Anna de Ville was born in Nottingham and educated at Nottingham Girls High School. She moved to Birmingham to train as a teacher. After teaching in infant schools in the Black Country for several years she left to have a family. During her time at home looking after children she did a variety of jobs including printmaking, chimney sweeping, making and selling bread and playing in a baroque trio.
An inspiring silversmithing evening class prompted her to set up a bedroom workshop where she made spoons and jewellery with a few simple hand tools. A chance meeting with a designer/maker at the Midland Arts Centre encouraged her to think of setting up in business. She started showing her work with Design Gap at trade fairs and in 1993 she moved into a shared workshop in the heart of the Birmingham Jewellery Quarter. To someone who is essentially self taught, the help and encouragement of other designer/makers in the Quarter has been invaluable and tools and materials are just round the corner.
Anna’s work has many echoes of her printmaking past. She loves the dramatic black and white “wood cut” look and her jewellery is distinctive in its use of contrasting oxidised and polished silver. The shape of the piece is sawn from a sheet of silver and the design built up a layer at a time. The areas to be applied are cut out with very sharp snips and then soldered into place. The last details are made with fine silver wire. The background is engraved to enrich the texture before oxidising and the foreground is polished with a selection of mops and brushes.
Anna takes her inspiration from the natural world. She has a special affection for birds and enjoys doing “portraits” as one off commissions and limited editions. She regularly shows her bird jewellery at the Britsh Birdwatching Fair at Rutland Water.
Anna sells her work throughout the British Isles as well as Japan and Germany. Her work is held in several private collections and has been worn on television. Anna is a founder member of Centrepiece, a group of Birmingham designer/makers dedicated to the promotion of contemporary jewellery in all its variety.
“Over the last few years I have been exploring the design possibilities of some of our native birds, trying to capture their character and distinctive plumage in oxidised and polished silver.
Making a bird work as a satisfying design and be a wearable piece of jewellery can be a challenge and sometimes customers ask you to make extraordinary things which sets you off in a different direction. Last summer, volunteers from the Bat Conservation stand at the British Birdwatchers Fair looked at my display of work and asked “Why no bats?” This spring I thought “Why not?” and started to draw. We do have bats flitting at the bottom of our garden on warm evenings but no more than a fleeting glimpse, so I did some research. I looked at the way the Chinese depict bats (too stylised). I looked at Medieval wood carving and manuscript paintings ( too much like rats with wings). I also looked at bat jewellery in Whitby and decided very quickly to steer well clear anything too gothic. I studied hundreds of photos on the internet to try and understand their physiology. At last, in desperation, I contacted our local bat group and was invited to meet some pipistrelle bats that were being cared for prior to release when the weather was suitable. I was quite anxious as it seemed my last chance to get a handle on this elusive animal. But when I met the bats themselves I was overwhelmed. I was enchanted. I fell in love. They are so so small, so light, so warm to the touch, so delicate and perfect for what they do. Hard to do in silver I admit but I have tried. I hope you like them.”