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Meet the Fife woman inspired by family history to transform linoleum into jewellery

Fife jeweller Roslyn Leitch.

Roslyn Leitch loved growing up with the “queer-like smell” from the linoleum factory so much that she now makes jewellery from the flooring.

The Markinch-based artist has a long line of family connections to the Forbo-Nairn linoleum factory in Kirkcaldy.

Her father, grandfather and great-grandfather all worked in the factory, from summer jobs to over 50 years.

She is now carrying the family tradition forward – by making jewellery from linoleum.

“A lot of my family worked in the factory and it’s a material I’ve grown up with,” says Roslyn.

“I had it in my house as a flooring when I was younger.

“It’s a fully sustainable material made from solidified linseed oil, pine resin and cork dust.

“It comes in all these amazing colours that I’m really drawn to, all these colours I could use in my pieces.”

Local linoleum jewellery

The Fife jeweller graduated from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in 2003, having studied jewellery and metalwork.

Her career suddenly came to a halt the year after when she had her first child, Isabella.

Roslyn Leitch working in her jewellery studio.
Roslyn set up her workshop in her utility room at home.

The young family moved from Dundee back to Markinch and kept growing.

Roslyn says: “Life just became very chaotic, having a baby to take care of, then having three more kids.

“I felt for a very long time that I was either pregnant or I had complete baby-brain.

“While we were doing up the house we’re in now, I started buying and selling pieces of furniture and painting them.

“I think that’s where the creative side in me came out again.”

In 2018, she was ready to start making her jewellery again.

Having focused on acrylics and plastics at university, she wanted to find a more sustainable material for her new business.

Finding some local linoleum flooring samples in the house, Roslyn realised they would be the perfect material.

From Scotland to San Francisco

She set up a tiny studio in the utility room and began making.

Roslyn says: “It just took hold from there, I played around with the samples and made absolute loads of rubbish to begin with.

Roslyn Leitch's large drop earrings in red, orange, white and black.
Roslyn Leitch’s jewellery is made from silver and linoleum.

“Usually, my process is cutting out shapes and just playing around until I’m quite happy with what I’ve made.

“I like to use quite bright colours and linoleum lends itself well to the shapes I use.

“I work in silver as well, so I think the contrast between the warm linoleum and the cold silver works really well together.”

In 2020, she was invited to a trade show in New York in partnership with Craft Scotland.

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art took an interest in the Fife artists work, and they are now Roslyn’s largest stockist.

She says: “I’ve been quite surprised with how it took off in the USA, especially with my story being quite local.

“The people around here are familiar with linoleum, but a lot of people I spoke to in New York didn’t have a clue what it was.

Roslyn Leitch's linoleum brooch.
As well as earrings, Roslyn makes brooches and necklaces.

“I had to explain how it’s a local product and a lot of family have worked there.

“The sustainability of it is something everybody’s taken an interest in, what they’re buying and what it’s made from.”

Handmade jewellery from Fife

Roslyn gets the linoleum from both the factory and local flooring fitters.

She also gets donations from people who have fitted a new linoleum floor and have leftovers to give away.

Despite having stockists in both the UK and abroad, all her pieces are handmade.

Roslyn Leitch's small, orange linoleum stud earrings.
Roslyn Leitch’s linoleum pieces can be found around the UK and the USA.

She says: “I do everything by hand, I don’t actually use a lot of machinery.

“But I want to still keep a wholesale market, so I’ll have a little production line going and then send things off.

“I’d like to work more with gallery shops and museums all around the world, hopefully getting into more places in the USA and Europe.”

In the Markinch studio, Roslyn also has two sets of small hands who want to take part in her process.

While her teenagers Isabella, 16, and Freya, 15, don’t spend much time in the house, Otis, 11 and nine-year-old Marnie are eager to help out.

First up on their to do list is getting Roslyn ready for the Festive Design Market at V&A Dundee.