The Holborn’s pop-up event, organised in partnership with The Independents Club, is launching in two weeks and Sally Lees is one of the most intriguing brands to exhibit there. Sally – the crafter behind the brand – uses her traditional jewellery making, printing and metalworking skills to handcrafts beautiful assortment of jewellery for both men and women. She refuses to manufacture her products, firmly believing in using time-honoured techniques instead, and so we can all rest assured that each individual piece made by Sally has received time and attention it deserves. While Sally Leeds sells everything from postcards to intricate earrings, it’s the men’s collections that Sally is going to showcase at the upcoming pop-up event. Cufflinks, tie slides and money clips – there’ll be something to fit everyone’s taste. Read our Q&A with Sally to learn more about the brand’s philosophy and its involvement with The Independents Club.
Could you please tell The Holborn readers a bit more about yourself and your background in jewellery making?
After majoring in Sculpture at Art College in the north of England, I decided to take a course in jewellery making. There, I learnt how to work with silver and titanium. Titanium was a challenge to work with at the start, but I found it very versatile and technically interesting because in normal circumstances it can’t be soldered. So other ways of constructing the jewellery pieces had to be used. I’ve been expanding my skillset as I go along – ‘learning on the job’ – and with each new technique I master a new collection of jewellery is born.
What inspired you to open Sally Lees?
From when I was a child, I wanted to be an ‘artist’. I went through many phases of wanting to be a fashion designer, design textiles for interiors or make three dimensional objects like furniture and lighting. As my art degree was multimedia and multidisciplinary, it gave me the scope to choose which area I wanted to pursue. Although the degree featured ceramics, three dimensional design and textiles for my degree show, I decided I wanted to create figurative sculptures in steel and went to the engineering department to achieve this.
I decided on jewellery making as a business idea because my passion lies with metal, while the discipline encapsulates three dimensional design, small scale metalworking and fashion. Financial help from the Prince’s Trust allowed me to purchase tools and rent a studio in an old mill building in Bradford. I then moved to London’s Cockpit Arts in 2000.
How would you describe Sally Lees’ style? What sort of products and services it has to offer?
I’ve always strived to create a unique brand that offers sophisticated jewellery which is made using both traditional and modern materials. I aim to create pieces that are distinct to the mainstream jewellery on offer. My bespoke service for corporate clients and individuals gives me great pleasure – helping the clients to create items that means something special to them is very satisfying.
You say that your ethos is “to hand make not manufacture”. Why is doing it traditional way so important to you?
Like artisans from the past, I take pride in my work and enjoy making jewellery where the quality of each piece can be clearly seen. Attention to detail is paramount. The marks of a human being on a handcrafted object are incredibly important as they show the affection and love the craftsperson has for the tools, materials and for the finished piece of jewellery itself.
How does your standard day in the studio looks like?
There isn’t a ‘standard’ studio day! Each day is different. Some days are spent drawing new designs for commissions or new collections, while others are spent printing and dying aluminium. Sometimes jewellery has to be photographed and uploaded onto the website, and paperwork has to be done too.
My mornings always start with answering emails and doing social media promotion, accompanied by a cup of coffee and a couple of biscuits! The real work begins in the afternoon when orders from the website have to be made and new collections created – the drawings need to be translated into saleable items. Technical issues have to be worked out when creating new pieces, especially when using aluminium and silver. A brief meeting at the end of the day ensures that the next day runs smoothly.
Please tell us about your involvement in The Independents Club event and what it means to you?!
The Independents Club is an exciting opportunity to get together with a group of like-minded retailers and bounce ideas off each other, as well as meet new clients and shout about the wealth of talent from independent men’s retailers that can be found in the UK.
What attracted you to this event?
It’s important for me to be part of an event that brings together so many talented designers and retailers under one roof, in a really relaxed environment.
What jewellery/accessories are you planning to exhibit there?
Collections at the show include cufflinks, tie slides, money clips and men’s jewellery from my Silver, Gold, and Floral collections, all in addition to cufflinks from my Aluminium and Silver collections – these can be found on my website. I will be launching some new unseen cufflinks and men’s jewellery too.
Where do you see yourself and Sally Lees heading? Any exciting plans for the near future?
Onwards and upwards, with some very exciting news too! I have recently been commissioned to create a collection of jewellery to be launched in conjunction with a large artwork in a prestigious London location, but nothing can be revealed until 7th June 2016. It’s all top secret and I can’t talk about it at the moment, but watch this space!