Most of my work features enamel on silver, with fine gold wire and fine gold and silver leaf. Colour is very important, and has always been my main focus of interest; I love drawing and painting, especially watercolour.
I originally studied Textile Design at Glasgow School of Art, before being drawn towards Silversmithing and Jewellery Design. In my final year at Glasgow I won a Royal Society of Art Travel Bursary that enabled me to travel to Australia, and work and meet jewellers there and also to travel extensively.
After Glasgow, I completed an M.A. in Jewellery Design at the Royal College of Art in London, and then set up a workshop with my husband, Rod Kelly, Silversmith. After three years in London, we decided to move to South Norfolk, where we now live and work with our family.
Today there is still a strong textile influence in my work. Enamel is the perfect material for incorporating colour in jewellery, and although technically challenging, it works well for me. I enjoy working on small series of designs, and I like the way that pieces can coordinate well; an earring can match a necklace, or brooch, without it being exactly the same design, the link is the colour. Drawing is still very important in the evolution of new designs, and I find many colourful images start me off on a path towards a final series of work; these could be bright and colourful sweet wrappings, drawings from a kaleidoscope, or a study of leaves and berries.
Enamel is essentially a composition of glass, coloured with mineral oxides. It is ground to a very fine grain size in water, then applied to the piece of silver and fired in a very hot kiln until the tiny grains fuse together to form a fairly smooth, shiny surface. Enamel colour is permanent and will not fade, it is however glass and has to be treated with some care.
Sheila R McDonald was born in St Andrew, Fife, in 1958. She studied Textile Design and then Silversmithing and Jewellery at the Glasgow School of Art. In 1980, Sheila travelled to Australia with an R.S.A Travel Bursary to work with jeweller Ray Norman at the Sturt Workshops, Mittagong N.S.W. Following this gap year, Sheila studied Jewellery at the Royal College of Art, where she met her husband Rod Kelly, Silversmith. They shared a workshop in Clerkenwell before moving to Norfolk where they both now live and work. Sheila is a Freeman of the Goldsmith’s Company, and has work in the Goldsmiths’ Collection, and several other Museum Collections. Her work is exhibited in many Craft Council Selected Galleries. She is also a short course tutor, (teaching enamelling to all levels of student) at West Dean College in West Sussex.