Share on social
Meet local maker Vanessa Miller
Vanessa designs and hand-crafts unique precious metal jewellery ranging from small charm necklaces and earrings to larger detailed pendants, brooches and rings; some with moving or hidden elements. Her work is inspired by nature, the wonders of the world around her, holidays and carefree, happy childhood memories. Vanessa aims to capture something unique and special about the subject and design with a smile in mind.
Vanessa employs a variety of techniques in her work and although has a general interest and keen to always excel and learn and discover she enjoys hand forming, modelling and carving to create unique three-dimensional designs in precious metals with beautiful surface textures. Her work is often embellished with textures and gold and/or set with precious gemstones creating one off pieces and small repeatable designs. Vanessa not only enjoys creating her own designs but also enjoys remodelling new pieces from old unworn sentimental jewellery that is loved and enjoyed once more by the recipient.
What first fuelled your passion to make / create your designs / product?
It was purely by accident; I went to an open day at the Midlands Arts Centre after its brief closure for major refurbishment, I walked into the ‘Jewellery Studio’ I booked onto a 6 week jewellery making course and that was it I was hooked! I didn’t look back.
My work is predominantly inspired by nature and so when the competition came up at the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter for the second Jeweller in Residence opportunity and the brief was to create a snake range of jewellery – I had to go for it and was thrilled to have won.
Tell us about the origins of your business.
My love for creating jewellery pushed me to study full time at the School of Jewellery Birmingham, where in 2016 I set up my business immediately after completing my HND in Jewellery and Silversmithing. I attended my first trade fair in London 3 months after graduating followed by a several fairs and commissions locally and across the UK. Initially I worked from the corner of my parents’ garage before setting up in a tiny workshop in the Jewellery Quarter with another maker, eventually we outgrew our space and moved a few doors down the road into the bright workshop we both occupy and have been in for the last 3 years. I worked on developing my collections for wholesale and for craft fairs and began teaching jewellery making which I continue to enjoy.
What’s your motto?
"Designed with a smile in mind"
It is so important to me that my jewellery is enjoyed by all who wear my designs, whether this is down to its delightful and tactile quality or purely for the narrative nature of my jewellery my creations will always bring enjoyment.
How would you describe your designs / products?
Precious metal jewellery inspired by nature, the world around me, holidays, and happy childhood memories.
What was the first success / landmark moment for your designs / product range?
I love that people buy, wear and enjoy my designs and come to me to create bespoke pieces for them. To have won the accolade of Jeweller in Residence at the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter was a thrilling moment. It’s been a wonderful experience to not only work in a space with so much history and feel part of it but also meeting and talking to the visitors was a real highlight too.
Where do you source your materials from?
All my materials are sourced from local British suppliers.
Tell us about your making process?
I design and make independently from my workshop in the Jewellery Quarter. My designs are usually sketched but sometimes made in model form first before developing and creating either by carving or sculpting. The master pattern I create often requires the expert skills of the local crafts people to create the mould and cast in precious metal. I always aim to use the local independent businesses I can to create my jewellery these may be mouldmakers, casting services, stone setting, polishers and platers as well as suppliers of the raw materials I use.
Have you ever had any interesting commissions?
I always find commissions interesting as they all have such personal stories attached to them and they become so personal to me too as I feel I have become part of that story or the journey. Its incredibly special to be asked to make a piece of jewellery for someone whether its from scratch or remodelling new jewellery from old unworn pieces. Its an exciting, sometimes a little daunting and often challenging journey.
Do you have a favourite Birmingham museums site? If so, why?
The museums are so full of inspiration and as I live and work in Birmingham, I love that BMAG is on my doorstep. When I struggle with a project or looking for something to inspire me a visit to the galleries always helps spark an idea. I like to walk around the entire gallery but am always drawn to the Staffordshire Hoard and industrial gallery.
And finally, a tourist arrives in Birmingham for the first time ever, where do you take them?
Apart from BMAG to visit the Staffordshire Hoard or the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter for a tour of the timeless Smith & Pepper factory we would visit the Midlands Arts Centre galleries and exhibitions, watch a movie at the Electric Cinema and visit the National Trusts Back to Backs followed by an evening out in vibrant Moseley.