Culture: Moulded from History; When Is Piece of Jewellery More Than a Fashion Item? When It's an Amulet. Jo Ind Reports on Birmingham School Pupils Who Have Made Art for Protection

Article excerpt

Byline: Jo Ind

They might look like funky pieces made by contemporary craftspeople - but this jewellery is much more than that. These pieces were made by youngsters from St Alban's Church of England School in Highgate, Birmingham on the theme of amulets, items traditionally worn as protection from sickness, witchcraft or evil.

Professional jeweller Vannetta Seecharran worked alongside the children, asking them to interpret the theme of amulets in relation to their own experiences and culture.

When worn, the pupils are reminded of their families, their myths, their religion - all the things which help them rise to the challenge of everyday life.

Meanwhile, the jewellery forms part of a touring exhibition launched today called The Jewellery Box, organised by arts organisation, Craftspace Touring.

The project is part of a scheme, run by the Department for Education and Skills, which allows selected schools to relax the National Curriculum and free up time and resources to experiment with alternative methods of learning.

For eight days Vannetta showed the teenagers how to cut, shape and manipulate solid silver and copper.

The students were also shown a range of metalworking and threading techniques and the resulting work is a series of striking and personalised pieces, which capture elements of the children's identities, beliefs and backgrounds.

Professional Birmingham jewellers Kirti Patel, Rita Patel and silversmith Rajesh Gogna will also be exhibiting their work alongside that of the St Alban's pupils.

Moniqua Jeffers, aged 16, described her work: 'Underneath the velvet there's a message, a secret message that's personal to me.

'I chose red because it's just bright and a lot of people in my family do like the colour red. So it's not only for protection. When I look at it I see my family as well.'

Ruby Noor, aged 13, said: 'Working with Vannetta gave me ideas because she had a silver bracelet with ribbons coming out and I wanted to do something similar.

'Now I want to get a length of hair from each member of my family and put them in the amulet box, because my family is in London and I don't see them that much.' Sabrina Burrows, aged 15, explained: 'I made my box as a present to my grandad because he's helped me so much over the last few years. …