Nestled in the heart of Birminghams thriving Jewellery Quarter lies a gem of a place. The Quarterworkshop is situated in the quirky old Coffin works museum and is run by Victoria Delany. The museum is exactly what it suggests , an old coffin makers factory with lots of character.
Upon arrival, I was greeted by Victoria at the gates to the entrance, which leads into a magical courtyard. It’s like stepping back in time. Victoria then led me up a stone stair case into her fabulous jewellery making studio.
Victoria instantly put me at ease and offered me a much needed cuppa, then chatted to me about the history of the place and her own journey to get here.
The studio has a feel of old and new, with traditional wooden work benches and equipment, but also that feeling of a modern and airy space, with nice little welcoming touches, such as ambient music in the background and flowers and pictures dotted around. This quirky mix compliments the environment well.
Victoria instantly put me at ease and offered me a much needed cuppa, then chatted to me about the history of the place and her own journey to get here. Victoria has a love of creative arts and crafts which led her to study the age old skill of blacksmithing. She has combined her skills and put a modern twist into teaching others the joy of making one off, stunning pieces of jewellery to treasure forever.
The studio caters for upto eight people to make a piece of jewellery, be it a ring or a bracelet of their own design. Also for couples wanting to design and create bespoke wedding rings for their special day. Victoria goes all out to help them to create something truly amazing and provides a memorable day for all.
Victoria briefly explained the process of making the rings, then it was time for the magic to begin!
I could make two different rings, one to be a flat edge design and the other a rounded edge. We then got to work, firstly by cutting the two pieces of silver which would be transformed into my own designs.
Using tiny pieces of silver solder and heating until it melts into the gap. It is so much fun and satisfying to see. We now have what resembles a ring, all be it a bit rough round the edges.
The pieces of silver are heated with a burner to soften until they glow a shade of red then dipped into a solution to clean any residue from the silver. Then allowed to cool before shaping with a hammer. Victoria demonstrates on her piece first. Then its my turn to have a go, I’m excited! It goes well and with the constant guidance from Victoria, I start to see a ring shape emerging. Once we have our two pieces done its then time to cut away the ends of our loops. Victoria demonstrates and of course makes it look easy. Now my turn to have a go and its not as easy as it looks, but again with Victoria guiding me I manage it.
The next step is to solder the gap in the ring, which is fiddly. Using tiny pieces of silver solder and heating until it melts into the gap. It is so much fun and satisfying to see. We now have what resembles a ring, all be it a bit rough round the edges. The next step is to hammer it out again to get a perfect circle as the silver stays soft and is still malleable.
Now its time to file up the edges to a smooth seamless finish. We start with doing it by hand, gently turning the ring and feeling and looking as we go. Then we use a machine which resembles something not out of place in a dentists surgery. Its operated by a foot peddle and is so fun. This finishes the job off perfectly.
The next stage is to customise our rings to our desired finish. This involves hammering the surface of the rings with different sizes and shapes of hammers to get the effect we want on our finished product.
I would highly recommend this experience to anyone who wants to indulge in their creative side.
Victoria demonstrates on a thin sheet of metal to show the many different possibilities. I have a go with different hammers on the sheet first to find the effect I like best. Then its time for the real thing on both my rings. Once happy with the texture of my finished rings, its time to polish them to a bright shine, or I can leave them matt if preferred. Each piece is truly unique as no two look the same.
Victoria demonstrates on the large polishing machine and then I have a go. I polish both rings to a nice shine and voila, there they are in their full glory and they look amazing.
The whole experience has been truly inspirational and enjoyable from start to finish. To be able to create totally original pieces of jewellery and be inspired by Victoria with her passion and flare, I would highly recommend this experience to anyone who wants to indulge in their creative side. The sense of achievement at the end of the session and looking at your finished piece, it is almost addictive and you would certainly want to do it again as the possibilities are endless.
Review for Grapevine Birmingham by Sarah Puffin