Thanks to more than £160k worth of investment from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), the company will be moving ahead with plans to redevelop a disused church, next to the company's existing workshop, into a new visitor centre.
A new casting workshop and improvements to the current base will also be carried out. The funding from HIE means that all the work can be carried out at the same time so production won't be affected by the anticipated increase in visitor numbers.
Some of the beautiful pieces made in Orkney at Sheila Fleet Jewellery
It has been an ambition of the company, founded by Sheila Fleet herself, for a number of years. The firm has gone from strength to strength since it was launched locally in 1993 and has become one of Orkney's most recognised exports with a worldwide reputation. More than fifty people are employed at the workshop and showrooms.
Confirming the investment, Ruth Kirkpatrick, HIE’s head of business growth in Orkney, said: “This is great news for Sheila Fleet Jewellery and for Orkney. It will add to Orkney’s tourism offering, create an excellent visitor attraction for the east mainland and attract more visitors to this part of Orkney. And of course it will also provide valuable job opportunities as well as spin-off benefits for other businesses in the east mainland and linked south isles.”
Sheila Fleet pictured at the entrance to the former church
Sheila Fleet added: “We are very much looking forward to this exciting development. Once complete in the next 12-18 months it will mark 50 years of my career in jewellery design. My inspiration comes from where I live and from nature's infinite spectrum of shapes and colours. It's very exciting to develop such a unique exhibition space in the place and landscape which has inspired so many of my designs. The church will display my contemporary and traditional collections as well as our classic favourites and very latest pieces. We'll also tell the story of the part the church has played in the local community. I could not have got to this point without the great support of my family, my dedicated team of talented staff and our loyal customers.”
Original press release from Highlands and Islands Enterprise.