It takes time to build a vision, to design it into reality. When Michele White set out to create a fine furniture and jewellery gallery space in Birmingham, she was aware that her concept was unique.
'There was no other gallery in Birmingham like the one I had in mind. 'In fact, I still don't think there is anything like Artisan Alchemy in the whole of the UK!'Michele united 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. Artisan Alchemy is based in Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter, a thriving creative hub with a long tradition of jewellery-making which these days is home to numerous designers and makers across a range of industries. Michele believes housing fine furniture and jewellery under one roof makes perfect sense.
Design innovation at work...
"I was fortunate in that I was able to open my own gallery here in the Jewellery Quarter, where I can display my own work alongside some of the best designers in fine furniture making and jewellery in the UK. As a designer-maker myself, I understand what goes into each piece we show at the gallery. I choose all the precious metals and gemstones for my pieces, and work in my workshop beneath the gallery on my designs. I essentially make the things I want to make – I’m looking at being an artist who makes jewellery, rather than just a jeweller. Similarly, the designers who make the furniture on show at Artisan Alchemy are working out of small workshops, perhaps employing two or three people. They will work to commissions, and design pieces to exhibit."
A designer's eye...Her artistic background - Michele trained as a potter, and then studied at Birmingham School of Jewellery - means she has an eye for good craftsmanship. She also understands the life of the artisan maker, and how bespoke production works.
"I have about 25 designers here, and they all do private and commercial commissions. The opportunity they have with our Gallery is to exhibit pieces they have made for exhibitions, which they then go on to produce as small-batch pieces. "These are very special pieces, showing the finest aspects of their craft. We are very lucky to have such beautiful works on display in our showroom."Michele believes that when you buy fine furniture and jewellery, you are paying for the time and expertise of the maker. Bespoke commissions can, of course, be tailored to individual tastes, meaning a visit to Artisan Alchemy can result in a treasured piece of jewellery or furniture to hand down the generations. Michele adds:
"Heirloom pieces are an important aspect of the fine furniture and jewellery trades. There is longevity and inherent value in having a beautiful piece to pass on, something that is more tangible, perhaps, than organising an event to mark an important milestone in your life."