The creatives of our world often play with alternative mediums to enable their vision to best be expressed. Aishleen Lester is one such creative. Art was something she loved doing from as early as she can remember and initially her medium was sculpture.
“The feel of materials in your hands, looking at the world around you and capturing it visually, it is something that I don’t remember not doing. I have to admit I am not sure of the moment when I thought I would pursue it as a profession as such, I just wanted to carry on exploring the space of art and making art as much as I possibly could.”
After finishing her masters at the Royal Academy of Art in London, she was represented by the Riflemaker Gallery in Soho. They organised a series of shows for her in London and New York, where she collaborated with choreographers to make interactive stage sets, including a commission by Selfridges to make a large installation for their Wonder Windows. This was an exciting time yet, during this process, Aishleen began to feel that she would like to make work on a different scale that existed within everyday life. This resulted in her enrolment on a soldering course, and she came to love the perfect miniature world of jewellery. It was a natural progression from her large scale work to these small, bijoux sculptures that carried a narrative yet could be worn. Her company LeSter therefore became a reality.
This progression from a traditional sculpture background to artisan jewellery raises questions about the place of ‘making’ in society today. It is inevitable that technology has dominated certain crafts and artisan processes however Aishleen feels that there are forms and a feel to crafted goods that you can only get by making things by hand. She likens the process to drawing with pen and ink and then doing the same composition in Photoshop on the computer. They have a different sensibility, for example a Monet painting in the flesh is so much more alive than in a photograph.
Aishleen does feel that we are in danger of losing the ‘art of making’. It’s perceived that making by hand is a time consuming task and therefore difficult on a mass scale. The argument being within jewellery that by knowing how to make by hand you have an invaluable knowledge, an insight to the range of vocabulary and parameters of jewellery design. For Aishleen herself she feels that the jewellery industry has enabled her to unite all of her interests especially in art & literature whilst developing the skills of traditional craftsmanship.
This acknowledgment of the placement of craftsmanship within society feeds through to her jewellery which is very much based around perception and how one sees the world and is placed within it. This exploration began with her sculptures: “I was always concerned with some form of static movement, the physical work to remain still, but a desire for the material and form through the process of seeing, to hum. My installations weaved together an assortment of materials in precarious structures, with their own gravity and logic, exploring the relation between body and space, landscape and the built environment to reveal qualities that through familiarity, go unnoticed.”
Aishleen’s jewellery is also exploring a form of movement, she wants each piece to feel like it is a capturing a moment, which is larger than itself: “Just like when you photograph a firework in full explosion, it is an ephemeral moment. However my jewellery also has a more narrative quality – I often see my pieces as a soft whisper in the ear, reminding the wearer of an empowering message, to inspire a confidence or way of thinking.”
Aishleen sources her narrative first, finding the story or cultural thread that she feels is the core of a piece and strong enough to be elaborated on. These threads often originate from interest in other creative areas, such as painting, music, architecture, sculpture and literature. This is then followed by an organic exploration of sketches, model making and research, the demanding part for Aishleen however is always the process of narrowing down her interests. It’s essential that she simplifies her abundant thoughts into what will become a miniature sculpture. This balance is key to the success of her jewellery, they become something that speak for themselves but at the same time amplify Aishleen’s initial idea.
Aishleen’s finished objects are made from precious metals, silver, gold or platinum. Her favourite being yellow gold, which she says has a genuine warmth of colour and she loves that it can be traced back to the Egyptian times. She does not however have a favourite gemstone, being instead drawn to all colours, thinking of the gemstones as a form of watercolour painting, with subtle plays of light.
The core aim for Aishleen is to make pieces that will stand the test of time and pass from one generation to another. She agrees with Vivienne Westwood’s statement, “buy less, choose well and make it last” and she also believes in celebrating the individuality and creativity that exists within each of us. Testament to this is a new advertising campaign for LeSter Spring Summer 2018 where she is showcasing her jewellery alongside inspiring women that are not necessarily “famous” per se, but are doing incredible things.
“I think that the media sometimes overlook these women, the amazing people that exist in the everyday and do fantastic things to help our society. I do feel strongly that they should be the role models for the young.” Aishleen is herself inspired by strong, powerful women that have a creative sensitivity. As an idol she would love to see one of her pieces worn by the writer Zadie Smith, who Aishleen feels has an incredibly ability to speak and write with fluidity, despite her claims that she has a chaotic mind. But equally as exciting for Aishleen would be to pass a stranger, confidently walking down the street, laughing and wearing her “Zadie” ring.
So what’s next for this exciting artisan jeweller? Her dream for her creative practice is to continue to remain curious, to continue to grow, to continue to see the world with a fresh pair of eyes. She will always carry the mantra of Maya Angelou who said “Do the best you can until you know better, then when you know better….do better!”.
And on a practical note she will be exhibiting in a number of fairs including “Handmade in Britain” Oxford, and she is excited to be hosting the LeSter Summer Party in June 2018, where she will be showcasing “Light through the Grey”. This is a collection that combines the graphics of pop art with the natural explosion of a firework:
“Glimmering reminders of a woman’s own inherent power. Be bold, light up the skies..!” Which, in fact, perfectly sums up the passion and creative energy of Aishleen herself.