TUBULAR BELLES Edel McDonagh (centre ,left) and Leesa Murray (centre, right), whose business Del & Lee upcycles bike tubes and other materials to make beautiful jewellery. All pics: Barbara Ann Murray
New Westport jewellery business Del & Lee is all about style that doesn’t cost the earth
For many, the pandemic pressed the pause button for a year-and-a-bit. Life and dramas suspended in time, the focus on adapting and waiting. For some, however, the sudden stop lead to a whole new start. Two Westport women, for instance, decided to take the opportunity to do something they love doing, and turn it into a business.
Leesa Murray and Edel McDonagh have recently launched handmade jewellery business Del & Lee. Every item of jewellery is handmade and one of a kind, which allows for the production of special and individual pieces. An extensive range of eye-catching jewellery is also available to browse and purchase. All are made using recycled/preloved beads and stones, as well as – intriguingly – upcycled bike tubes.
Built on friendship
Leesa hails from Carrowholly just outside Westport Town. “I’ve always loved being outdoors, nature, animals and living by the sea, I think that’s where a lot of my inspiration and creativity came from,” she tells The Mayo News. “It also runs In the family. I used to have a mosaic business with my sister Barbara Ann Murray, who’s an artist and photographer. She also did the shoot for our new website. I ran my own business as an nail artist and technician, but due to health issues I had to let it go. Since then I worked part-time in a local coffee shop but finished work there last October.”
Edel has also had a varied and interesting career. Originally from outside Charlestown, she moved to Westport when she was 18 through a college placement. “I did my training in the hospitality sector and spent many years working in this industry before returning to college to study business studies. This led onto Network marketing where I worked for many years,” she explains. “Since our children, who are now eight and five, were born, I have worked alongside my husband on a part-time basis in his consultancy business.”
The pair first met, when they worked in a local restaurant together 20 years ago, and as Leesa says, they’ve ‘been the best of friends ever since!’.
When asked who came up with the idea of a jewellery business, Edel doesn’t hesitate. “Leesa came up with the idea. When I first seen the earrings she created I was impressed. I was impressed by the appearance and quality initially but after wearing the earrings for a day I was blown away with how comfortable and lightweight they were. I knew she was onto something good!”
Leesa explains: “Well I suppose it all started about five or six years ago, when my brother Anthony came home from Australia and took over the Westport Bike Shop. He introduced me to my first road bike, and that’s where the love for cycling began. Because of this, I’d be calling in to the bike shop from time to time, and I noticed all the bike tubes and tyres being collected and being brought to land fill, and I thought to myself, ‘I can do something with these, I can make something with these’.
“And that’s where it all began. I started designing and creating jewellery from the recycled bike materials. At first I was just playing around with my ideas for about a year or so, making jewellery for friends and family – but one of my friends kept pushing me and encouraging me to take it to the next step. This friend is Edel, she is now my business partner.”
At the moment, Del & Lee are selling earrings, neckpieces, bracelets and anklets, but they have lots more ideas in the pipeline. As for the bike tube material, the women are huge advocates, pointing out that not only is it saved from landfill and recycled, it is also beautiful to work with and manipulate. “It’s quite soft, flexible and light weight,” explains Leesa, “and it resembles leather in its look, but it’s vegan friendly.”
As for the Del & Lee style, Edel describes the jewellery as ‘very adaptable to every age group’. “It’s fresh, young and very now. Our aim is to keep our style very modern, and there is always the option to pre-order custom made pieces for that special occasion,” says Edel. “We have kept our prices very affordable, considering that every piece is handmade here in our studio in Westport.”
At the moment, Del & Lee products are available for purchase locally in The Art Gallery at the Quay, at Westport Bike Shop (on the Newport Road) and at their online shop on the Dell & Lee website, www.delandlee.com. There is loads to browse. They eagle-eyed will notice a striking family resemblance between Leesa with the site’s model. It’s Ela Murray-Kohen, Leesa’s daughter – no stranger to the spotlight as a talented dancer, and as it turns out, a natural for the camera too. “Ela was always going to be the perfect fit as a model to showcase our jewellery on the website, and as Barbara was our chosen photographer, the relationship between them made it the perfect match,” beams Leesa.
Launching in lockdown must have been difficult, but Leesa and Edel were driven by determination and belief in their business. “Starting our business in a pandemic like everything in life has its good and bad points,” says Edel. “If we weren’t comfortable with Zoom calls and dealing with bad internet connections and coverage to begin with, we were very comfortable with it six months later! Like everyone else, we had to do all the background work through Zoom meetings and the occasional outdoor meeting.
“On the positive side, it has helped us. People are a lot more familiar and comfortable with online shopping, so in a way it was a good time to launch a new business and build a new online brand.”
That said, there’s nothing like a good launch party, and this is something both women are looking forward to, as a way to thank all those who have helped them realise their dream together. “We would love to have a real life launch in the future,” says Edel. “We hope maybe later in the summer, when numbers allow, to organise a gathering for all our family and friends who have been so supportive to us to date.”
In the meantime, raise a glass at home to this entrepreneurial pair – to their gorgeous creations, their environmental ethic and their business acumen – and maybe indulge in a bit of online shopping too. Sure, don’t we all deserve it?