Last week I paid a visit to Sandness in the West Mainland of Shetland to visit Sheila Hankin from SHetland by Sheila Hankin.
Sandness is about as far a drive from Unst you can possibly do in Shetland! The highlight of the drive, apart from the amazing scenery and the beautifully coloured Shetland sheep that roam in the hills on the way, were the lily pads in tiny lochs. So magical, I half expected a Shetland trow (a troll) to leap out from a peat bank to ask us what we were doing!
At the end of a long and winding single-track road you drive down into Sandness. A lovely little village with houses dotted around beautiful bays and inlets that look across to the island of Papa Stour and beyond to the cliffs of Eshaness and Ronas hill.
The view from Sheila’s house is stunning! Sheila retired and moved to Shetland to support her daughter and granddaughter, who moved here for work. She decided to set up her business SHetland by Sheila Hankin to assist in establishing herself, to keep herself busy and to make connections with the community. Like many of the Scottish islands there is still a strong connection with traditional crafts and setting up a business seemed like a natural progression.
Sheila uses Shetland tweed to make gifts and soft furnishings inspired by the Shetland landscape. Gorgeous cushions, handbags, key fobs, notebooks, art pads, tweed greeting cards, scarfs and hats, many of which can be found in her isle20 shop. “My major achievement has been starting a business and upscaling my hobbies to create products which have commercial appeal”.
It will come as no surprise that it’s the beautiful landscape I live in and the wildlife that inspires Sheila. I enjoy working with tweed, it is tactile and connects to the landscape around me. Just stepping into her workshop next to her house is a joy! The smell of the wool and tweed is wonderful!
I asked Sheila what plans she had for her business “I’m creating a new line of collectable tweed bears. I am also offering a one day cushion making course too!”
Of course there are challenges to running a small craft business at 60 degrees north! “The biggest challenges are the geographic location and sourcing materials, which cannot be purchased in the islands.” As well as challenges there’s a sense of great achievement and starting a business and upscaling her hobbies to create products which have commercial appeal is definitely up there!
Finally I asked Sheila what being an islander means to her. “Being an islander, means a simpler life where you appreciate family and get to spend more time with them. You appreciate your surroundings and the simple things in life”. I think we can all agree that’s not a bad way to live!
Visit Sheila’s isle20 shop HERE for gorgeous and beautifully made Shetland tweed gifts.