A rather unusual invite dropped into my inbox a few weeks ago. Would I like to explore two of the Jewellery Quarter’s arts venues, drink wine and learn to paint with watercolours? At first, the painting scared me off a little. I am a great admirer of art but have not a shred of artistic talent of my own. But the promise of finding some great arts venues (and the wine) lured me in and I said yes.
We started the evening at Artisan Alchemy. Artiscan Alchemy is a unique gallery, owned by Michele White. The venue houses a gallery filled with stunning bespoke furniture and Michele’s award-winning jewellery, meeting spaces and artist workshops. Michele aims to curate a space that brings together the traditions of making with modern design. The gallery is lined with cabinets of Michele’s beautiful jewellery, while the room is filled with incredible furniture from variety of makers. You can browse the gallery or buy the pieces on display and take home a truly unique piece of furniture.
After a glass of wine and some nibbles, we were given a talk by Hutchinsons, a producer of hand-made bespoke furniture. They showed us some of the incredible creations, including a staircase with drawers in the steps, a flexible family dining table and a stunning curved dressing table. Cabinet maker, Charlie, spoke about combining traditional hand-drawn designs with modern CAD, the skills to create furniture like theirs and being a woman in what is seen as a traditionally male industry.
We moved downstairs to see Michele’s workshop, where she creates her jewellery. Her work struck me as very ‘organic’ looking. The crystals and stones she uses seem to grow out of the metal, fusing together to look like an almost natural piece. She takes inspiration from the stones themselves, as well as art work. Her work is available to buy in the gallery, or you can commission something special.
Next, it was on to the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists, or the RBSA. The RBSA supports local artists (both budding and established) through exhibitions, workshops and demonstrations. The exhibitions are free to view, spread across several floors and cover everything from paintings to textiles.
Upstairs, amidst the exhibition of New Curators: Watercolours, we were introduced to Ann Hackett ARBSA. Ann teaches a variety of workshops and classes at the RBSA, as well as being an artist herself. Wine was poured and we settled in to learn some of Ann’s favourite watercolour techniques. I have never attempted to paint in watercolour (I don’t think I’ve even tried painting anything other than walls and cosplay armour since my year 9 art classes), and had assumed it was still a pretty traditional style.
Ann was fascinating, and showed us that are lots of ways to work with watercolour beyond the usual painting it on to a canvas. We were shown how to print with leaves, and how to use kitchen materials including cling-film, salt and kitchen roll to create combined with the paint to create interesting textures.
Fuelled with more wine, I somewhat nervously gathered some supplies and began to attempt some artwork of my own. Ann is a great teacher, and very reassuring, so I was soon over my nerves and began happily making a total mess on my paper. It was a bit like art class at primary school where you’re just enjoying splashing bright colours about. It’s worth noting that there were more artistic types around me, who produced actual art pieces, so whether you know what you’re doing or you’re a total novice like me, you can go to these classes and get something out of it. Watercolours are quite slow. You need patience as you work with them, and this makes it quite soothing. I had a go at generally slopping paint about, embossing, printing with leaves and sprinkling my paint with salt to create patterns.
Imagine my surprise when after all the mess I created two passable cards, with some pretty leaf prints and embossing. It was a lot of fun too, and I highly recommend you go and just try playing with art and creating art of your own. It doesn’t matter if you make anything pretty; it’s just so satisfying to create.
Go and explore your local arts venues, buy art, and create your own, even if it’s mostly mess. Massive thank you to RBSA and Artisan Alchemy for a blogger event like no other I’ve ever attended. It was fantastic.
I was a guest of RBSA and Artisan Alchemy in exchange for my thoughts. All opinions are honest and my own.