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Meet local maker Helen Walsh
I graduated from the Birmingham School of Jewellery in 1995 and have been making jewellery ever since. I love the trade I chose and I put my all into everything I do. I believe in making pieces that will last forever, well made and well finished.
What first fuelled your passion to make / create your designs / product?
I knew since I was at primary school that I would have a creative career, though I thought it would be art or fashion until I discovered jewellery making on my Art Foundation course at Preston Polytechnic. For me, being creative is an innate burning desire that needs to be constantly fed. Following the path towards becoming a jeweller was the ideal combination of creativity and a learning trade. I also embroider, sew, restore furniture, make cards and sculptural décor, including mosaic. I've found some skills and techniques are interchangeable which is fantastic!
Tell us about the origins of your business.
As soon as I graduated in from The Birmingham School of Jewellery 1995 I got my own hallmark and I registered as a sole trader. My own business has always been and always will be my passion, but I've mostly worked in paid employment alongside this for financial stability. This has been in the jewellery trade too, which has taught me a great deal about business and manufacturing.
What’s your motto?
Be proud of every piece I make.
How would you describe your designs / products?
I draw from a wide range of influences; my world travels, my love of mythology, antiques, the history of art and design, paganism, botany and horticulture, ethic art, symbology, crystal healing, spiritualism – the list goes on! My work reflects this. I like to bring symbolism and meaning into my jewellery.
What was the first success / landmark moment for your designs / product range?
My first ever sales at The Museum of The Jewellery Quarter! They were my first stockist and it's a proud moment when you know the public are buying your work
Tell us about your materials - where do you source your materials from?
As I'm a jeweller, I buy my bullion from local dealers in the Jewellery Quarter. I buy a lot of my gemstones from Jaipur in India.
Tell us about your making process?
I'm quite a traditionalist, and I make all my prototypes by hand. The majority of my jewellery is cast, but every piece is hand finished and hand assembled by myself. It is labour intensive but I want to put everything I can of myself into each piece.
Have you ever had any interesting commissions?
Every commission is special, but one of the most interesting recent ones was when I approached by a charity to make their design for a panic attack ring. It was a striking design with a large prominent disc which had a focal point in the centre for the person suffering to concentrate on. They ordered a substantial amount which all had to be entirely handmade. It was a rewarding challenge.
Do you have a favourite of the Birmingham museums? If so, why
I'm particularly fond of the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter as I know all the staff, but for a day out I'll always go to the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. I've visited the Staffordshire Hoard several times. I also love the space dedicated to the Birmingham Arts and Crafts movement.
And finally, a tourist arrives in Birmingham for the first time ever, where do you take them?
I have done this! I've taken them to the Jewellery Quarter, St, Philip's cathedral to see the stained-glass windows designed by Birmingham born pre-Raphaelite artist Sir Edward Burne-Jones and manufactured by William Morris & Co, and the outdoor markets in Digbeth. All wonderful parts of Birmingham's rich history.