About Sheila Fleet
Sheila Fleet OBE is one of Scotland's leading designer-makers of gold, silver and platinum jewellery.
Born as Sheila Dearness and raised at Hoxa Head, South Ronaldsay, Sheila left school at 15 with no qualifications but a passion for art and drawing. In 1963 she gained entry to Edinburgh College of Art and spent the first two years studying drawing, painting and sculpture. As a hobby Sheila joined a lapidary club where she collected, polished and cut stones, and this led to her specialising in jewellery and fashion design. Sheila's first ever piece of jewellery was made from a fragment of Iona marble she found on the beach, and this love of stones can still be seen today in her Pebble collection.
Sheila's natural flair for design was recognized during her time at College, where she won several awards and bursaries. Following successful completion of her Diploma in Arts & Crafts in 1967 she was awarded a Post Diploma for a further year's professional training in Jewellery for industrial endorsement. She was awarded a small bursary, which enabled her to work in London with Andrew Grima, one of Britain's top jewellery designers of the time. A year later she gained the highest award, a Highly Commended, for her Post Diploma, and was awarded the Helena Rose Bequest, which she used to travel extensively in Germany, Switzerland and Holland visiting leading designers of the time.
Upon completion of her travels Sheila spent 8 years with Corocraft, the world's largest and leading costume jewellery company of the 1960's. During this time Sheila won numerous prizes for her designs in the Goldsmiths, Silversmiths and Jewellers Art Council Competition. She also found time to meet and marry her husband, Rick Fleet!
By 1977 it was time to return home, so Sheila and Rick relocated to Orkney, where Sheila joined a local jewellery company as their first professional designer and modelmaker. During this period she designed 3 matching sets of jewellery, which were selected by the World Gold Council for promotions. At the 1988 Basel Fair one of the sets was on display on the World Gold Council Stand.
In 1993, after working for 26 years in the jewellery industry, Sheila decided it was time to set out on her own. With her husband and son's help she set up in business designing and manufacturing.
In the space of only 1 year Sheila Fleet Jewellery became firmly established, with trade customers across Britain and Ireland, and a few in Europe and America. This meant Sheila was able to employ a small number of staff and develop her country workshop in Tankerness, which visitors can still visit to see the jewellery being made and displayed.
Over the course of two decades Sheila Fleet Jewellery has grown steadily, thanks to Sheila's vision and her unique ability to create beautiful jewellery that is treasured by her customers. Sheila Fleet Jewellery is a family run business, and Sheila has had the invaluable support of her husband Rick, son Martin and daughter in law Mairi in running and growing the business. Sheila also has a loyal team of employees (her 'extended family') who share her vision and passion. Sheila takes very seriously her responsibilities as one of the biggest employers in the rural countryside of Orkney. One of her greatest achievements is having grown the business to be a valuable employer of 32 in Orkney and 20 staff between Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Sheila continues to design and develop new collections annually. With a passion for her island environment, Sheila creates her original designs reflecting nature's wonderful sea, sky and landscape colours. Orkney's history and folklore are also a rich medium for her inspiration, and Sheila was delighted to be invited in 2008 to design a collection for the famous 'Up Helly aa' festival in Shetland.
Looking to the future, Sheila continues to design new collections and enjoys being able to connect with her customers at her regular Meet the Designer events. As Sheila says herself: "although the road has been long and hard to get to this point, I have enjoyed the steep learning curve required to run a business in my own way from a designer's point of view".
Upon completion of her travels Sheila spent 8 years with Corocraft, the world's largest and leading costume jewellery company of the 1960's