My journey into jewellery started 8 years ago – I was working in Advertising, but knew I wanted to be more creative, focus on design and work with my hands, however I was a bit scared to take the leap into a completely new field. That fear was replaced with bloody-mindedness and determination when I lost two close family members in short succession. It made me realise how short life is, so I put myself on a new path of making and designing jewellery.
I spent four years retraining and studying whilst working my old job part-time, then got a lucky break - an apprenticeship for a year with two of Hatton Garden's finest jewellers, this taught me some killer skills and honed my design style, so I launched Lee Renee in July 2012 and although starting a business isn't easy, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done – Renee is my middle name and means ‘rebirth’ so thought it was a perfect fit for my new adventure.
When not in the studio, I can be found exploring Hampstead Heath and rambling through the countryside (with a pub stop-off or two) - and in June I’m getting my first dog, an Australian Labradoodle puppy called Ted, I’m beyond excited!
Lee Preston – Jewellery Designer/Maker
"Renee is my middle name and means ‘rebirth’ so thought it was a perfect fit for my new adventure"
Born and raised in Bermuda, within an artistic family, creating things has always been a passion of mine. It was and is a way for me to clear my mind and focus on the task in front of me, making life simpler for a moment. When I finished high school I was given the life- changing opportunity of sailing around the world on a three masted tallship: S/V Concordia. I spent a year sailing across the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Ocean - this was a huge inspiration for my future work.
I attended Nova Scotia School of Art and Design, where I fell in love with jewellery making, fuelling my passion for creativity, and conveying my love for sailing and history. It is my hope one day to have my own workshop and continue to make jewellery for people from all walks of life.
Q: Describe the place you have found the most inspiration.
A: It would be aboard a sailing vessel. The sound of the wind whistling through the rigging, the gentle rocking through the waves, and the soft trickling sound of the water passing over the haul…it’s all magical and calming for me.
Q: If you could design pieces in only one material, what would it be? A: Gold, being the most ductile and malleable metal in the world, the possibilities you can achieve with this material is almost limitless. Along with the ability to alter the colour through alloys and it being non bio degradable. Any work you produce will last a life time and beyond.
Josh Emmerson - Jeweller/Silversmith
Jo Good – Apprentice Silversmith
I joined the team after answering a personal ad for Lee's old jeweller's bench. It was destiny!
Having worked for twenty years as a radio and TV presenter I decided to take a leap back into working with my hands and learned my trade with a top fashion jeweller friend who I met when we both worked for MTV. I can still be found in radio studios as well as jewellery studios. I currently present weekend shows on national digital station Radio X. I am also in the latter stages of writing a book about my years in radio that I hope will become a manual for other girls who are just starting out.
Jo is married to an Art Director and artist called Pilar and they live in Hackney with their furry feline The Great Catsby.
Q. What exciting plans – personally or professionally – do you have on thehorizon? A. This whole transitional phase is so exciting for me. I am working hard to find a way to live a simpler but more creative life which currently means working lots of different jobs and training hard. But I am an absolute nerd about jewellery (and vintage fashion) so every day in the Renee studio is a joy. I am learning so much.
Q. Where is your favourite place in London at the moment? A. Currently we're enjoying cycling all over East London and last weekend we popped to Stepney Farm so that I could hang out with some animals. I'm a country kid so I miss them. It's wonderful there, especially on a sunny day, and they sell delicious eggs laid by their rescued hens - saved from the horrors of battery farming.
Q. What brought you into the jewellery crafting world? A. I have been fascinated by crystals and semi-precious stones all my life and have grown up rifling through charity shops, thrift stores and vintage places. I always wanted to learn the craft properly but never had the time in between radio shows. I was finally given an opportunity by an old MTV buddy who had become a jeweller himself and it was on an afternoon kicking around in Hatton Garden with him that I saw the Ad for Lee's old bench (which I now have at home). The rest, as they say... is yet to be written! [/bs_col]
Frances Stacey, Intern/Assistant
I’m Frances, I currently study Fashion Journalism at the University for Creative Arts in Epsom and I’m loving every minute of it, it’s perfect for me as I’m obsessed with new trends and the latest catwalk shows, so now I get to eat, sleep and talk fashion every day.
When I’m not working you can find me front row at gigs in Shoreditch, beer in hand and singing every song word for word! I love the summer time, ready for festivals, travelling and of course improving my tan.
Q. What makes fashion journalism different to any other type of writing? A. I was once told that I possess much too much of a vivid imagination for my own good! So being the rebel that I am, I wanted to find a career area that relied upon excess of imagination and creativity. Fashion journalism is a skill that sets itself aside from other genres of writing - people need to feel like they’ve been immersed in a whole new world of art when reading about designs and inspired trends, and that’s something that you have to learn to master in fashion journalism.
Q. If you could choose now, where do you see yourself in ten years’ time? A. I’d love to be running my own small, independent zine. I’m a massive fan of urban London style influences and retro aesthetics so would probably focus lots of my fashion content on that. I also love the ins and outs of London nightlife, especially the Drag Scene, so could definitely picture a Drag Queen taking centerfold!
Believe it or not, I’m legitimately Dr Barnes and I was a practising junior doctor in good ol’ Yorkshire until just a few months ago.
It wasn’t the controversial new contract that put me off but unfortunately realising how unwell I was with my mental health. A long story made short –applying to intern with Lee Renee was a complete punt, I definitely didn’t expect to be blogging from home for an awesome London designer!
Since starting with Lee Renee, we have grown the blog to be something that we’re really proud of. I love the fact that it embraces a creative side that having depression has actually emphasised. Being a big feminist, the attitude of intelligent women making and wearing beautiful and quirky designs suits me to a tee.
Working from home has allowed me to fulfil a lifelong dream and get my own dog, Poppy – so I’ve made the mistakes and can advise Lee before Ted the puppy arrives! I’m continuing on a journey to recovering from depression. These days I’m more open about the black dog and it has inspired a blog of its own, mytwoblackdogs.com.
Q. Where are you happiest in the world?
A. I live about 5 minutes drive from the Peak District and love being in cosy pubs or gorgeous beer gardens overlooking reservoirs and hills. Or take me to any beer festival - I love real ale and will chat about it all day long!
Failing the above, some family or friends around a table for my other half's amazing cooking and then playing board games to the wee hours - simple pleasures.