Saturday, 4 March 2017

The Braw and The Brave Meet....Christina Rose Leon

Meet Christina Rose Leon a Glasgow-based jeweller. Specialising in stone setting and enamelling, Christina works closely with each client to create a beautifully bespoke piece of jewellery that will be treasured for a lifetime. From engagement rings to diamond encrusted pendants, Christina is sensitive to the sentimentality of gifting and receiving a something that is not only handcrafted but totally unique and this is evident in her impeccable customer service, as well as the time and effort spent behind the scenes to ensure she produces the perfect piece. For Christina it's all about the client and the vision they are entrusting her to bring to life on their behalf.

Attending evening classes in jewellery making aged 20 was the defining light bulb moment Christina had sought after. "On the first night I made an ugly copper ring. On the bus home I couldn't stop looking at it. I was in awe of this thing I had just made". Whilst she recalls those around her being intimated by the materials and the tools in the workshop, Christina felt instantly at home, confident to just get stuck in and give it a go. Leaving school, unsure of the career path she wanted to take, Christina had been temping in offices and dabbling in photography, trying to gain some experience in the world of work. "I'd recommend this to anyone. It made me more confident. Going straight from school into further education can be difficult for some as staying self motivated and sticking to deadlines can be challenging. Getting paid for something made me realise that my time was worth something and that made me want to work harder"

Showing a real passion for jewellery from a young age, Christina was fascinated with cleaning and inspecting her child-minder's rings as a kid and obsessing over a jewellery box filled with the intricate 'treasure' she had been gifted by a relative. Growing up she had great interest in how things were crafted and could be found dreaming up all sorts of creations."I've always been good at making stuff but never thought I was that creative. I am a passionate maker"It is an understanding of where her strengths lie that has led Christina to carve out a very successful career. She gets real satisfaction in designing bespoke, one-off pieces for her clients where she is able to breathe life into their ideas. Through her ability to extract all information and inspiration they can offer, problem solving her way through a brief brings Christina to the final design. 

Graduating in 2009 in bench making skills, Christina worked as a freelance jeweller for many years, keeping close links with her college by attending open classes regularly. When her lecturers a few years ago suggested she return to study computer aided design she admits she was rather reluctant at first. Having had no experience in using this kind of software, she realised that the year-long honours course would be somewhat intensive but a worthwhile endeavour. " The first day we were given an image of a ring and told we had less than a week to prepare a 10 minute presentation on how you would make it on CAD. I was studying alongside others who had been using it for 3 years and I had to learn it from scratch!". 4am rises and 16 hour days saw her immerse herself in her studies, determined not to fail at something she was completely new to. Persuading the college to allow her to concentrate solely on stone setting briefs, she was able to make sense of all the skills she was gaining through re-teaching a fellow novice student what she was learning on a daily basis. This is something that was of real benefit to her studies and she now continues to support other jewellers by offering one to one sessions to assist them in their work. 

The creative process can be lengthy with great attention to detail being bestowed on each piece of jewellery commissioned.  It can be months in the making from idea to the finished article being in the owner's possession. As well as the design concerns, it is in Christina's interest to present her clients with all the options within (and sometimes out-with) their budget parameters. Becoming a mind reader and working off of her intuition, it becomes a process of elimination with her presenting a few options based on the information initially given, to eventually narrow it down to the design and materials that fit perfectly. "Some people have no idea what they want but in chatting with them, likes and dislikes they didn't even know they had can be revealed.". The indicisiveness and uncertainty that inivitably comes with trying to extract and pinpoint what it is a client actually wants can add to the challenge of defining the exact details. Armed with everything she has collected, Christina gets to work on each commission liaising with the client throughout the process but has, over the years, learned not to be self critical of what she knows to be her most productive way of working. "I used to lie about when I got up. I now know that I work better at certain times. I'm confident to say what works for me and I won't apologise for it". Quite often having to put her own preferences aside, the journey is entirely client-centred. However working on a something for such a long time Christina admits "I always end up loving it in the end! I know every single bit of that piece of jewellery and you've been handling it for so long that you do become attached".

Realising the importance of being social media savvy is something Christina has always been switched on to. A successful Youtuber and former Dailybooth creative, her love of interacting with like-minded creatives on-line has served her well in promoting her business as a jeweller. "I am on so many social media creative groups as I like to bounce ideas off others. Nowadays it's such an integral part of your business, compared to 6 or 7 years ago". Scheduling in time to promote her work online, as well as catching up on what others are doing in the industry is part of her working week. As a freelance artist Christina not only finds it imperative to stay connected from a business point of view but as a creative, collaborating and sharing ideas helps to keep her motivated and inspired.  Clients' testimonials and their publicity of her work assist in securing that next commission, with the real highlights being in those "she loved it!" emails. 

Christina is invested in every single piece of jewellery she lovingly produces, greatly valuing her client's decision to select her to be their jeweller. The rewards outweigh any of the challenges presented and she is highly motivated by the story and the people behind each and every piece. I was very lucky to be gifted a bespoke ring designed and made by Christina and it's something I cherish dearly. You are made to feel very special when something has been painstakingly produced with you at the heart of every decision made and Christina's exceptional craftsmanship and creativity makes that dream a reality. Christina is a people person and it is her friendly, approachable, professional manner, married with her undeniable talent that makes her exceptional in her field. 

If you could have an unlimited amount of something, what would it be?
"I really want to say sleep. I love a cat nap! Oh, tea too!"

Who dresses like a badass?
"The whole of France! I've always watched French movies and I love how the women manage to look so effortlessly fabulous! I've never been one to follow fashion trends or celebrity style"

Biggest pet peeve?
"People not following the rules. I recently was on a tour of the City Hall in Belfast and the guide asked everyone to stick together and the amount of people that wandered off and then we had to wait on them. When people are late for things it stresses me out too" 

Hidden talent?
"I can hoola-hoop for 2 hours and 10 minutes! I was doing a Youtube video during the Olympics and discovered that I could just keep going!"

Favourite smell?
"I have a candle that smells exactly like these little jelly sweets from when I was a kid. I used to get them on top of milkshakes that my dad took me to get. I cherish that smell as it takes me back to such a nice time" 





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