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Accessorise with architecture

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Last minute Christmas present idea emerges courtesy of Ashmolean exhibition

If you consider a snow-globe to be tourist tat, and yet you’re tempted by a souvenir of your favourite building, Vicki Ambery-Smith’s collection of miniature landmarks in gold and silver should be of interest.

Ambery-Smith is a silversmith who creates miniature replicas of buildings around the world in jewellery, cufflinks, brooches, Christmas tree decorations, salt and pepper shakers, boxes and stand-alone sculptures.

Her first exhibition is currently on at the Ashmolean in Oxford where Ambery-Smith grew up. The main piece in the Ashmolean exhibition is a sterling silver miniature box of the city’s Sheldonian Theatre, created to commemorate its 350 year anniversary.

This piece took around five months to complete as the process is one of folding, etching and sculpting and the detail is very fine. The arcade and the upper storey have been plated in yellow gold and oxidised silver, and the cupola has been highlighted with enamel to represent oxidised copper. The inside of the box is the photo-etched interior of the theatre.

Other pieces in the exhibition include an 18 carat gold brooch of the Radcliffe Camera with a cut away section revealing the interior, a silver box of Magdalen College Tower, detailed to the extent of crockets and mullioned windows, and the ‘Oxford Ring’, which includes all three buildings and a few others too.

However detailed Ambery-Smith’s work, she maintains that it is not supposed to be a representation, but ‘a more personal interpretation of the character of a building.’ She is particularly drawn to Romanesque and Renaissance architecture for its structural clarity and she is increasingly designing modern buildings such as the Shard and the Guggenheim in Bilbao.

Her work is selling in various museum shops around the country, including the Ashmolean, the Sir John Soane Museum in London, the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich and the Polka Gallery in Exeter. These could be the perfect (albeit pricey) Christmas present.

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