I have Katherine Ryan to thank for this post. I've never been a huge fan of hers. She is witty for sure, but I always find her quite cold and seemingly hard hearted. I appreciate that it may well just be part of a carefully crafted persona and in reality she's a sentimental old fool and a lover not a hater, but sometimes it's hard to see where her tough girl schtick ends and Katherine begins.
That said, I recently really enjoyed her series The Duchess and so I thought I would give her latest TV venture a go. Although I'm tired of formulaic TV craft talent competitions, I am a bit of a magpie, so thought I might enjoy All That Glitters (a jewellery maker's version of GBBO, Great British Sewing Bee, The Great Pottery Throw Down, Pooch Perfect et al). At this rate, soon there won't be a profession untouched by the TV talent contest format (Epic Embalmers? Prominent Panel Beaters?)
Anyway, I watched the show. It was based in the world renowned Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham (12 miles down the road from me). I was in awe of the contestants' creativity, but have to say, I am weary of the formula now. I find it all a bit tired and lame and just a little demeaning to the subject skillset. It's stretched to fill an hour's TV slot. As lovely as many of the contestants were, I just want to see the finished results and not hear Katherine suggest that she has subjected one of the male contestants to a paternity test regarding her offspring. Still, it inspired me to go through the archives and revisit the images I captured on a photo walk around Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter a couple of years ago - re-editing them in black and white. I've also been practising my product photography on some of my own pieces of jewellery.
When I last visited, the Jewellery Quarter was a hive of activity; construction sites seemingly on every corner as the area gradually undergoes a transformation into urban village and hub for creative businesses. I love the architecture and the mix of old and new as per the image above. Historic grandeur rubs shoulders with gritty urban graffiti.
The 1.07 square kilometre area has a rich history in jewellery making and supplies employing over 30,000 people at its peak in the early 1900s. Pickering & Mayell Ltd (above) was incorporated in 1913 and specialises in hand made window displays and cases for the silver trade.
The company's origins are in beautiful Cornwall and Bloody Mary Metal is a sustainable jewellery brand. So far, so great. The brand's style is described as combining "edgy themes reminiscent of eighties punks and the softer side of the Bohemian seventies." Again, this ticks one of my boxes - a penchant for seventies vintage (I'm not quite there with the eighties vintage yet - I remember living through that decade and still can't shake off the shoulder pad flashbacks).
Their collections are also divided into Dark Side and Light Side. I can relate to this in photography terms. Whilst I'm drawn to the dark side in terms of the editing process, many of my photographs being under exposed and moody in atmosphere, my Instagram feed occasionally throws up brighter, more ethereal edits. It's all very mood dependant. I don't like to conform to one specific style. My ring is from the Light Side, but I have my eye on the Dark Side (specifically the Triple bone ring, the Ruby Red Polaris and the Ziggy ring).
If this sounds like your kind of jewellery, you can view the collections here.
Talking of Ziggy, as a Bowie fan, I purchased his last and darkest album Black Star back in 2016 and around the same time, created this pendant, subconsciously inspired by his passing I think. Somewhere buried at the back of our workshop, is a jewellery kiln. I must dig it out.
I've also picked up bargains in charity shops and antique centres over the years. This unusual (mid century?) pendant is has a St Christopher on the reverse side. It cost me less than a fiver.
This chunky ring was purchased in an antique shop in atmospheric Whitby. The upright positioning of the diamonds (I can dream!) remind me of grave stones...or ribs....all very gothic and Whitby.
It has these markings inside...
...which I keep meaning to investigate.
Back to Brum, how impressive is this welded metalwork building entrance? On a smaller scale, this could be an abstract bangle.