The Contemporary Art Society has acquired Vicki Ambery-Smith’s Birmingham City Ring, 2019 through its Omega Craft Fund. The ring was commissioned specifically for Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery and depicts iconic Birmingham city-centre buildings including the Museum, Birmingham Central Library, Selfridges, Rotunda and one of the city’s canals, among other landmarks. It captures a moment in the city’s ever-changing architectural environment and celebrates Birmingham’s history in the jewellery trade.
The process of making Birmingham City Ring began with Ambery-Smith drawing the concept of it from every angle, by hand. It was then constructed using silver sheet, beginning with the ring shank followed by soldering the top plate and curved underside of the ring base. Each tiny building was made by scoring and folding silver sheet into a small hollow box, cutting out windows and applying additional layers of sheet silver or a veneer of red and yellow gold. The Library’s distinctive colours of blue and yellow were created with anodised titanium. Each building was soldered onto the base one by one. The canal that weaves through the city is made using anodised niobium, an element more commonly used in industrial alloys, complete with a tiny oxidized silver boat.
Vicki Ambery-Smith has earned an international reputation for her unique metalwork interpretations of cityscapes. Her jewellery is designed to be worn, and the architectural structures on which she bases her work are therefore adapted, rather than replicated, in miniature. More than a representation of a building, each becomes a study of shape, surface, light, space and the language of architecture.
Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery’s collection development aims to gather material that explores the urban experience from multiple perspectives, as well as expanding its collection of work by female artists. The acquisition of Ambery-Smith’s Birmingham City Ring will build on the city’s collection of modern and contemporary jewellery dating from the 1970s, which features both national and international makers.
Vicki Ambery-Smith (b. 1955, Leeds, UK) lives and works in London. Recent solo exhibitions include The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (2015/16); Yorkshire Sculpture Park (2017/18); Scottish Gallery, Edinburgh (2018/19). Recent group exhibitions include Kath Libbert Gallery, Bradford (2018); Oxford Ceramic Gallery (2018).