The islands of Orkney are an inspiration to many artists, writers and craft-makers, attracted by their remoteness, cultural richness and natural beauty.
The archipelago of over seventy islands lies like green jewels scattered over the North Sea, off the north-east tip of the Scottish Mainland. The vast open skies and sea provide an ever-changing backdrop to the undulating hills, heather moorland, lochs and dramatic sandstone cliffs, which characterise the Orkney landscape. These unique features have provided a wealth of creative inspiration to Sheila Fleet and are reflected in collections such as Island Panorama, Headlands, River Ripple and Tidal.
About twenty of Orkney's islands are inhabited today and there is evidence that people have lived here for over 6,000 years. The buildings and artefacts these people left behind have earned Orkney's Neolithic heartland World Heritage status, and the renowned archaeological sites at the Ring of Brodgar and Skara Brae have inspired collections of jewellery including Sheila Fleet's Runic, Standing Stones and Skara Spiral collections.
Orkney is home to a rich diversity of wildlife and plants. In spring, the landscape comes alive with the sight and sound of displaying birds. Tens of thousands of seabirds nest on cliffs in the summer months, when verges, meadows and heaths are bursting with shrubs and wildflowers.
Bright splashes of pink sea campion and yellow bird's-foot trefoil cling close to the cliff edges, withstanding the powerful salt-winds, while further inland the rich pink-purple northern marsh orchid, angelica, foxglove, bluebell, primrose and others create a wonderful display.
If you are fortunate, you might see the delicate Primula Scotica, which flowers in May and July; a dainty flower now found only in Orkney and isolated parts of the Scottish mainland. This rare and exquisite plant inspired Sheila Fleet's popular Primula Scotica collection.
Most of Orkney's 20,000 residents today live on the main island, known as the Orkney mainland, the majority staying in the historic town of Kirkwall. Dominated by the magnificent red sandstone St Magnus Cathedral, built in the 12th century, the town centre's narrow streets run among tall former merchants' houses.
The Cathedral, which contains many fine stone carvings—one of which inspired Sheila's Breckon collection—remains at the centre of island life, with weddings, christenings and funerals all taking place in the heart of the old town. Our own Sheila Fleet Gallery can be found at 30 Bridge Street, a cobbled street leading down to the harbour, from where boats travel to and from the outlying islands.
Music is a feature of island life, and there are a variety of musical festivals and events throughout the year. Collaborations with local musicians and cultural events have inspired some of Sheila Fleet collections, such as Skyran and Symphony. Find out more about Orkney's events at Orkney.com.
Visit Orkney and experience for yourself the creative vibrancy and natural wonder of the islands. There is a wide variety of accommodation available in Orkney, including self-catering, bed & breakfast, and hotels.
Northlink Ferries operate sailings from Aberdeen and from Scrabster on the north coast of the Scottish mainland, and Pentland Ferries operate from Gills Bay near John O' Groats. Daily flights from the major Scottish airports can be booked with Loganair. Day trips are possible by bus during the summer from Inverness and via the foot-passenger John O' Groats ferry.
Visit Orkney and enjoy a warm welcome, and a break from the pressures of daily life. Head out for a leisurely walk and you will often have a beach or hill to yourself! And sample some of Orkney's world-renowned local food and drink—a great place to start is the Sheila Fleet Kirk Gallery & Café, a perfect combination of beautiful jewellery and delicious local food, within a stunning converted church.
See for yourself why so much of Sheila Fleet's jewellery is inspired by her island home...