An email in my inbox reads: ‘Would you like to come to a ‘Wine and Watercolour event’ in two Birmingham galleries next week’? My answer is immediate – ‘wine and watercolours sounds like the perfect pairing – yes please’! On the evening of 22nd June, Artisan Alchemy and Royal Birmingham Society of Artists (RBSA) hosted this wonderful event, bringing the creative community together in the historic Jewellery Quarter, where both galleries are based.
The evening opened with wine – we were off to a good start – at Artisan Alchemy Gallery, which is situated on Caroline Street, just off St Paul’s Square. This contemporary gallery exhibits bespoke furniture and fine jewellery, highlighting the best in British design and quality products from UK-based makers.
We were met by award-winning jewellery-maker Michele White, who opened Artisan Alchemy Gallery in 2015 within a renovated 19th century building. Free to visit, you can view Michele’s beautiful jewellery, which fuses precious metals with bright and colourful gemstones, and smooth droplets of gold and silver. She takes inspiration from art work – I am in awe of an exquisite piece inspired by a Monet landscape – as well as the unique and unusual gemstones themselves. If you are looking to buy jewellery, you can pick from exhibited pieces or commission something special.
Michele’s jewellery is exhibited alongside unique pieces of furniture, and we were joined by the designer and cabinet maker Charlie Adeney from Hutchinson Furniture, who talked about her recent creations. Amongst these was a striking dressing table with a lift-up looking glass and secret compartment (perfect for love letters), made of American Black Walnut and Masure Birch veneer.
We then moved to the RBSA in St Paul’s Square; the Director, Dr Marie Considine, told me about the gallery. An artist-led charity, it supports artists and promotes engagement with the visual arts through a range of inclusive activities: a busy exhibition programme (to which admission is free), creative workshops and free artist-led demonstrations.
On the ground floor, which showcases craft and jewellery, we saw ‘Brilliance in Birmingham’, a celebration of Birmingham’s designer-maker craft production, with unique pieces by local artists for sale, from brooches to necklaces. I’ll be back to treat myself, or a friend, to a handmade gift.
In the first floor gallery was their current ‘New Curators: Watercolour’ exhibition. Emerging curator volunteers have selected a range of watercolours by RBSA artists, from intricate depictions of nature to abstracted, expressive paintings. This created an inspirational backdrop to our watercolour painting workshop, which was led by artist Ann Hackett. Ann is a painter and tutor of drawing, painting and creative arts, and one of many artists who deliver creative tutorials at the RBSA.
Watercolours with Ann Hackett ARBSA
Ann began the session by introducing her practice: using various mediums, from inks and watercolours to collage and flower cuttings, she is influenced by sculptural shapes and forms of the botanical world. Under her guidance, we were able to make our own watercolour paintings and cards, using inks, watercolours, leaves and even gold dust. I would highly recommend booking onto one of their artist-led workshops; I saw such an improvement – under Ann’s tutelage – in just one evening. As the RBSA’s programme regularly includes open submission exhibitions, I may be entering a watercolour or two in time for the next one! If you are a more established artist, the ground floor also has space for solo shows….
This carefully curated evening at Artisan Alchemy and RBSA was a celebration and reminder of the artistic talent in Birmingham, and the spaces that showcase it. If you haven’t yet visited these two galleries, why not make a day trip to the historic Jewellery Quarter?