Home Interviews Meet British jeweller Diane Lee from SilverHares
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Meet British jeweller Diane Lee from SilverHares

by Camilla

Meet the Maker: Diane Lee from SilverHares

British jeweller Diane Lee from SilverHares started making jewellery as an antidote to her job as a designer of mass-produced garden planters. The jewellery she now creates could hardly be further away from the factory line. It is detailed, intricate and considered. We caught up with Diane to find out more about her inspirations, her studio and her beautiful handmade jewellery.

Can you introduce yourself and describe what you do?
I’m Diane Lee and I’m a traditional metalsmith jewellery maker. I use traditional metalsmithing skills, mixing silver, copper, and minerals, as well as Murano and artisan glass, to create forms and ornament inspired by nature and narratives.
silverhares, diane lee, handmade jewellery, jewellery, british jeweller

I use traditional metalsmithing skills to create forms and ornament inspired by nature and narratives.

Have you always been creative?
Yes, I have. At home my mother would keep my sister and me entertained by drawing, colouring in and making – it kept us from getting into mischief. I always worked small, with tiny detailed drawings and models (and was constantly told off at school for it). I sometimes wonder if this was because art materials were a limited resource and we assumed once something was used up, it would be gone forever.

silverhares, diane lee, handmade jewellery, jewellery, british jeweller

I started making the jewellery as a response to the restrictions of working as a production designer for a company selling mass-produced planters and baskets

How did your jewellery business start?
I used to work for a company as a production designer for mass-produced planters and baskets. I would design the products, present them to supermarket buyers and, once accepted, our company would manufacture a production run of maybe 100,00 of each item. It was all about using the cheapest possible product to make the most profit. Design by accountants!

I started making the jewellery as a response to these restrictions. I just wanted to work with beautiful materials and allow myself the necessity of creative freedom. People started to buy the pieces I made and when I found myself unexpectedly redundant, I took the first indulgent career decision of my life: to risk working for myself.

silverhares, diane lee, handmade jewellery, jewellery, british jeweller

As I work with a jeweller’s torch there is a point when all the heat is balanced in a piece of metal, and the solder suddenly flows like a silver river – and you know the piece will become whole. It’s almost meditative.

Does your experience in garden design feed into your jewellery?
The patterns and rhythms of mixing beads and metals are very similar to the patterns within a flower border or garden. You mix, complement, contrast, and don’t reveal everything at first glance – just on a smaller scale.

How would you describe your aesthetic?
I try to create jewellery that is more than ‘pretty ornament’. It has significance to the owner and is interwoven with stories known to the wearer, hidden to the viewer. It’s jewellery, it’s pretty, but it carries a story, tenacity and strength.
silverhares, diane lee, handmade jewellery, jewellery, british jeweller

I try to create jewellery that is more than ‘pretty ornament’. It has significance to the owner and is interwoven with stories known to the wearer, hidden to the viewer.

What or who inspires you?
I’m inspired by the small makers who go in their own direction. I love the way Folksy allows me to find other creatives, working in different mediums – the illustrators and ceramicists especially. I love the concept of individuals working away in their own studios all over the world. This weekend I met a man who makes some of the beads I use – in his own little studio, tucked away, and making the most beautiful glass and gold beads.

silverhares, diane lee, handmade jewellery, jewellery, british jeweller

I’m really lucky to have my own indoor studio (the people who had the house before us called it the ‘dining room’ but now it’s the ‘studio’).

Where do you work?
I’m really lucky to have my own indoor studio (the people who had the house before us called it the ‘dining room’ but now it’s the ‘studio’). It’s warm and almost large enough (and there is a drawer in my bench just for chocolate). My bench is in the window because I’m completely obsessed with light, and customers coming to the studio are discouraged from visiting in the afternoon when the light is best for working.

silverhares, diane lee, handmade jewellery, jewellery, british jeweller

Let’s be honest here, my studio is a mess, with stuff everywhere, although my hot working area is always clear and tidy.

