Birmingham's tradition of fine metalworking

Have you seen the latest exhibition of contemporary craft now on at Parkside? If so, have you ever wondered about the types of craft objects being made at Birmingham School of Art around 100 years ago?

Florence Camm, Design for jewellery, 1901.

Florence Camm, Design for jewellery, 1901.

For our latest showcase display in collaboration with Library and Learning Resources, we’ve put together a selection of designs for fine metalwork made at Birmingham School of Art around 1900. Among them are two examples by internationally-known stained glass designer Florence Camm, who studied at Margaret Street between 1892 and 1908: one for jewellery and the other for a casket in silver, enamel and jewels intended to contain a scroll granting the Freedom of the City of Birmingham to John Thackery Bunce, editor of the Birmingham Post, former chairman of the School of Art Management Committee and a founder member of the Museum and Art Gallery. There's also a brass bowl decorated in an Arts and Crafts style by Robert Catterson-Smith, who worked as a painter and illustrator as well as designing for jewellery and fine metalwork. Before becoming headmaster of Vittoria St (1901-1903) and then Birmingham School of Art (1903-1920), he'd worked as an engraver for William Morris's Kelmscott Press.

Robert Catterson-Smith, Detail of brass bowl (originally with silver gilt), c.1890s.

Robert Catterson-Smith, Detail of brass bowl (originally with silver gilt), c.1890s.

Alongside them is an illustrated catalogue published by Burlington Fine Arts Club to accompany an exhibition of a collection of European silversmiths’ work that took place in London in 1901. The book is open at a plate of an elaborate seventeenth-century German table ornament in the form of a ship. It's in marked contrast with the style of works being produced by Birmingham School of Art staff and students at the turn of the twentieth century. Why not take a look in order to see the differences for yourself?