Built in 1879 the old Standard Works building dominates a large stretch of Vittoria Street, on the far edge of the Quarter, and has long been one of my favourite buildings in the area. Disappointingly derelict for the best part of two decades it has thus far avoided all attempts to turn it into residential property, or to resurrect it for industrial use – until it was finally sold, just a few weeks ago, to the Ruskin Mill Trust, a further education organisation for young people with learning and emotional difficulties.
With plans to build specialist teaching rooms, a theatrical space and even it’s own artisan bakery the team behind the conversion of the space are ambitious – with an eye to fit the project into the community and recall some of the buildings’ past with the inclusion of jewellery education workshops in the scheme.
So, last weekend, the people behind the project allowed a bunch of curious locals with cameras into the building to get a sense of what the project is about and have a tour of this remarkable building. Here’s what I saw:
It’s been clear for a while now that I’ve needed a bigger workshop, I’ve got to a point where I need to invest in larger machinery, where I’d like to be able to stretch out, make bigger work and be able to have more space to plan designs as well as ‘just’ making things. I’ve got ideas of teach a little too and for that I will definitely require more space.
So, after a few dreary January afternoons combing the ‘to let’ adverts in and around the Jewellery Quarter I finally found somewhere that just felt right the instant that I walked through the door.
Typically, it was last on a long list of properties to see, it was cold, dreary and may even have been raining outside. But, inside, there was light, and space and okay, it’s in the attic of a rickety old building but hey, I’ve always thought that it’s the haphazard structures that give the Jewellery Quarter a lot of its charm.
And now, after quite a lot of official procedures (and filling in reams of forms) I have the keys and am starting to strip things back, ready to paint and to build:
My workshop windows look out over Key Hill cemetery and it’s a hidden part of the Jewellery Quarter that I’m really rather fond of.
When I moved into the area many years ago the sandstone gates were in seriously bad repair but, over the past few years a lot of restoration (mainly funded by the fine efforts of FKWC) has gone on throughout the Quarters two Victorian cemeteries. A week or so ago the scaffolding came down from the Key Hill gate posts on Key Hill Drive after what looks like a final round of restoration.
I ventured into the Jewellery Quarter on a Sunday today for the first time in aaages to get these pieces all ready to go off to Assay on Monday. There’s a couple of new pendant designs (and some more studs):
Plus, I got the pieces of that big new necklace sanded:
The Jewellery Quarter has two historic Pavement Trails, put in as kind of DIY walking tours around the time of the millennium. I see parts of them pretty much everyday but this is one of my favourite markers:
It’s a homage to the humble benchpeg, an incredibly simple thing that takes a lot of punishment. The faithful benchpeg soldiers on until (in my case) you’ve drilled so many holes in it that it disintegrates. I rarely give mine much credit but I’d hate to try making anything without its support.
If you fancy heading out to soak up a little history then you can download a PDF of the pavement Trail right here:
These past two days in Birmingham have been very subdued.
The nights, obviously, have made global headlines what with rioting, looting and violence breaking out in pockets across the city … but the days that follow them are odd.
There’s a quiet air of wariness about the place, people are very aware that they’ll probably be locking up again at 2pm and heading home -resigned to the fact that for the sake of safety the violent minority have won for another night.
It’s nothing on what’s been happening in London but it’s still needless, distressing and really shouldn’t be a part of life in the 21st Century.