The New Standard Works, a former jewellery manufactory in Vittoria Street, Jewellery Quarter is buzzing more than usual. The building recently welcomed the first Jewellery Quarter honeybees to their new home on the building’s rooftop micro-farm.
As part of the welcoming committee a new tapestry artwork featuring 902 individual tapestry bees has been unveiled on the ground floor. Hundreds of stitchers have already been to see this new collaborative artwork.
The Grade II listed building is home to Argent College, an independent specialist educational college for young people aged 16-25 with learning differences and complex needs. On the ground floor is The Hive, which includes an organic café and bakery, heritage gallery and makers studios.
Suzanne Carter, Community Outreach and Learning Manager at The Hive, who started the craft campaign with needlepoint tapestry artist and maker Tina Francis, explains the idea behind the seven-month stitching project which involved over 1000 people stitching.
“Bees are a fantastic inspiration in the way they work together, and this project is all about collaboration. We worked with 11 schools, 40 community organisations, social groups and businesses, and other individuals and families living and working in Birmingham. What is clear from the tapestry is that every stitched bee is unique, just like its stitcher!
Alongside the artwork we have also captured something of our stitchers’ individual stories and personalities to illustrate how Birmingham connects to the rest of the UK and world, and how important these connections and shared heritage is for making our City such a culturally rich place to live.
Migration is nothing new; people have been moving to Birmingham to live and work for hundreds of years. Former occupants of our Jewellery Quarter building, built in 1879, where the artwork will be on display, migrated from Canada, Moldova, Poland, Germany and across the UK to set up their business. Our stitchers have global connections; in fact, from what they have told us, their families have originated from 77 countries outside the UK. The artwork not only looks stunning but also offers a fantastic illustration of how beautiful things can happen when people who are different in so many ways, work together. There is strength in diversity.”
Tina Francis, the creative lead of the project tells us: “Birmingham is and always has been a city of sanctuary. This project has shown that everyone has a place. I have stitched at workshops with 620 people across the city, and many hundreds more have stitched in their own groups with our tapestry kits.
I have seen how one symbol has united children in their own classrooms and brought people together in a different way in their social and work environments. Everyone has been working together and towards the same goal, learning more about each other as they create their bees. As a stitch artist I am also very pleased that hundreds more people can use a needle!”
The Bee Yourself artwork is on display at the Hive Café and Bakery, Vittoria Street. You are welcome to pop in and view the artwork and other heritage exhibitions for free from 7.30am-3.30pm Monday to Friday and on the second Saturday of the month, where you can also enjoy a tour of the building, including up to the rooftop to view the honeybees at work. www.hiveJQ.org
The Bee Yourself project has been possible thanks to a National Heritage Lottery Fund grant and is part of The Hive’s ongoing public engagement and activity programme.
by Suzanne Carter