I always try to retain as much as interest as possible in local happenings around my area (the hub of excitement that is North-east Fife) and I’d like to kick start this blog by posting a little piece about my friend Dot Sim, who also just happens to be a fantastic jeweller whose pieces have accessorised many an outfit of mine.
North-East Fife is renowned for its myriad artistic residents, and Newport-on-Tay is home to one of the area’s most successful. When it comes to jewellery making, Dot Sim is a real gem.
Dot was eight years old when her glamorous aunt stepped off a plane from America, carrying with her a cream jewellery box. Unbeknown to her, this tiny treasure trove was to become the catalyst for her niece’s enduring love affair with jewellery.
As a teenager and young woman, Dot made jewellery for friends and family as gifts on a casual basis. But what started out as a hobby soon became a full time occupation and at twenty-two, Dot began attending evening classes to learn how to make pieces in silver. When she moved to Fife she applied to study jewellery at Duncan and Jordanston School of Art in Dundee, gained a Masters of the first class in Jewellery and Design and, as they say, the rest is history.
Dot’s jewellery is distinctive in its curving fluidity, with its predominant base material being silver or gold. Her initial design inspiration came from a curiosity about astronomy, and at night Dot used to look out of her Velux windows, capturing photographs of shooting stars and planets and building up a mental catalogue of ideas for her next creations. In Fife, she set up her riverbank studio in the idyllic coastal town of Newport-on-Tay and took inspiration from the surrounding shoreline features, such as the tides, waves and objects found on the beach. Dot says many of her ideas come from “changing landscapes, windswept beaches and stormy seas”, and describes her distinctive technique of “drawing” with metal in order to lend her jewellery a unique element of movement and quality of line.
One of the most distinctive things about Dot’s jewellery is that, while unmistakable in design, it is also timeless, classic and entirely wearable. Her clientele spans all generations and there’s barely a young woman in North-east Fife who isn’t in current ownership of a Dot Sim necklace or pair of earrings, or an uncle, father or grandfather whose kilt pin or cufflinks aren’t commissioned by the jeweller. This, she explains, is something that is far from accidental. Dot tells me that the reason she chooses to use precious stones and gilded metal when making her designs is because she sets great store by the idea of jewellery as heirlooms, and making jewellery that lasts is an important principle in her work. “When people die, their clothes are handed to charity shops and their furniture is sold or given away”, she says. “But jewellery is too intimate a thing to throw away.” The idea of making things that will not only last but also bring joy to future generations is, she says, what makes her art so worthwhile.
In addition to this, what Dot enjoys most about making and selling jewellery is the satisfaction she gains from seeing people feel good about themselves. “Seeing somebody pick up a necklace or a pair of earrings and watching their faces lighting up at their reflection is without comparison”, she says. She also enjoys the fact that jewellery is given with affection, and that she is part of an industry which is essentially funded by love, in all its manifestations. In addition to this, being her own boss is one of the parts of being a jeweller which Dot most appreciates. “I’ve got a fabulous boss,” she confides jokingly. “She lets me work flexi-time. And I can have a cup of tea whenever I want.” A perk if ever there was one!
While Dot has a well-established reputation and continues to thrive as an independent jeweller, she is no stranger to hard work and is very aware of the tough competition faced by newly emerging jewellers. Her advice to graduates, or those looking to make it in the jewellery industry is to work hard and, most importantly, to keep pushing your boundaries because, as Sim reflects, “you’re never done learning.” This sounds like yet another reason to recommend the life of a jeweller as a rewarding one, a challenging one, and, most of all, a professional one which holds the promise of a very personal lasting legacy.