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Meet local maker Fiona Harris
After graduating from the Birmingham School of Jewellery in 2005 I disappeared down a more corporate route before returning to my first love, jewellery and founding Fiona Harris Jewellery in 2017. I have a strong belief that jewellery shouldn’t be saved for a special occasion but loved, cherished and worn every day. My aim is to create “everyday little luxuries” that women will want to buy for themselves, treasure and never take off.
In 2018 I was a finalist in the Midlands Fashion Awards and was appointed as the first Jeweller in Residence at the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham where I designed a range for them inspired by their archives, this collection is sold exclusively at the museum and Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery.
Inspiration for my work varies, I am often drawn to nature and organic forms but also love repetition and structure. I work predominately in sterling silver and 18ct gold-plate. All my jewellery is designed and handmade by me at my home studio in Nottingham.
What first fuelled your passion to make / create your designs / product?
I was always into art growing up and remember making jewellery as a child from bits of drinking straws, pasta shapes and clay however, it wasn’t until I completed my art foundation and got a taste of metalwork that I really discovered my passion for jewellery making.
Tell us about the origins of your business.
After completing my degree in jewellery and silversmithing back in 2005 I didn’t initially pursue a career in jewellery design and went down more of a corporate route. Although I loved my career, I really missed being creative and after playing around with my jeweller’s tools I decided to take a leap and launched my business, Fiona Harris Jewellery, towards the end of 2017.
What’s your motto?
“Jewellery should be loved, cherished and worn every day”.
I am a great believer that jewellery shouldn’t be hidden away in a jewellery box but cherished and never taken off.
How would you describe your designs / products?
I create “everyday little luxuries”. Inspiration for my work varies, I am often drawn to nature and organic forms but also love repetition and structure.
The range I designed for the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter is inspired by Smith & Pepper’s archives (the jewellery firm that were based at museum until they closed their doors in 1981). These pieces incorporate the swallow and leaf motif from some of their designs with a modern, contemporary twist.
What was the first success / landmark moment for your designs / product range?
Launching my website was a big achievement for me, lots of work went into the design, copy and images needed for my site, it was a real labour of love. Another landmark would be being appointed as the first “Jeweller in Residence” at the museum.
Tell us about your materials - where do you source your materials from?
I work with predominately in sterling silver and source my silver mainly from CooksonsGold, who are based in the quarter and I used eco/recycled silver options in my designs where possible. The pieces that were designed for Birmingham Museums are cast by a local company, J H F Castings, who are based opposite the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter in Vyse Street.
Tell us about your making process?
My making process usually starts with some very rough sketches, I tend not to do very detailed drawing but move quickly to prototyping stage where I’ll either create paper models of my designs or start playing directly with metal. I find it easier to visualise a final piece from models and test pieces rather than drawings. I will often get so far with a design and then leave it for a while before coming back to it, sometimes I need distance to know what it needs to be finalised.
Have you ever had any interesting commissions?
I don’t currently do commissions and focus on my ready to wear ranges however, I did once create a ballet shoe necklace featuring a musical note for my cousin’s daughter which represented her passions for ballet and singing which was fun to design.
Do you have a favourite of the Birmingham museums? If so, why?
I have a soft spot for the Museum of Jewellery of Quarter where I was Jeweller in Residence, it was such an amazing experience spending time in the workshop there.
And finally, a tourist arrives in Birmingham for the first time ever, where do you take them?
As someone now based in Nottingham, I’ll be reading the other jewellers answers to this question to get some inspiration for my next trip across! I do think a trip to Selfridges to see the iconic building is a must.