Meet artist Sarah Kay
Sarah Kay is an artist based in the small village of Scalloway in the Shetland Islands who creates resin jewellery and homeware made with shells, seaweed, sea pottery and sea glass that she gathers along the coast, as well as wall art inspired by her dramatic surroundings. Here she tells fellow Folksy maker Kyra Powell from Kynuka about the process of working with resin, the beauty and challenges of living on a remote island, and the world of amazing things under the waves that goes mostly unseen…
I spend a lot of time exploring the coastline of the islands, collecting shells, stones, sea glass and pottery. I find the pieces of pottery especially fascinating, imagining who once owned the jug, bowl or plate and how old it may be?Sarah, Sarah Kay Artwork
Hi Sarah! Can you introduce yourself and tell us what you do?
I’m Sarah from The Shetland Islands and I work full time making and selling artwork. Six years ago I set myself a three-year challenge to see if I could make an income from selling my work. Since then, I have worked on developing a range of designs that are timeless and suitable for selling wholesale in gift shops as well as online.
I specialise in resin artwork, jewellery and ornamental pieces, which I create using an array of dried seaweed, shells, sea pottery and sea glass that I gather along the coast of Shetland. My pieces range from larger resin-poured seascape wall art to small delicate flower pendants.
Every time I visit the beach to collect treasures for my creations, I also take home litter. So by supporting my business you are also cleaning the beaches!
I absolutely love Scotland, I’ve never managed to island hop but I’m hoping to this year. Have you always lived on the Shetland Islands? What’s it like to live and work in the Shetlands? Could you ever see yourself living elsewhere?
Being a native Shetlander I feel a strong connection with the islands and my work is deeply inspired by the dramatic Shetland landscape. We have long dark winters, with wild windy weather, but I can’t imagine living anywhere else.
I spend a lot of time exploring the coastline of the islands, collecting shells, stones, sea glass and pottery, which I often use in my artwork. I find the pieces of pottery especially fascinating, imagining who once owned the jug, bowl or plate and how old it may be? Many of the intricate patterns on the pottery are beautiful too.
How long have you been making art? Have you always been creative or did you pick it up later in life?
I have always been creative. I have fond memories of spending time as a child on beaches, picking up tiny shells and being in awe of the detail on rocks.
Every time I visit the beach to collect treasures for my creations, I also take home litter. So by supporting my business you are also cleaning the beaches!Sarah, Sarah Kay Artwork
How did you learn to create resin images?
I started off exploring mosaic art using an array of recycled items, like jewellery and buttons but found that selling these pieces was difficult due to the weight, and customers seemed more interested in buying paintings. I then became aware of resin and became addicted to all of the possibilities.
You have an instantly recognisable style to your resin sea artworks. How long has it taken to find your own style?
Having experimented with resins for four years now, I have developed my own techniques and have an understanding of the medium. Every brand of resin behaves differently, with different drying times and consistencies. I choose which type of resin to use depending on what I’m making. My seascapes are a combination of four to five layers, using alcohol inks added to the resin to create the white lace effect on the waves.
I still have lots of ideas for things I could make using resin. It’s versatile and can be cast into silicone moulds to create jewellery or poured straight on to wooden canvas boards.
One range I’ve really enjoyed making is my Aurora Borealis collection. Here in the Shetland islands we are spoilt with the night sky, so I set out to create a range of jewellery in resin that captured the Aurora, with glow-in-the-dark green, metallic pigments, sparkle and imagination.
How do you source all of your materials? Is it challenging getting materials out to a remote location?
I always try to buy any materials locally, if possible, but we don’t have a big art supply shop here, so I source paints and frames online and have them sent to me. Excessive delivery charges can be an issue living on a remote island.
I can see on your social media that you snorkel…
Yes! I love to snorkel around Shetland – it’s a new hobby I discovered during lockdown. The water is extremely cold all year round here, so I have a 8mm thick wetsuit, but the cold also means the water is crystal clear. I take a GoPro camera and have discovered a whole new world of amazing things under the waves not seen by many Shetlanders. I love to share my photographs over social media and also use them to inspire my artwork.
Tell us about your studio…
My studio is in Scalloway and has incredible views. I recently got planning permission to open it up to the public, so if you would like to visit, opening hours are Monday, Wednesday & Friday, 10-3pm. It even has a new sofa (in my usual colour palette!) for any visitors who need to sit down for a minute.
I’m a keen gardener and my garden is also open to visitors to raise money for charity. I designed and created it from the 1 acre waste ground surrounding our house, which is on a challenging steep slope. It’s designed in two parts. The upper garden is mostly a rockery, with a large selection of plants, a shallow pond, a seating area, a ‘polycrub’ and greenhouse. The lower garden is on a steep slope with a spectacular sea view over the village of Scalloway. I’m very proud that it was awarded a ‘Shetland Environmental Award’ in 2014 for its strong theme of recycling.
Discover more of Sarah’s resin jewellery, homeware and prints on Folksy
Shop Sarah Kay Artwork on Folksy
Meet the interviewer
The maker asking the questions this time is Kyra Powell from Kynuka. Kyra makes botanical art from flowers and foliage grown and harvested on her family farm in farm in Herefordshire.
Find Kynuka on Folksy – https://folksy.com/shops/Kynuka
Read our interview with Kyra – Kynuka – Meet the Maker