The Commodore in the Orkney parish of Holm has been many things over the years, from a bar and restaurant, to a function space hosting weddings and events.
Despite beautiful views over the Churchill Barriers and Scapa Flow, and plenty of potential, it hasn’t been in use recently, sitting dormant throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
But now one talented Orkney entrepreneur has transformed it into a new base for her burgeoning jewellery business. For Celina Rupp, it’s the culmination of many years of hard work.
“I started making jewellery more than 15 years ago in my spare bedroom,” she says. “My first collection was inspired by the Italian Chapel, and now here I am in my new studio, overlooking the Chapel itself. It’s hard to get my head around it!”
Celina’s revamp of The Commodore property includes a larger workspace for her and her stepson, Ryan, who helps create and craft new collections. There’s a bright and spacious gallery, full of their jewellery and pieces from other members of Orkney’s creative community, and a new café offering hot food and drinks, as well as delicious home bakes.
The move comes after a number of years of sustained growth for the business, and had always been part of the plan for Celina. “We were just getting busier and busier and we really needed somewhere where we could expand,” she says. “We’d been looking at a similar project elsewhere that unfortunately fell through, then The Commodore came back on the market. It’s a building we’ve always thought something should be done with, so we decided we’d go for it.”
An investment like this is a brave move at the best of times, but with the spectre of the pandemic looming large, it was very much a step into the unknown for Celina. The price of materials skyrocketed and delivery delays caused plenty of headaches, pushing both timescales and costs ever upwards. But Celina is full of praise for her family and the building team. “It was such a huge effort by everyone with some really long days, and we all just worked incredibly hard to get to this point,” she says. “We couldn’t have done it without everyone chipping in, and we’re so happy with the end result.”
There’s an investment in the community too. The Commodore used to be a focal point for the parish and the nearby village of St Mary’s, and now finally it’s a bustling building once again. Additional staff have been taken on to look after the gallery and café, and Celina hopes it will become a popular place for locals and visitors once more.
“We’re really loving the fact we’ve been able to bring it back to life – that was one of our big aims, to do something nice for the area,” smiles Celina. “We don’t want it to just be about coming in and buying a piece of jewellery. We want folk to stop by, have a cup of coffee, enjoy the views and relax too. We’re just happy to see a buzz about the place again.
“It has also been lovely to be able to employ folk to help us bring the business on even more, and seeing their love and enjoyment has made it all so worth it. There’s a real team feeling.”
Celina’s jewellery is inspired by the islands, the coastline, and the history and heritage of Orkney. She specialises in solid silver pieces, often featuring semi-precious gemstones, and collections have drawn on Norse and Celtic mythology, as well as the Viking heritage of the islands. Her new home offers more space to work in, and to give people the chance to see designs coming to life in front of them. She has come a long way from handcrafting those early collections in her spare room.
“We really feel we can grow the business and do much more now. Our first few weeks have been fantastic and so busy - we’ve had lots of positive feedback, and the local support has been fabulous too,” says Celina.
So as far as expansion goes, surely the building tools are being packed away for the time being? “We still have space here we can work with, so we’re already thinking about plans for the future,” laughs Celina.
“Let’s just say it’s a work in progress!”