Design Space is a programme supported by the Birmingham City Council and the European Regional Development Fund that gives a select group of emerging jewellery artists free studio space and business classes for one year: in exchange, the participants must commit to work at least 30 hours a week developing their own design led business.
This year Design Space supports eighteen designer-makers, with participants from the United Kingdom, Taiwan, and the United States. The programme is highly sought after, and the eighteen participants were chosen from a large pool of applicants who were interviewed over the summer. In the years Design Space has been running, it has helped many new designer-makers establish themselves in Birmingham. Many of the jewellers who have relocated to Birmingham for Design Space would not have come here if it wasn’t for this scheme. Lynsey Pluck says, “I relocated to Birmingham from West Sussex solely because of the place I was offered on Design Space. Through this opportunity I have discovered the advantages of being based in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter and am making plans to continue living and working here.”
While free studio space in the Jewellery Quarter offers a huge jumpstart for the new jewellers, Design Space also offers a plethora of other benefits. Participants gain admission to the School of Jewellery’s studios and equipment, and this year’s participants are also being given 30 hours of access to the Jewellery Industry Innovation Centre (JIIC) to help them develop a new range of products using state-of-the-art equipment. Business courses and professional practice classes are held once a week and participants are also given one-to-one tutorials with mentors who are well-established in the jewellery field and free summer short courses at the School of Jewellery to further their training.
Since beginning the programme in September, there have been several opportunities for group exhibitions: Design Space currently shows work at the exciting new We are Birmingham shop. During the Christmas season they took part in Brilliantly Birmingham’s Open Studio event and Angel Craft Fair in Islington. In April all 18 members will be exhibiting brand new collections at the British Craft Trade Fair in Harrogate (stand #295).
You can see photos of pieces produced at Design Space, as well as links to individual makers’ websites, by visiting http://designspacejewellers.blogspot.com/
Visiting the Design Space studio is highly recommended: enjoy a cup of tea while getting a rare behind-the-scenes look at every stage of jewellery production. The display cabinets in the front room showcase the jewellery collections of all eighteen participants, while the adjacent studio gives you a unique opportunity to see these highly skilled makers at work. To arrange a visit, please contact Katherine Campbell-Legg or Kerry O’Connor: 0121 551 9071 or firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are interested in being a part of Design Space, please see Birmingham City Council’s website for information on applying. The programme runs for 12 calendar months, from October to September every year.
By Miriam Rowe
American jeweller Miriam Rowe now lives in Birmingham and runs her business from the Jewellery Quarter because of Design Space. Take a look at her work at http://www.miriamrowe.com