With her latest collection  ‘Ae Fond Kiss’, Sheila Kerr hopes to evoke the passion of the Bard in all who wear her pieces,  writes Ann Fotheringham 

SHEILA Kerr’s beautiful Ae Fond Kiss pendant holds a special place in the award-winning jewellery designer’s heart, for a number of reasons. “I came up with the idea eight years ago, in the very early days of my business,” she explains. “When the National Trust for Scotland, who run the Burns Birthplace Museum, said they would include it in the museum shop, I was so thrilled.

“It has been one of my most popular collections ever since. As a jeweller, you do want to keep designing new things, and making sure your collections evolve. Sometimes, however, it’s those original ideas that continue to be popular with customers, and that is a lovely thing.”
The Ae Fond Kiss collection, which now includes earrings, a charm bracelet and a smaller version of the pendant, all available in yellow gold and white gold, is inspired by Sheila’s love of Robert Burns’ poetry.

“Ae Fond Kiss is his most recorded love song, although it is as much about the pain of parting as it is about the joy of love,” says Sheila. “My favourite line is ‘but to see her was to love her’, it is so full of emotion. The poem is timeless – loving someone, with all the joy and heartbreak that can bring, doesn’t change, so I wanted to capture that.”

Burns wrote Ae Fond Kiss for his beloved Nancy, (Agnes McLehose), whom he wooed and promised to marry when her estranged husband died. When Nancy decided to join her husband in Jamaica, Burns sent Ae Fond Kiss to her. He died before they could be reunited.
Sheila’s exquisite design is a Celtic heart “with a twist,” she explains. “If you follow down the lines of the heart, you find a hidden, smaller heart within,” she says. “Burns had to keep his love secret, so I wanted to include something of that ‘hidden’ romance.”

The Herald:

Sheila was a business management lecturer before she took a redundancy package and started her own jewellery design studio in Irvine, Ayrshire.
“I have always been a creative person,” she explains. “My husband spotted an advert for a silversmithing course, so I decided to go for it. I retrained in silversmithing and goldsmithing and set up the business. I love what I do and I feel like I am always learning. I’m always keen to try new things – recently, I’ve learned the Japanese method of knotting for pearl re-stringing, which has been fascinating.”

In addition to designing her own collections, Sheila, who was recently awarded runner up Jewellery Designer of the Year by the National Association of Jewellers, provides a bespoke design service.
“If a customer is interested in the bespoke service, the first thing I do is arrange an appointment here at the studio, or online if they prefer, to discuss their ideas,” she says. “Some people come with lots of ideas, while others have none, and are looking for inspiration.
“We then work together on the design, and I can advise on what is practical and what is possible in terms of budget, for example.” 

Sheila adds: “Some people bring older pieces of jewellery, such as diamond engagement rings which belonged to a mother or grandmother, and they want to incorporate the stones. I have done that now very successfully on several occasions.”
Once a customer is happy with the design, Sheila will send scale drawings and sketches for their approval. There is no upfront fee for this part of the service. Sheila considers it a privilege to share in her customers’ stories, she says – many bring repeat business, and word has spread quickly about her talent for design and her friendly customer service.