’s Open Studios.
To view previous blog entries please visit the official Open Studios Trail 2016 page by clicking here.