A COMPANY that counts Elton John and Tony Blair among its customers has started a franchise in the North-East.

Lynn Henderson, of Durham, is starting a franchise of First Impressions, a company that takes casts of customers' hands or feet and turns them into bronze, silver or aluminium ornaments.

The London-based company has crafted Leo Blair's hands into silver and Ms Henderson hopes to attract similarly high-profile customers in the North-East.

She has opened a small workshop in her home and can visit customers' homes.

She said: "First Impressions has started expanding with a franchise operation and I got the opportunity to start up the North-East one.

"It has been going for 20 years in London and has proved quite popular with celebrities."

Ms Henderson, who was an emergency call operator for the fire service, said: "I have always wanted to do something artistic like this.

"I had to train for a few months, but it is worth it."

She is launching the business in Gateshead's MetroCentre in time for Valentine's Day, when she will be offering pouting lips in bronze, aluminium or even chocolate.