Q&A: Aishleen Lester

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Aishleen Lester is an emerging new talent in the jewellery industry, having founded her new business in 2016 after coming to jewellery design at Kensington & Chelsea College through evening classes.

She is a well reputed fine artist in her own right, known for large scale, sculptural installations who’s work is held in private collections and has previously exhibited in the Riflemaker and Nyehaus galleries.

Trained at Wimbledon School of Art and the Royal Academy Schools, she built up her jewellery industry credentials by working with the likes of Shaun Leane and Paul Raven before venturing out on her own establishing the label Le Ster.

What’s your name, and what do you for a living?

Aishleen Lester. Founder and designer at LeSter Jewellery.

How did you come to work in the jewellery industry?

My arrival to the jewellery industry has been somewhat unconventional. I trained initially in fine art, gaining a Masters from The Royal Academy. Following this; I was represented by the Riflemaker Gallery in Soho producing large-scale installations and was delighted to have the opportunity to exhibit in both London and New York.

I was also commissioned by Selfridges to create dynamic, iconic window displays as part of Wonder Windows as well as various collaborations with choreographers to make stage sets. I thoroughly enjoyed watching another art form rebound of my own, a perpetual cycle of shared creativity.

Having always been fascinated with the world of jewellery, I enrolled on an evening course at Kensington & Chelsea College. I wanted to explore work of a different scale and also test my own abilities in other fields. This miniature world was in such vast contrast to my field of existing expertise so I really had to immerse myself  in both research and practice. I later interned at Shaun Leane’s workshop for over a year and worked with those that were able to teach me the rudiments of diamond mounting and metal work.

I have worked for a few smaller brands since whilst simultaneously making bespoke pieces for clients.

It was in 2017 that I launched my first collection, “Light Through the Grey” which combines Pop Art graphics with a firework boom, creating miniature explosions of colour and light. 

How would you describe your work to someone who doesn’t know it?

Contemporary, dynamic and unique. The collection draws on artistic narratives that celebrate individuality. The aim is for the collection to act as glimmering reminders of a woman’s own inherent power. Be bold, light up the skies. 

What is your creative process?

I always source my narrative first, finding the story or cultural thread that  I want to elaborate on or expose. I draw these threads of interest from other creative exploits 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 me is always narrowing down my interests and simplifying an abundant school of thought into what becomes a miniature sculpture- something that speaks for itself but amplifies the initial idea. 

Where do you love to shop?

I am a firm believer in supporting rising brands as well as established entities. Discovering unique, independent brands is far more exciting than mimicking the latest fads. I prefer to invest in statement pieces that are from an ultimately creative source. I remember reading once about how Frida Kahlo would choose her adornments with such thought, relishing in entertaining her guests with the stories and journeys behind each piece. This is certainly something I can relate to.

Also there is nothing I love more than getting lost in Brighton’s North Lanes; a mecca for the creative buyer and jewellery enthusiast.

What is your inspiration?

As I touched on before I am consistently inspired by the arts as a whole, drawing on all aspects of art, music and literature. It is a narrative that I am hunting, where that comes from can be from any of these sectors. I am also heavily influenced by conversation and the discussions going on around me. Sharing your thoughts and bouncing ideas around is such vital part of the creative process for me. It is imperative to keep inspiring company! 

What piece of jewellery do you most treasure?

I think like most people; the jewellery I wear every day tends to carry heavy sentiment. I like to team the gold pendent I was given by my parents as a teenager with my latest bold designs. I enjoy the concept that my jewellery may go on to hold these lasting stories within them. 

What piece of jewellery do you most desire?

I love the work of Nicholas Varney, in particular his Sunflower brooch which features tourmalines, diamonds and moonstones. His intensely delicate approach is stunning!

Is there a seminal book or a favourite read that you have?

The novels by Zadie Smith are wonderful, a particular favourite of mine is “On Beauty”. As a writer she has an incredible ability to speak and write with such fluidity despite her claims that she has a chaotic mind.  

