NB: This article was written in 2018, and details have changed.
Sophie Whitehead is one of life’s enthusiasts. About running, about her friends, about her jewellery, about Shetland, about life. Her laugh erupts regularly, and almost seismically. Her Instagram feed, the appropriately-named @sophie_sunshine28, is like a paid-for advert for life in Shetland: clifftop walks, kayaking trips, nights in stone bothies and midnight trips to the Broch of Mousa, Scotland’s best-preserved Iron Age broch. Except hers is entirely authentic.
We first meet at Shetland Jewellery, Sophie’s day job, where she designs and makes jewellery inspired by the islands. She’s part of a team of ten, who work in a little pebbledash workshop overlooking the tranquil Hellister Loch near the village of Weisdale.
Shetland Jewellery has been going since 1953, and the team design and hand-make more than 40 ranges of jewellery, which take their cues from everything from Norse mythology to maps of Shetland, Fair Isle knitting patterns or the ‘Simmermal Dance’, the Shetland phrase for the shimmering haze on a hot day. Reflecting Shetland itself, most of the ranges have Celtic or Viking influences.
Sophie’s personal designs include the Peerie Smoorikins (“little kisses”) range, with its silver hearts, and a range of bracelets, pendants and rings inspired by the Mirrie Dancers, the Shetland word for the Northern Lights. “We’re just trying to grasp a little bit of Shetland with our designs,” she says.