This was the case for Michele White, who’s been making jewellery 30 years. After many months of searching for a gallery to exhibit her creations, she finally came to realise that, if she wanted a suitable location that fitted with what she did, she’d have to create it herself: the price of being unique. “My jewellery is different from anybody else’s and I’m always looking for places where I can display it to view and to buy. But it doesn’t fit anywhere; I even went with my daughter to London to find a place – nothing!”
And so she came up with the idea of acquiring her own space. Knowing she’d need to put it to her husband – and thinking he’d say no – Michele used her mother’s cunning, and enlisted the most priceless help available. “Because it came from my daughter, he liked the idea. So I started looking for premises.”
Michele wandered into Maguire Jackson, who told her about a place on Caroline Street. “When I saw what was available there it fitted perfectly with I wanted to do; half way between the Jewellery Quarter and business district, it works as both a location and a venue. I could move my workshop there from Warstone Lane, and have a gallery as well.”
When Michele first saw the building it was “very old and very dirty. A big empty space that was full of pigeons, with not much floor”. However, the sheer size gave her another idea: a co-working space creative folk in Birmingham to work among like-minded people: Artisan@85 was born.
The studio has a communal bench for up to 6 people to work at and also a number of self-contained units, all with a sink, water and heating. It’s a particularly unusual offering in the private sector and also an affordable one, with rents from £260-325+VAT per month for units between 59 and 99sq ft. “The Council has lots of cheaper units in the Jewellery Quarter, but not as high spec as this. There’s a nice communal kitchen and shower, and a courtyard with bicycle racks.”
To get things going, Michele got a grant from the European Regional Development Fund to give 5 places to local business start-ups. She then went to the prize giving at the nearby School of Jewellery on Vittoria Street, wandered around talking to people about the new studio and gave 6 months free to four BA students. “I really got quite a buzz from giving that to people.”
But it’s not all jewellers and artists: “I’ve got a young man going who’s going to be writing a graphic novel over 6 months. He’s taken one of my self contained units and says he’s going to be there every day, until he finishes the book.”
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