Quirky decorative pieces made by by Sheffield maker with 25 years experience designed to raise a smile

Looking at the curly fish brooches, sardine tin clocks and dog-eared cufflinks on display in Jim Stringer’s workshop it seems obvious why he’s called his business Quirky Metals.

Tuesday, 17th December 2019, 5:16 pm
Jim Stringer of Quirky Metals in his workshop at Meersbrook
Jim Stringer of Quirky Metals in his workshop at Meersbrook

From a workshop in Meersbrook he designs and makes jewellery, decorative items and homeware, mostly in pewter, for retail through galleries, art markets, trade fairs and online shops. His work can be seen in the Handmade for Christmas exhibition at the Millennium Gallery.

“I like to put a smile on people’s faces,” he says.Jim has been a part of the cutlery and metalworking industry in Sheffield for 25 years since he and his wife, Laura, graduated in metalwork and jewellery design from Sheffield Hallam University in 1989.

Latterly Jim was working for a cutlery firm , designing and implementing cost effective methods of production. “I didn’t find it rewarding, working on other people’s designs,” he says.

Sardine light pull from Quirky Metals in Handmade for Christmas at the Millennium Gallery, Sheffield

In his spare time he started making jewellery pieces with pewter and slowly started selling. “It snowballed from doing the odd commissions to exhibiting at trade fairs and it got to the point that I was spending all my time when I got home from work to keep up with demand.”

Awards received at The Pewter Live Competitions held by The Worshipful Company of Pewterers, proved the catalyst for going full-time.

The Hook Line & Sinker Range range won first prize in 2014 and then the following year Quirky Metals won again with a night light holder designed by Laura and inspired by the mysteries of the forest .

The prize money enabled them to take over a workshop in Meersbrook “five minutes from home.”

Jim Stringer: 'Pewter is such a versatile material. It has a particular surface texture'

Recognition at the national Open Live Design competitions didn’t end there. In May Jim and Laura received the City and Guilds Group award for their design Peacetime.

“It had particular meaning for me having started out on the City and Guilds silversmithing and allied crafts course at Chesterfield College back in the Eighties,” says Jim.

He is grateful to the careers teacher at his school in Nottinghamshire who suggested it might suit him – and so it proved.

From there he came to Sheffield and three years at Psalter Lane.

“ I made the sardine tin clocks when I left college. The idea was always there and commissions came along and I did lots of things.“I produced metalwork for nightclubs and then the market for that dried up as things became more minimalist. After that it was mostly public art commissions for parks and the sides of buildings but that died out because of the recession.”

Once he set up Quirky Metals he has designed and made pieces in a range of metals including copper, steel and silver but pewter has been his choice since the Eighties.

“It’s such a versatile material. It has a particular surface texture,” he maintains. “Stainless steel has different making properties. Pewter is much softer and you can do certain things in pressing and making shapes which you can’t with stainless steel.”

In terms of design, why the piscine fascination manifested in the Hook, Line and Sinker range? “We used to go to Cornwall when I was a child and I built a fascination with that side of things,” he explains.

As well as fishes we see insects such as a stag beetle brooch, leaf motifs on pendants and bracelets, even a city scape on a champagne bottle holder. And there are elaborate teapots and clocks.

The Christmas rush over and a hiatus until the season for trade shows in the spring Jim is looking forward “I enjoy having the time to make a design work and then to show people and have them smile.”

Handmade at Christmas continues in the Craft and Design Gallery of the Millennium Gallery until December 29.