At these strange times, many of us have a bit more time on our hands to reflect. I thought I would use a spare half an hour to share the story behind Fresh Fleeces.
As a child, I loved making things. My Granda was a joiner and I spent many hours with him in his workshop. I must have only been about 5 when I joined him in hammering nails, chiselling wood and varnishing. I'm sure health and safety might have had something to say about my adventures, but I loved every minute. The first piece of jewellery I remember making was a ring fashioned out of a piece of tinfoil!
At school I was quite academic and found that teachers guided me away from my real passion for art and towards the more traditional subjects. In the end, I studied law at university, and while it was a useful subject, my passion for creating was still there. It was while studying for a Masters that I decided to take up a night class in jewellery making in Belfast. I loved it and enjoyed moulding, cutting and soldering silver into a wide range of creations. My Mum still wears a silver ring I made then...bless her, as it looks more like a washer!
My work led me to Manchester, but I still kept up my jewellery night classes. I studied for a City & Guilds in Trafford College and loved meeting and working with like-minded creatives. At the weekends, I would go in search of inspiring designers in museums and exhibitions.
So that's the background to the silversmithing and the love of sheep has been there from an early age too. Growing up in Northern Ireland I have had the privilege of living amongst the most beautiful scenery full of agriculture and animals. I have always loved sheep and remember being the proud owner of a Shaun the Sheep backpack in my late teens. There is just something about the contrast between the seemingly oversized fleeces and tiny head and legs that makes me smile!
Fast forward a few years I was a full-time jewellery maker with a successful business turning children's drawings into silver jewellery. It's quite a thing now, but back in 2000 I was the only silversmith in the UK providing this service to order.
After my daughter Eve was born in 2011, I was asked to make a range of jewellery for a local exhibition. It was then I had the idea of merging my passion for animals with silver and the first sheep was created. I soon had requests for similar pieces of sheep jewellery and so Fresh Fleeces came to life!
The business is constantly changing and I think it's really important to keep adding to the range to ensure there is something for everyone and that the jewellery remains up to date. While I now have a team of silversmiths and others who help with the business, I am very much 'hands-on' when it comes to designing and manufacturing.
While we don't stock tinfoil rings, I hope I have carried on some of the passion, love and quality that my Granda put into his woodwork!