From an old flower shed-turned-workshop on St Martin’s, Fay Page draws daily inspiration from the unspoilt island coastline to hand-craft her intricate jewellery. Words: Anna Turns

Absorbed in her work, jeweller Fay Page sits by the window of her rustic workshop that overlooks the sea. She’s handcrafting silver links to make into wrist chains and neck chains. Starting with a coil of thick wire, Fay uses a rolling mill to stretch it out to the correct gauge, then winds it on to a stainless-steel mandrel to create small coils. From these, she cuts tiny rings that she patiently shapes into individual links with pliers. ‘There is real comfort in repetition when I sit here for a few hours making chain,’ says Fay, who spends up to four hours making one bracelet. ‘Once I’ve soldered all the pieces together, it has to be pickled in acid to remove the tarnish, then it needs polishing. It’s fiddly work!’

Swimming silversmiths

Fay has lived on St Martin’s in the Isles of Scilly for 20 years and the sea plays a huge role in her life. She is constantly inspired by the stories of this island and always looking for new ideas to add to her collection of coastal-inspired silver jewellery. Perhaps a cowrie shell she picks up along the shoreline or a seal that says a cheeky hello while she’s out snorkelling.

At nine o’clock every Monday morning she and her silversmith husband Rob and their team of six jewellery makers literally get skin to wave by going for a communal swim. As they all run back up Campsite Beach past the quay, they are ready to start the week refreshed and invigorated from their swim in the crystal clear waters that surround St Martin’s, one of only five inhabited islands on the Scilly archipelago. ‘We regularly swim with the seals and watch them playing close to the shore; once I saw a rare bowhead whale, and on a daily basis we’ll see oystercatchers, herons, gannets and curlews, and some kestrels and peregrines,’ says Fay. She finds sea swimming a great way to connect with nature and to stretch out her body before sitting for periods at her workbench. ‘We’re going to create a silver swimmer charm, and I’m on the lookout for a new shell to add to our collection this year. All our jewellery tells something about the story of living here on Scilly.’

Her designs evolve quite instinctively. While drinking her coffee just outside the workshop, for example, she was inspired to make a silver boat charm after looking at the shape of the keel of her family’s old Falmouth oyster punt rowing boat while it was upside down in the garden. During coast walks, ideas often spring to mind from the simplest observations. ‘Walking past the quay one day, I spotted someone holding up a bunch of six mackerel they’d just caught – the way they were hanging and those stunning bright colours just caught my eye, so I had to come back and work on a fish design,’ she says.

Shells and sea urchins

From March to October, the ferry brings hundreds of visitors to Fay’s open studio and upstairs the workshop is a hive of activity. ‘Cowries and pebbles were the first pieces we ever made,’ remembers Fay, who lives in the farmhouse of a former flower farm with Rob and their daughters, Daisy, 14 and Polly, 11. ‘Cowries work well because the grooves in the shells give good definition and cowrie-collecting is quite a habit so we knew people would love a silver version.’

But it’s not as simple as just finding pretty-looking shells. ‘The colour might be what makes a particular shell beautiful, whereas for us as silversmiths it’s all about texture. So, we bring our finds back here and Rob pours molten silver in to a delft casting clay mould just to see if the texture will work as a jewellery piece. The metal sets almost instantaneously.’
If they’re happy with it, a mould is made, and then cast in solid silver or gold to create earrings, charms and pendants. Serendipitously, the sea urchins that inspired another charm were all found by a lady called Pam who spends her summers on St Martin’s. ‘She spent hours looking at low tide and bought her finds into the workshop for us to use,’ says Fay, whose workbench is covered in tools – a soldering kit, a drill, hammers and pliers.

Elemental existence

Fay first met her husband Rob when he worked as a boat skipper of the passenger launch between St Mary’s and St Martin’s, and she had just started making jewellery from a tiny shed. Rob has lived on this island since he was 17 and he now specialises in crafting bespoke wedding and engagement rings, silver bottle charms and weather-themed cufflinks. ‘Rob has got that island mentality of make do and mend, he is a really innovative problem solver, and quite a brave maker, whereas I’m more hesitant working with the precious metals,’ says Fay who, with Rob, spent six months transforming a flower packing shed near their farmhouse into a studio space.

‘It had to be just right in order to convey the look of our jewellery better. Every detail matters,’ she continues, surrounded by jewellery cabinets made from ships timbers reclaimed from an old teak boat in Falmouth that was being broken up. ‘We bought a pallet of wood from it and Rob and our friend, Chris, a cabinet maker, took all the copper nails out before the local gig builder planked the wood so that Chris could make jewellery cabinets out of them.’ As a nod to the building’s heritage, Chris used exactly the same spec and measurements as the flower boxes that the farm would have previously used to send blooms to Covent Garden market. ‘We kept the old copper nails to display the jewellery within the cabinets, and each cabinet has brass inscriptions that Rob made by hand, so each case is unique.’

In fact, this whole workshop has been crafted out of reclaimed or island materials, from driftwood found on the beach to old oak cut into display units and covered with shipping charts of St Martin’s. ‘Everything we create is very interlinked with where we are,’ adds Fay, who after two decades of living and working on the island is very in tune with its character and seasons. ‘I feel rooted here, there’s a strong sense of belonging. We know this island intimately and the weather patterns are totally second nature to us. If it’s foggy or windy, we won’t get any post as the ferries won’t run, and we’re governed by tides so that gives us a rhythm,’ she says. ‘By the coast it’s a very elemental existence and I love the fact we are governed by nature.’

Prices for Fay’s jewellery start at £30 for a charm. For more information, go to

Photographs: Fay Page Jewellery

Fay’s five favourite coastal spots

Best beach: ‘After a busy day, I love sitting on the beach closest to our workshop, looking across Teän Sound to Teän and Tresco and watching the stunning sunset.’

Best trip on a paddleboard: ‘We paddle over to Teän and then walk to the top of Teän Hill for the most amazing view back across to St Martin’s.’

Best food with a view: ‘Our neighbours at The Sevenstones have totally revamped the island pub, complete with an oak barn for weddings.’

Best walk: ‘St Martin’s is two miles long and I’ll walk the 10km loop around the coast path or head up to the daymark at the opposite end of the island at least a couple of times a week.’

Best swim: ‘Little Bay at the north of the island always feels dramatic and remote and definitely feels like you are in the ocean!’