An exhibition celebrating the work of young jewellery designers has opened in Birmingham. Diane Parkes reports.

When Becca Williams was working hard on her A-levels she would disappear to make jewellery for a break from her studies – little knowing that it was her hobby which would become her career.

Now she is one of a team of designers whose work is on show to the public in a Birmingham exhibition with her ideas being snapped up as Christmas presents.

“I was at Worcester Sixth Form College and taking some really heavy subjects like history and classics which meant a lot of essay writing,” she says. “So in the second year I decided to take a jewellery design A-level as something different.

“And I found that I loved it. I kind of fell into jewellery accidentally.”

The 23-year-old, from Alvechurch, Worcestershire, took a one-year foundation course at Hereford College of Art and then took a BA degree in Jewellery and Silversmithing at Birmingham City University’s School of Jewellery.

Graduating in June 2008 she gained a space in Design Space, a Birmingham City Council-run workshop in Hockley which aims to encourage and support new designer makers.

“Design Space was excellent as it allowed me to start working practically but you also had a lot of support on hand. They arranged for us to attend Harrogate Trade Fair and London Jewellery Week,” Miss Williams added.

"I didn’t think there had been much interest in my work at the time and I was a bit disappointed but then I started getting calls."

After a year at Design Space, she returned home where she created a workspace at her parents’ house but recently she moved into a studio in Hylton Street in the heart of the Jewellery Quarter.

“Being here means I am right in the middle of other jewellery workers. I know lots of other people through university or other events and I can literally just pop out and see them in a minute or two.”

The young designer has now joined Centrepiece, a group of locally-based jewellery makers who work together to promote their creations.

Her work is on show in Centrepiece’s annual exhibition in the foyer at Birmingham Symphony Hall which opened last week and runs until December 23.

She added: “There are 15 members exhibiting along with four guests and people from Design Space. At 23 I am the youngest member and I love being alongside people with so much more experience and such a wide range of different work.

“The stand is always staffed by one of the designer makers so we can answer questions people might have. You get a real buzz whenever you sell anything – whether it is yours or someone else’s.”

The Centrepiece exhibition is key to encouraging people to see the work which is made locally.

Working mainly in silver, Miss William’s work is inspired by her childhood holidays.

“My family are from west  Wales so every holiday we would pack everything up and head back to Aberaeron at Cardigan Bay,” she says. “So the sea has always been part of my life. And it is what inspires me.”

Miss Williams has her long term aims.

“I would love to be properly self-employed as I am still working in a bookshop to fund this,” she said. “It would be lovely to have a shop one day with my workshop attached so people could see me working on the pieces.”

* The Centrepiece exhibition is at Birmingham Symphony Hall until December 23.

For more on Becca’s work see More information on Centrepiece