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Precious Little Gems Commission 2016: Selection Announced!

We are delighted to announce that this year two young silversmiths in the second year of the Starter Studio Programme have been selected to receive the annual ‘Precious Little Gems’ commission from Sheffield Assay Office.

Fenella Watson and Nina Rithalia will be given a budget and materials in order to make a new piece of work which will then be displayed in Museum Sheffield’s Millennium Galleries.

"I am delighted to have been awarded The Sheffield Assay Office Precious Little Gem’s Commission for 2016-17. On the 17th December I presented my designs to a panel of judges at the Assay Office and spoke about the design development and ideas behind my exciting proposal. The three part centre piece which has a dual function of being both a set of vases and candlesticks are able to be moved around the table, rearranged or each act as individual pieces in their own right. The design clearly reflects the style of work that I have been producing so far on the Starter Studio Programme and will allow me to push myself to create a significant piece to go on display at the Millennium Galleries in April 2016." Fenella Watson

The Little Gems commission project was started in 2004 to develop new silversmithing talent in Sheffield and to continue the city’s longstanding tradition of metalworking expertise and creativity. The project gives up-and-coming makers a unique opportunity to see their designs join works made by some of the UK’s leading silversmiths in the city’s nationally significant metalwork collections.

"I will be taking inspiration from the solar system for my commission piece; textured salt and pepper pinch bowls. The golden sun and silver moon bowls will be attached by arms to a large silver, domed base. People can interact with the table centrepiece as the bowls can be moved independently, orbiting around the centre. This is an ambitious, large-scale work for me and I'm really excited to get started on the making process." Nina Rithalia

In 2014, Sheffield Assay Office launched a new award, ‘Precious Little Gems’, marking the beginning of a new collection of fine silverware. In 2016 Precious Little Gems will be shown as part of the Year of Making in the foyer case and then in the Metalwork Gallery at Museums Sheffield. Additional activity under this banner will include special makers talks for the public discussing making processes, plus guided public tours of the Silversmithing Starter Studio at Persistence Works, the Sheffield Assay Office Collection and the Metalwork Gallery at Museums Sheffield.

We look forward to seeing how these artists develop their pieces. The completed work will be on display in the main reception area of Millennium Galleries in Sheffield from April to September 2016.

Additional Background Notes

Museums Sheffield Metalwork Collection has been classed as a Designated Collection by the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) in recognition of its national and historical significance. The collection, which exemplifies the Sheffield’s rich cultural and historical association with the production of metal that dates as far back as the 14th century, is housed in the Millennium Gallery. Comprising over 13,000 pieces it pays tribute to the skill and craftsmanship of past British metalworkers as well as highlighting the most contemporary cutting edge designs by new and emerging talents.

• Little Gems is an annual commission worth £1500 for early career silversmiths who are part of the Starter Studio Programme for Silversmiths and Jewellery at Yorkshire Artspace to design and create new work. These commissions are provided by the Sheffield Assay Office and are displayed for a period of 6 months in the main reception area of Museums Sheffield: Millennium Gallery.

Sheffield Assay Office was licensed to assay silver in 1773 and is one of the four assay offices in the UK. From 1906 changes in the law allowed some its surplus to be spent on providing a collection of books or objects and the Office now has a large specialised library and a magnificent collection of silver, much of it made in Sheffield. The collection numbers more than 1000 items of silver and silver plate, dating right back to 1773 and spanning the centuries right up to the present day. Each year a commission is made to add to the collection, from the most elaborate and ornate historical pieces to the stunning simplicity of the more contemporary pieces, including The Little Gems pieces made by participants of the Starter Studio Programme at Yorkshire Artspace.

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