Is there a particular tune, song or soundtrack to your life?

I love music, and it is the thing that accompanies me most of the time when I am working. However I would have to say Joni Mitchell’s, “Blue” album has remained on my list of favourites for sometime.

If you could only be remembered for one thing in your working life, what would it be?

I hope I haven’t made it yet. I am sure you can tell it is important to me to have a perpetual narrative. I hope I am in the process of weaving the words that will lead me to create this monumental piece. I am also continually striving to do better, learning and developing my skills as my company grows. I think it was Maya Angelou who said “Do the best you can until you know better, then when you know better…Do better!” That sounds just perfect to me.

In terms of a significant piece so far: The ring ‘1000 Autumns’ was a game changer. In 2016 the piece got shortlisted for the Benchpeg Innovation in Jewellery Award, which gave me the confidence to launch my first collection.

What would be your advice to someone starting out in the industry?

Be prepared to work hard and always be ready to learn. Work for the best people that you can, they will give you a strong foundation within the industry. Be patient. If you want to make your own work, be clear on how you want your customer to feel when they wear it, knowing this will give your work real integrity. Also enjoy it, throw yourself into the research and fall in love with your own creative process.  

The Benchpeg Proust Q&A

  1. What’s your favourite work of art?

    As a huge art enthusiast this is naturally a difficult question. However two images spring to mind in the first instance: “Abundance” by Francesca Lowe and “Atomised” by Liane Lang. The work of both artists is fantastic but they also are both inspiring as people with a fascinating approach to their creative output.

    www.francescalowe.com & www.lianelang.com

  2. Who from past or present would you invite to a dinner party for the evening?
    I am massively inspired by the strong, powerful women that also have a creative sensitivity. In a dream scenario the artist Georgia O’Keeffe, the musician Jacqueline Du Pre and the writers Maya Angelou and Zadie Smith would all have a seat. I have named several of my collection after these incredible women and strongly urge everyone to familiarize themselves with their work.

  3. Do you have any pets, if yes, what is their name?
    I don’t have any pets myself but both my sister and my parents have dogs… we are a very close family so I am the go-to sitter for Otis the Shnug and Albert the Schnauzer, and I am besotted with both of them.

  4. What is your most treasured possession?
    Clichéd perhaps but honestly, my family and friends – I have an incredible support network  around me for which I am eternally grateful. 

  5. What would you consider a perfect day?
    Sunshine and lots of it, great company and feasting on the many cultural wonders that this phenomenal city [London] has to offer. It would also include a creative unleashing of some kind and maybe something physical. A fairly multifaceted day but that’s how I like it.

  6. Is there a favourite journey, trip or voyage you hold dear?
    A few years ago I worked for a jeweller in India, Mumbai and Jaipur for a few months, a special time, a steep learning curve and lots of adventure. 

  7. What is your greatest achievement?

    I think making a relatively smooth transition from the art world into jewellery. It was of course full of steep learning curves and leaps into the unknown but I did it. Starting again is always challenging but staying focused on what you ultimately want will always be the thread that pulls you through.

    Joining the jewellery industry has enabled me to unite all of my interests in art, literature, tradition and craftsmanship. It has enabled me to be a small part of the everyday life of my clients and that unity is definitely something that appeals.

  8. What advice would tell your younger self?
    Don’t spend too much time worrying and just get on with it; procrastination doesn’t really solve anything but action does. Be fearless but aware and courageous in your hopes both personally and professionally.

  9. Can you sum yourself up in one word?
    “Curious” And I aim to remain so forever. An unwavering curiosity will ensure I continue to explore new avenues and adventures which will ultimately be reflected in my designs.

  10. What motto do you live by?

    Work hard, always be prepared to learn and as my very dear art teacher, Sue Stanway says, everything can be “do-able by you-able” even if at first it seems impossible. 


Rebecca van Rooijen


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