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Interview with Jeweller and Starter Studio holder Daisy Lee-Overton

Daisy is a designer and contemporary jeweller who takes inspiration from the intricate greenery and natural landscape of the Peak District where she grew up. Having graduated from The School of Jewellery at Birmingham City University, she is currently developing her practice further through the Jewellery and Silversmithing Starter Studio programme at Yorkshire Artspace.

We chatted with her over a cup of tea about her path to becoming a jeweller, and how Starter Studios has impacted her work.

How did you get started as a jeweller?

I’ve always been into making things and being creative. At school Art was my favourite subject and we used to do craft days with one of our teachers - they were always the best days. So it was always going to be something creative that I went into.

I did Textiles and Art at A Level, and then I went to Chesterfield College and did an Art Foundation. It was really cool and I met some of my best friends there. I specialised in metalworking and my tutor there was really good and engaged with what I was doing. He properly encouraged me and put me in touch with Birmingham School of Jewellery.

So I went to Birmingham, did my degree, finished there and thought, ‘I don’t know if I want to do jewellery again, I’m so sick of it!’. It was all this stress of deadlines and I was like ‘I don’t wanna do this anymore’, so I had a bit of a lull period. But I actually found that I couldn’t stop making and tinkering! It was nice to come away from uni with a bit of space and think ‘what do I want to make?’, and sort of find my feet a bit. My collection now is much more fine jewellery, more commercial than it was when I was while at University.

After graduating, I worked with Green and Benz for a while, and had a showcase of my work with them. As much as I was like ‘I’m sick of jewellery’, I knew that I needed to keep the momentum going. And then I sort of got back into creative things and did quite a lot of bits of work experience. I went to work for Manchester Craft and Design Centre for a bit, so I got the feel for what they did over there, and did some work experience in London.

Then there was a local guy that I knew, Ralph Weston, who set me up with a bench in his workshop, so I was still making during the weekends in his workshop. It was good because I could make my own stuff, but he would also give me some of his castings and things to clean up, so I learnt quite a lot about jobbing jewellery and got better at the manufacturing processes. He had a shop too so I did a bit of selling through there. I found that informed what I’ve done with my collection now- I use a lot of casting processes and things that just make it more cost-effective.

How did you hear about Starter Studios?

It was my other half who said to me, ‘You should do the [Yorkshire Artspace] Starter programme’. So we came to visit during Open Studios that year, and I think we only had an hour to look round. Obviously an hour is not enough to do Open Studios at all. But we came and I was like ‘This place is amazing, it’s got a really nice creative feel to it and the community seems great’.

So when the applications came up I was like, ‘Right I’m gonna apply for this!’, and I came for the interview - Rebecca Joselyn was on the interview panel so I walked in and was like ‘Oh my God!’. She’s now my mentor. She’s brilliant. Really good, very helpful.

It was good because it was at the point where I’d been doing an admin job in an office for two years, and I was saving up to go travelling. I was going to go for 3 months - I’ve always wanted to go travelling, so I think that was why when I finished uni I thought, ‘I don’t really know if jewellery’s where my head is at at the minute’.

So after I’d done the whole travelling thing, I came and started here, and it just felt right because I didn’t have that travel bug any more, I’d had a really good time and I just felt so much more focused and so much more ready to commit to doing this and being on the programme, and having the support from the mentors and everything. The help and business advice along the way has just really pushed me to develop my business. It’s come on loads and I’m doing shows now, and I’ve got commissions coming in. I’m loving it.

You’ve already touched on this, but how has the Starter Studio programme helped you?

There are so many ways that it’s been helpful. Like having a studio space, for starters, that you can make your own, but with other people as well. Although I had a studio space before with Ralph, that was a bit different because it was his space that you would go into and use. So here, it’s nice to have your own space, but with other people who are in the same position as you and starting out as well. There’s just a really supportive atmosphere in here, and we’ve got a really good group of us who all bounce ideas off each other and help one other. Even just coming in and having a cup of tea with people in the mornings kind of gets you going, and if you’re not feeling very motivated it can be really inspiring.

So that community that we’ve got is brilliant, as well as all the amazing equipment. I could never have afforded to have a studio this well-equipped straight away, which has meant I’ve been able to scale up my work as well.

The Sheffield Assay Office support the programme, and they give a commission to two makers each year. This year Fran [Onumah] and I have got it! So that’s been really cool, because of the whole process of applying for that and designing a piece of silverware. I’ve never made any silverware before, so that in itself I wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t been on the programme. Now I’m hoping that’ll develop into a whole collection and I’ll move more into silverware.

The mentors seem particularly well-suited to you...

Yeah, as I said, Rebecca as a mentor has been great. I just get on really well with her and she’s straight-talking, and I can present her my work and talk to her about things that I’m not too sure about, and she kind of voices my thoughts. So when I’m chatting to her I’ll be like, ‘I don’t really know what, but my collection is missing something’, and she’ll say, ‘Yep, you need more statement pieces’. These will be things I knew, but that I needed someone else to tell me for me to realise. She’s been fundamental in pushing my work forwards and getting me to up my game. The programme sort of helps you to realise your dream goals.

Patricia from the Design Trust has been in and done modules with us which we wouldn’t have had access to if we weren’t on the programme, so that’s been brilliant. And then Anita’s been great in helping us with book-keeping and things like that – the business side of things that you just wouldn’t get anywhere else. Especially being a creative, when you get deals on studios you can get access to joining creative groups of people, but to have a creative and a business balance, I think is quite unique to Yorkshire Artspace.

Open Studios as well, is a great event. You have it straight away when you first move in, so it’s really good timing because you’ve got the first month of being here where you need to get ready and then straight away you’ve got a selling event. And then a year on, you do the same thing again and it’s a good point of reflection, where you can see how far you’ve all come in the year since you started.

Thank you Daisy!


Applications are now open for our Starter Studios Programmes – one programme for Silversmiths and Jewellers, and one for Ceramicists. Deadline 10am 29th April 2019. Click here for more details and how to apply.

You can see Daisy's latest pieces, designed as part of 'Precious Little Gems,' an annual commission awarded by Yorkshire Artspace and Sheffield Assay Office on display in Millennium Galleries in May. Both Daisy and Fran will be speaking about this in a free lunchtime talk on May 23rd 1pm-1.45pm.

Open Studios will take place November 16th-17th 2019. Please see our website nearer the time for updates.

All photos courtesy of Daisy Lee-Overton Jewellery