Makers in Focus: Steven Medhurst, artist jeweller

Steven Medhurst is an artist jeweller who turns to the natural world for inspiration. He is immersed in beauty all year round, in the rural setting of his home and workshop in Somerset.
‘My best work comes from nature; from the hedgerows and the beech trees with their great roots up on the Quantock Hills. It’s the stuff of fairy tale, like an Arthur Rackham illustration. A magical, natural spirit world.’
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Steven tries to capture the life forces at work and channels them into his sculptural pieces. All of them are made by hand. He has been an artist jeweller for over forty years, and first learned his craft as an art student in 1968. ‘I was introduced to jewellery as a compulsory part of the course. I thought it was the last thing I would be interested in. It was an eye-opening moment. I was enchanted, fascinated that you could carve metal with a file and make it into wearable sculpture.
‘We were working with a copper alloy as students, but it polished up to look like gold. I entered this magical world of being able to create jewellery just by sitting there experimenting. I loved how the flame could melt metal in front of your eyes, and how you could beat it into shape.'

The artist jeweller at work

That first enchantment has never left him, and Steven gets the same sense of joy from his work as he did all those years ago. buy bespoke jewellery in Birmingham Steven Medhurst artist jeweller at work He progressed as a craftsman in Manchester, Bradford and Exeter, then set up his own workshop as an artist jeweller in the Taunton area, offering services to the jewellery trade. He has developed sought-after skills in diamond mounting and jewellery design, in addition to repair and alteration work. ‘Sometimes I would wonder what else I could be doing, and I suppose I could have made more money doing something like selling double glazing. It was always a struggle to make a living at repair and alteration work here in the South West. But I stuck at it and in that way my skills improved. I have always been my own boss, and I could never give up the work I loved. ‘In the early years, I spent a lot of time above shops and as a backroom boy, but I had independence, and I can now spend more time being the creative artist jeweller I always wanted to be.’

Carving out a style

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Steven has developed his own unique style of jewellery over four decades. A very early influence was Gerda Flöckinger. ‘Gerda Flöckinger is very well-known for her astounding work and is probably the best free-flowing jeweller we have ever had in the UK. She’s my earliest influence, especially in the way she worked, but I went on to develop my own style.’ He first met Michele White at a show in London and said: ‘Later, when I had a piece on the front cover of a trade journal, she got in touch and that’s how I came to exhibit my work at Artisan Alchemy.’ Steven describes his larger pieces as quite theatrical. There is also the clear influence of natural forms in the work on show at Michele’s gallery.
‘I have developed a style based purely on Nature’s inspirational influence. I have to be close to nature, and I’m lucky in that my workshop is in the garden.
‘I’m getting a bit of recognition now for my work and can therefore spend time on the high end pieces in 18 carat gold and diamonds.'

Design stage

‘The creative process takes time to plan out. I rarely do drawings unless there is a technical aspect to work out. When I’m making something it’s a free-flowing process. I have the materials in front of me and just start. That’s the way a piece grows.’
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Steven is from a traditional background in the jewellery trade, and therefore appreciates all the Jewellery Quarter has to offer. ‘There are so many skilled people there. I send my work off to a setter in the Jewellery Quarter and buy some of my stones from there. ‘I try to visit as often as I can to visit Michele in the Gallery, and other craftspeople and suppliers in the area. He also believes learning the trade is essential for the next generation of designers. ‘Computers have their place, certainly, but everyone should have at least five years on bench disciplines. A young apprentice used to start by making the tea and working in the polishing shop, and if they were lucky they’d be allowed to do a bit of bench work. They say it takes six months just to get used to the tools. ‘I’ve worked in workshops where the older craftsmen could remember apprentices would sleep under the bench every night.’ For Steven, jewellery-making is much more than a way of earning a living. He knows he found his true calling all those years ago at art college...
‘I would sneak back to the workshop every chance I could get. I just couldn’t stay away.’

Artistry on display...

You can view Steven’s work at Artisan Alchemy Gallery, which is open Tuesday to Saturday 10am – 4pm. His work also features at the Gallery website. You can browse the full range on show. Every piece of jewellery he creates is a handmade unique 'one-off' made by Steven in his workshop in Somerset.

Visit Michele’s gallery in the Jewellery Quarter

  • Artisan Alchemy is a contemporary gallery in the Jewellery Quarter district of Birmingham
  • It has the largest community of designer makers in Europe
  • The gallery is also host to Artisan Artemy fine jewellery
  • Artist jewellers display their works in our specialist showroom
  • Because each piece is unique, you are invited to visit in person to try items on
Housed in a renovated 19th century building, we also rent out workshops to local creative businesses. Artisan Alchemy fuses a long tradition of making with innovative modern design. It really is an artistic hub, Most of all, we are dedicated to offering an excellent service so you can choose a special piece for yourself or a loved one. Our friendly staff will be happy to help you either in person or by telephone. Visit soon!