Does where you live and work influence your jewellery?
I live in beautiful East Yorkshire at the foot of the Wolds. The trees, landscape and natural forms appear constantly in my jewellery. I’m a proper country girl and and I’m never more at home than in a meadow or wood watching the bees and hares.

silverhares, diane lee, handmade jewellery, jewellery, british jeweller

I have a sketchbook for the initial designs and development, then I will draw it as a paper pattern and make a copper sample piece.

Can you talk us through your making process?
It’s often a story or event that sparks the idea for a piece. I have a sketchbook for the initial designs and development, then I will draw it as a paper pattern and make a copper sample piece. Once any issues have been resolved (and I’ve checked it’s wearable as it needs to be comfortable), I then move on to making in silver. Texturing, sawing, hammering and forming are followed by cleaning, soldering, quenching and pickling, more cleaning, sanding, polishing and yet more cleaning, and then it’s off to the Assay Office for a hallmark. After a final clean and polish, the piece is ready to be photographed and packed. No wonder I need the chocolate!

silverhares, diane lee, handmade jewellery, jewellery, british jeweller

My studio is warm and almost large enough (and there is a drawer in my bench just for chocolate).

What do you love most about making jewellery?
As I work with a jeweller’s torch there is a point when all the heat is balanced in a piece of metal, and the solder suddenly flows like a silver river – and you know the piece will become whole. It’s almost meditative.

silverhares, diane lee, handmade jewellery, jewellery, british jeweller

The patterns and rhythms of mixing beads and metals are very similar to the patterns within a flower border or garden. You mix, complement, contrast, and don’t reveal everything at first glance.

You also host workshops and jewellery-making parties for children. Can you tell us more about those?
The workshops are great fun. I take a small group of people who have usually never even picked up a saw or hammer and take them through all the processes involved in making a silver ring or pendant. At the beginning of the day they stand uncertainly in the strange environment of the studio, and by the end of the day they’re relaxed and confident with a piece of unique handmade silver jewellery. I can almost see them fluffing their feathers.

The children’s jewellery-making parties started as a way to make sure I had an income during the ‘interesting times’, and now I do them as an indulgence to myself. What could be more fun than a group of little girls (or ladies) with masses of boxes of brightly coloured beads. There are giggles spills and cheerful creations!

hen watercolour painting

My perfect day would have really early start, letting the hens out and collecting the eggs, followed by a walk in the Yorkshire Dales.

What’s the best thing about being creative for a living?
An extensive hammer collection, comfortable footwear and most importantly your own workshop. Imagine that! Your own workspace full of tools and materials just waiting to be explored.

silverhares

If you weren’t a maker, what would you be?
Completely unbearable to be around.

How does it feel to be part of the UK craft scene?
It’s very welcoming. But we have a responsibility to uphold the values and practices associated with the original meaning of the work. Craft practitioners are part of a growth movement and we need to educate our audience, and uphold the traditional values of growth, improvement and originality.

silverhares, diane lee, handmade jewellery, jewellery, british jeweller

Do what you are good at but practice and grow. Don’t be afraid to rework or discard work. Never copy. Go your own way and make with passion.

What would you say to someone thinking about selling their work?
Do what you are good at but practice and grow. Don’t be afraid to rework or discard work. Never copy. Go your own way and make with passion. Don’t try to guess what will sell, if you make with integrity, your audience will find you.

What does craft mean to you?
The creation of an item with skill, integrity and pleasure, resulting in an object satisfying in its use and very existence.

silverhares, diane lee, handmade jewellery, jewellery, british jeweller

Don’t try to guess what will sell, if you make with integrity, your audience will find you.

How would you spend your perfect day?
My perfect day would have really early start, letting the hens out and collecting the eggs, followed by a walk in the Yorkshire Dales with my lovely hubby and cheerful teenage twins. Lunch would be cooked by someone else (I burn food… a lot) and the afternoon would be spent in a sun-filled studio with a big porcelain cup of Bari White Earl Grey Tea, a talking book, a sheet of silver and my trusty saw. Family, fresh air and the job I love. Perfect.

silverhares, diane lee, handmade jewellery, jewellery, british jeweller

See more original handmade jewellery by Diane Lee in the SilverHares shop >

You can get 15% off all Silverhares jewellery with the code SilverHares if you order before midnight on Sunday 15th May 2016

 

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