From childhood beachcombing to beautiful, meaningful jewellery: Fay’s youthful pastimes have found grown-up expression as unique, coast-inspired pieces.
At Seasalt, we love to celebrate the craft and creativity that surrounds us. We spoke to Fay and husband Rob of Fay Page Jewellery, based on St Martin’s, Isles of Scilly, about how the business has evolved, and where she finds the inspiration for her handmade gold and silver pieces.
Where do you find new ideas?
Fay: I find new ideas walking and swimming. I try to start and end the day by going for a walk or going down the beach to look for shells, coral and seaweed; when you work from home there is a danger that you’re always in the studio. I’ll spend ages foraging − I think that comes from being a little girl that used to come here on holiday, returning home to Yorkshire with pockets full of pebbles, seeds and bits of bark.
How did you start to make jewellery and set up the business?
Fay: A friend invited me to Ireland to do a jewellery making course just outside of Dublin, up in the Wicklow Mountains. Even while I was learning I was inspired by Scilly − the first thing I made was a silver cowrie and a silver pebble from St Agnes. I used a grant from the Prince’s Trust to buy a tool kit, and just started making. Apart from the three weeks in Ireland I was self-taught; I used to sit every night and go through jewellery making books.
Whilst I was setting up the business, I met Rob, who was a boatman. The business took off and I needed someone to help me with the jewellery making, so it seemed a natural progression for Rob to join. We’re a good team: I’m more creative and Rob’s more practical.
Rob, what was the first piece that you made?
Rob: One of the early things I started doing was stamps. You use metal drill bits to cut and grind raw tool steel to shape, heat it up until it’s glowing red and plunge it into engine oil to cool, which makes a horrific stench. You then heat it again, watching the colour change, then quickly plunging it into water. That process makes it durable, so you can hit the stamp repeatedly into silver. They’re not easy to make, and take a lot of time, but once you’ve got them, you can replicate the same shape again and again. You can stamp onto any flat surface, but then you can turn that into a ring, bangle, cowbell…
How has the business and your relationship with your customers evolved?
Fay: We used to make jewellery in our little shed and send it out on a sale or return basis to galleries on the mainland or Scilly, but we always wanted a studio where we could meet our customers. We’re able to do that now, which is great because our jewellery is so personal. We’ve got a collection of 42 different shells − one shell might be meaningful to somebody because it’s from an island they really like, or they found one of those shells one day, so they want it for the memory. We’re able to hear those stories and chat to people about why blackberries are special to them, or why they want a whale or a seal. For me that’s what the jewellery is about: that everything should mean something.
What are your favourite pieces?
Fay: Mine is the blackberry because it makes me think of foraging, hedgerows, apple and blackberry crumble and all those childhood associations. I used to come on holiday here in October when there’d still be blackberries around, so that feels like a real piece of treasure.
Rob: We do quite a few bespoke pieces. I’ve made Fay a few little lockets and boxes. I enjoy making the cowbells, because they are quite a technical piece, and unique.
Tell us about your Monday morning team meeting…
Fay: We meet in wetsuits at 9am, going for a swim at the beach in front of the workshop. It’s a good way catch up with each other after the weekend and stretch everything out.
Rob: We’ve had about three members of staff that have gone from non-swimmers to very competent. We’ve only got one member of staff left who we’ve not yet broken, but we will do!
Our film of Fay and Rob was created before last year’s lockdown – we’re so happy to be able to share it now.