Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Metalwork in the Midlands

Do you know where this is? I'm sure some of you do, but for this who don't, it's The Library of Birmingham
Yesterday we had a day out for my Birthday - we visited Birmingham. I wanted to see the new Library and also the even newer New Street Station, as well as revisiting the Staffordshire Hoard in its new gallery in the Museum and visiting the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter.

We parked near the Library, you can't miss it - a huge silver and gold block covered in steel filigree. The golden dome on the top houses a room saved from the original Victorian library, a Gothic extravaganza of remarkable craftsmanship in wood, plaster, ceramics and metalwork.

The shelves house books and documents relating to a local Midlands lad called Will Shakespeare; it's a shrine in the sky to the bard.

I was really impressed with the new Library, inside had an atmosphere of relaxed calmness and on floors 7 and 3 there are outside terraces with beautifully planted gardens.

There are lovely spaces to relax and look out over the busy city square below.

The recently opened new New Street Station is equally impressive and even more shiny, in fact it is very very shiny - clad in undulating polished steel that reflects the surrounding buildings like ripping water (dazzled by the shinyness, I completely failed to take a photo!) Inside it's like every other airport or shopping centre.

On to the Staffordshire Hoard, we'd visited the Museum to see the hoard when it was first put on public display (another birthday treat) now it was interesting to see how the jewels had been cleaned and interpreted. The hoard is a huge pile of scrap bling, probably looted from a battlefield and intended to be presented to a victorious warlord. It's anyone's guess as to why it got hidden by a main road and never retrieved. The exhibits explain what is known about life 1300 years ago and what the hoard consists of - basically it's man bling - warrior's swanky accessories. Again I didn't take photos but I did buy this book and I'm looking forward to reading it - because THE astounding thing about the Staffordshire hoard is the craftsmanship, the mind-blowing intricate patterns made of gold and garnets.

We then walked to the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, I'd heard it was interesting but wasn't prepared for such a treat ... if you go, you MUST go on the guided tour! Behind the small museum galleries and tea shop is a time warp - the Smith & Pepper jewellery business which was in business for nearly a century and closed its doors in 1981, leaving everything untouched.

Smith & Pepper kept everything, it might come in useful! all the paper work and records, all the engraved blocked for their illustrated catalogues, all the moulds and punches for stamping out components for brooches and lockets, bangles and pendants lined up on slightly wonky shelves which cover the walls.

The craftsmens' benches are left as if they're having a tea break and will return to carry on work.

I was impressed that Birmingham has two glorious new shiny metal-clad buildings - it seems very apt in a city built on the talent of Midlands metal workers and they have given the city energy and pizazz.

I'll finish with a photo of my present from Cliff - a quirky curvy flower brick. Cliff spotted it when we were looking around a bric-a-brac shop on our holiday in Provence last month and he bought it for my birthday present. It's perfect for making a few flowers picked from the garden look fabulous!



  1. A little late, but "happy birthday" to you, Celia.Well, it certainly was. Messrs Google & Wiki have some pictures of the station bling so don't feel too badly!

  2. flower bricks are a delightful idea. Once was a blog about them with a weekly post.

  3. I remember the Smith and Pepper factory well. My second boyfriend ever was one of the Smith family. That was in the late 70s and he was at the factory then, but not very happy about taking on the family business.

  4. What a mine of information to be left, I hope that it will be used in some way. If you have a moment, look up 'Scythian gold exhibiton', I saw it in Finland and was etranced.

    Belated birthday greetings, I like your flower brick.

  5. I'm so glad you had such a lovely day out for your birthday, the jewelry museum looks so interesting. Lovely flower brick too :-) x

  6. It looks as though you had a fabulous day out. Belated happy birthday!

  7. Having endured the carnage of the works at the train station from the inside over the last few years, I'm heartily delighted that it is finally finished!
    But you've persuaded me that Birmingham is definitely worth a visit, I've been meaning to go for ages, and will now, when funds and time allow. Though I think my tourism will include more tattoo parlours! :-)

  8. We've been planning a trip to Birmingham to see exactly these things for some time now. You've persuaded me we really need to prioritise it!


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