Designer Sally Lees.

A Bradford College graduate is celebrating 20 years in business with a commission for the Houses of Parliament which is also on display in Bradford’s Cartwright Hall

Designer Sally Lees has created a suffragette jewellery collection to mark 100 years of some women being given the right to vote.

Sally, who completed an art and design degree at the college in 1993 then set up her business in the city, was asked to produce her ‘New Dawn’ suffragette jewellery for the Vote 100 exhibition at Westminster Hall.

The handmade earrings, necklaces and brooches feature disks designed to reflect Parliamentary scrolls onto which Acts of Parliament are written – including the 1918 Representation of the People Act which allowed some women, and all men, to vote for the first time. The jewellery uses colours that were used by the women’s suffrage movement. The suffrage colours were said to represent the core values of the movement with purple standing for dignity and loyalty, white for purity and green for hope.

The jewellery is currently featured in the Vote 100 – Suffragettes and Propaganda exhibition at Cartwright Hall Art Gallery, in addition to being available to buy in the gift shop.

Originally from the East Midlands, Sally moved to Bradford in 1990 to study for a BA (Hons) degree in Art and Design. Completing the course in 1993, she stayed on in the city and launched her own business in 1998, in Bradford’s Quebec Street Studios. She later moved to Woolston House in Tetley Street before relocating to London in 2000, where she has a studio at the award-winning Cockpit Arts centre.

She was first commissioned by the Houses of Parliament in 2016 to create a collection of jewellery to accompany the ‘New Dawn’ light sculpture by artist Mary Branson installed in Westminster that year.

She said: “One objective of the commission was to create a collection of jewellery that echoed the shapes, imagery and colours of the artwork. Mary had used the colours of all of the suffrage organisations in the artwork so the jewellery was designed to show off combinations of the colours including red, yellow and blue in addition to the most universally recognised purple, green and white of the militant Women’s Political and Social Union.

“The main imagery for the jewellery were the scrolls onto which the Parliamentary Acts are written. This is the main imagery that the glass disks on the New Dawn light sculpture are created to look like.

“As I work mainly in anodised aluminium, which is a fairly new material, I was able to create a collection that was wearable, lightweight and inexpensive. This meant that the pieces could be bought as a souvenir by visitors coming to see the ‘New Dawn’ installation at The Houses of Parliament.”

The designer is thrilled her jewellery is on show at Cartwright Hall Art Gallery, seeing it as a return to the city where her career began.

She added: “Bradford College was instrumental in my career as a jeweller and crafts person and it would be great to think I could be an inspiration for students there now of what can be achieved after completing their studies.”

The Vote 100: Suffragettes and Propaganda is on at Cartwright Hall Art Gallery until Tuesday, September 4.

The Vote 100 exhibition can be seen at Westminster Hall now until Saturday, October 6.

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