Is there a point in your life which changed everything?  A ‘sliding doors’ moment, which sent your life in an exciting new direction?

The Jewellery Quarter Open Studios two years ago were a bit like that for me.

Little did I know it at the time, but peeking behind the scenes of those jewellers’ studios all that time ago both inspired and intrigued me.  And seeing the passion of the talented people working there in that creative little hub never really left me. 

Chamberlain Clock

Ever since that I’ve been so interested in that secret little creative world. So interested in fact that it led to me eventually starting The Jewellery Spot blog a few months ago.

The Jewellery Quarter Open Studios event is actually coming up soon (23 -24 November 2019), so if you’re in the Birmingham area, you must pop along!

Tina Francis is the brains behind the event – and guess what?  She’s NOT a jeweller! Here she talks about what inspired her to start it.

Who are you?

Tina Francis, I’m a tapestry needlepoint maker and designer and have a studio in The Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham. 

I love the fact that you get a sneak peek behind the scenes at the open studios – where the real action happens! Why did you decide to start organising the JQ studios?

I moved back to Birmingham around five years ago from Brighton, I’d been part of Artists Open Houses there running the Central Trail, and wanted to do a similar thing here. There had been open studios here before, but not for a fair few years. 

The Jewellery Quarter is such a unique place, with so much heritage and history. How did you end up working there? 

I’m from Birmingham and so when we decided to move back, I wanted to be somewhere with a community of makers around. Being in the Jewellery Quarter meant I could rent a workshop from Birmingham City Council near to home. 

It seems like there’s a lovely community in the jewellery quarter – do you know a lot of the people based there? 

I know lots of people here, both residents and people who work in the Jewellery Quarter every day. There’s definitely support if you need it. 

A selection of artists taking part in the Open Studios

What happens at the event? What kinds of things can people do? 

Makers open their studio doors and invite you in to see how and where they work. People can talk about commissions, buy gifts or hear about making your way as a maker. Some workshops will have demos, but it’s more about meeting the makers at the winter event. 

How and when do you start planning an event like this? It must take a lot of coordination!

It sort of never stops! I go to lots of meetings across the city throughout the year to make sure we’re part of Birmingham’s offer. I’m also constantly looking out for new makers in the JQ to make sure we have a wide representation of the work that happens here.

There’s a lot of planning behind the scenes looking at dates and whether we clash with other similar events. The map is the thing that needs planning the most because want people to visit as many studios as possible. 

Work by Charlotte Lowe

Does it cost anything to come along?

It’s free to visit.

How is the event going? Is it building momentum? 

This is the third year we’ve run a winter open studios (we’ve run five in the summer) and it’s always quite nerve-wracking knowing whether people will come! We’ve been snowed off before now! The momentum is building because the maps are now out across the city. 

Vyse Street, Birmingham

How long has it been going now?

We’ve been going for five years in all.

Is it just about jewellery?

We encourage anyone who is a maker to join in. We have leather, textiles, fabricators, fine artists and ceramics as well as the traditional metal trades. 

How many people are involved in organising?

I create the map, the web content and social media and coordinate everyone! All the makers promote the event and distribute the maps and social on their own channels. Jewellery Quarter BID also promotes and supports us.

Tina’s work

What’s the first thing you’re going to do to relax when the events over?! 

I’ll definitely be having a well earned drink! 

Is it a growing event?

Yes, the amount of venues remains pretty static but with many makers inviting others to share the space at the weekend we are up on participants. 

There’s a lot going on at The Jewellery Quarter in terms of development, how are people feeling about that? 

The majority of us rent our spaces, and so development can be unnerving. Because we’re quite tight knit any information about new developments is quickly shared. There are opportunities that development brings too, so it’s about looking further than the front door. 

Urban Coffee in the Jewellery Quarter

Can you give us an example of some of the people who will be opening their studios for the weekend?

The biggest Open Studio of them all, the Birmingham School of Jewellery, will be open with demos and silver workshops. Many designer makers had their training at the school so it’s great to see their progression. 

Dual Works on Kenyon Street have a home accessory showroom alongside their practice, it’s great to see what they are up to!

We have some jewellers exhibiting for the first time which is exciting! So be sure to visit Dovile Jewellery and EAN Jewellery at Artisan Alchemy and Charlotte Lowe and Spearworks Jewellery who share a space on Warstone Lane.

Christmas is just round the corner! Will people get the chance to do Christmas shopping? 

Yep! Whilst being passionate about the Jewellery Quarter, opening our studios to sell is a really important part of the event. You’ll also have time to commission pieces.

Work by Dovile Jewellery

What are your future plans for the event? 

We want to continue. In the summer we usually run alongside Jewellery Quarter Festival. There is a big campaign at the moment called Made in the JQ run by JQBid, which highlights makers and more so we’ll be promoting ourselves via this channel too. 

What would you say to anyone thinking of coming along? 

Bring your walking shoes! With no workshop being more than five minutes walking distance you’ll definitely want to try and visit them all! Look closely at access details though because many workshops are up steep stairs. Jewellers and makers need light!

For more information on the Jewellery Quarter Open Studios you can visit their website here.  

The event is on Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 November 2019.  Don’t worry if you’ve missed it this time though, it’s usually on twice a year – in the Summer and just before Christmas.