Full of beautiful jewellery inspired by beachcombing finds and the unique natural landscape of the Isles of Scilly, the Fay Page Studio is on top of most people’s list when they visit St. Martin’s. Fay and her husband Rob have been making jewellery for nearly twenty years, steadily growing their business from a garden shed to employing nine people in their gorgeous open studio. I was delighted to have the opportunity to chat to Fay to find out more about her creative business and love for the islands, reflecting on how Fay Page came to be what it is today.
What drew you to live on the Isles of Scilly, and eventually to make a home on St. Martin's?
I first came to Scilly when I was one and then came for a family holiday every year after that, always in October. My childhood memories of Scilly are very much jumpers, wellies, blackberries and rock scrambling. It wasn't until I was 16 that I came in the summer, and it was such a revelation to have hot, long days on the beach.
I worked in Scilly for summer holidays when doing my A-levels and then used to come on holiday when I was living in London, firstly studying for a degree, and then later working for the BBC as a researcher and for the V&A’s Theatre Museum in their education department. The lure of Scilly was always there, and I decided one day to make the move, I handed in my notice with the museum and wrote to all the hotels. Six weeks later I was working as a waitress on St Mary's, spending my free time beachcombing and enjoying the fresh air, London seemed a long way away.
What inspired you to train as a jeweller and start Fay Page?
I knew that to stay in Scilly I needed a skill, ideally with an end product that I could send to the mainland, this was 2002 so online selling still wasn't that common then! A friend, Sophie Hooper - also now a jeweller in Scilly - asked me if I'd like to go on a silversmithing course in Ireland with her. We did three weeks of making and then came home to Scilly and I started making a very basic shell range. It took off straight away and after doing a craft fair on the mainland I was approached by several mainland galleries who wanted to sell it.
At the same time as starting the business, I was starting a new relationship with Rob, a boat man from another island. We wanted to live together; St Martin's was the natural choice as Rob had work here. In my second year I created a very basic website and over the last (almost!) 20 years we've grown year on year. In the third year Rob started helping with making the jewellery and proved a natural, much better than me! We also had our first daughter.
From working in a garden shed to now having your open studio with a team of nine people, how do you strive to keep a work life balance?
It has taken me a long time to get on top of the whole work life balance - it is really hard to switch off when you live and work in the same spot. I wish I had kept a diary of the hours I've worked and the evenings I spent in the shed when the girls were little and Rob and I used to share the childcare and working routine.
Over the years we have both spent many evenings making jewellery, emailing, and packing orders; it has only been in the last few years that we've taken a proper weekend and stopped working evenings. Both of our girls are now teenagers, and one is on the mainland studying for A-levels and the other boards four nights a week on the larger island of St Mary's so she can go to secondary school. I feel a bit of regret that it took me this long to realise I can take some time off. We have a team of nine now - including Rob and myself - and I love that we are providing year-round, skilled employment to all these people.
You have a large range of beautiful island inspired jewellery, are you able to choose a favourite collection?
I don't wear a lot of jewellery, but I've always loved jewellery and really associate with the idea of pieces being significant - for me it should really mean something, so I still think my favourite piece is a small blackberry made by Rob - it reminds me of picking blackberries together with our kids in the sand dunes in front of our house and workshop.
When you aren't in the Fay Page studio, what would be your favourite way to spend a day off?
My ideal day off would start with a swim, followed by a cracking cup of Rob's coffee. Ideally both girls would be home and we'd then get in our tiny boat and go to Tean, an uninhabited island just across a short stretch of water from where we live. We'd climb to the highest point and just sit before eating lunch, ideally cooked on a BBQ.
Thank you so much for your time Fay, can I ask just one last question, do you have a favourite Phoenix & Providence product?
I love it all! At the minute the Nurture Face Oil is an absolute must in our house, I wear it every day under SPF and I love finishing work and having a good old cleanse and then applying some more. I really feel my skin needs it after a day in a workshop that is either hot in summer or freezing in the winter!
Thank you to Fay who has given me no end of encouragement and support with Phoenix & Providence. After reading her replies to my questions both Fay and I agreed how important it is to look back and see how far you’ve come, take a moment to acknowledge what you have achieved. I do hope this inspires you to do the same.