Jewellery making involves many stages, and from initial concept to finished piece it takes skill honed over many years to perfect each design. Michele White says she sees herself as an artist as much as a jeweller.
It is no surprise to find she is Vice President of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists, an organisation which has a rich heritage in terms of both jewellery and the wider artistic life of the city. The Society membership has included key jewellers and enamellers such as Kate Eadie and Georgie Gaskin, and to this day features leading artists, designers, sculptors, ceramicists and printmakers all working across a range of media.
Birmingham was the centre of Britain’s jewellery trade, and the birthplace of the Arts and Crafts movement, which placed an emphasis on craftsmanship and forms taken from the natural world. Both Eadie and Gaskin studied at the Birmingham Municipal School of Art and were artists long before they were jewellers.
A modern jeweller
Michele is carrying on this tradition, and also looks to the natural world for inspiration. Of her own process, she says:
‘I always start off with a drawing. That’s always first. A single piece can take weeks, and there is no thinking of end purpose, I just work from my initial idea and let concepts develop. In that way, I am much more of an artist.’
Michele’s designs often feature trees as she has a great love of nature and botany. Larger pieces are made in layers, sometimes with a landscape at the front.
‘All the wires for my tree designs are cut out separately and are assembled on a sheet of silver. I create a tableau through layers and assemble the tree design, cutting out each of the branches separately and sprinkling the foliage over, which is then fused and soldered.
‘The gaps in the branches are achieved by cutting out with a saw. There’s another sheet of silver at the back, and the agate is set when all the components are done. It is set into a back plate and coloured with oxidation.’
Michele’s range of rings and brooches are also extremely popular, as these are pieces that can be worn every day.
‘The rings sell very well, and I make pieces that can be worn as brooches or pendants. I like to chat with people and find out what has brought them to the Gallery, and what they may be looking for.
‘It’s interesting to note that the women often buy for themselves. They tend to come on their own, and know what they like. Of course, I’m equally happy helping men choose for a special birthday or anniversary.’
Take a moment to check out Michele’s designs, and browse her jewellery range.