Sheila Fleet is one of Scotland's foremost jewelry designers. Her designs sell in many of the upscale boutiques and chains around the UK and export worldwide.
Sheila Fleet's Stockbridge showroom — Photo courtesy of Sheila Fleet
Fleet was born in South Ronaldsay, the fourth largest of the Orkney Islands. She enrolled at Edinburgh College of Art in 1963, and it was at this time that she began to collect and polish stones. Her first piece of jewelry was formed from a fragment of Iona marble that she found on a beach.
She honed her skills working with top jewelry designer Andrew Grima in his London studio and then with the famous costume jewelry company Corocraft. She won numerous awards through the years, and in 1993, she decided that the time was right for her to strike out on her own.
She set up her business in Orkney with the support of her husband and son.
Although her business has now expanded significantly (She has a staff of 35 in Orkney and 20 staff members in Edinburgh.), she has kept the family-run ethos.
Fleet has used her successful business to raise large sums of money for charities close to her heart (such as The Archie Foundation and Whale & Dolphin Conservation), and when one member of her staff was diagnosed with cancer, she developed a line of jewelry to help raise money for her treatment and care.
Orkney Islands-inspired jewelry — Photo courtesy of Sheila Fleet
Her work is strongly influenced by the natural world and the dramatic scenery of her Orcadian home. Collections such as Shoreline Pebble; Sea and Surf; and Tidal Treasures display her love of the sea.
Smooth curves of polished silver with splashes of smoky grey or deep sea blue form delicate pieces, which yet hint at the dramatic power of the ocean.
In some of her pieces, stylized reeds and rushes seem to sway gently in the breeze or delicate snowdrops nestle against the skin, while other pieces capture the dramatic and violent flows of lava through rock or the bright geometric patterns of prehistoric pottery.
Many of her works draw inspiration from her Celtic heritage. The “Pictish Sea Horse” is a modern piece derived from a truly ancient source, but other pieces more directly emulate traditional knotwork patterns and ancient runic language.
Her skill lies in combining these ancient forms with modern techniques without diminishing their visual appeal, without simply creating a copy with no original quality.
With pieces featuring classic Celtic designs – as well as more abstract designs emulating the flow and curve of water, the land and flora and fauna – her collections are very popular with native Scots and visitors, too.