by Caitlin McAllister | May 4, 2016

When Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia decided to renew the badges on their Glengarries last year, there was no hesitation is asking award-winning Dundee jewellery designer Islay Spalding to come up with something strong, stunning and completely unique. As an accomplished Scottish jewellery and metalwork designer and a member of the Pipe Band community herself, Islay was the clear choice, and Pipe Major Ryan Canning collaborated with her to come up with a bespoke design that would fit with the band’s iconic image.

Islay is no stranger to Pipe Bands, having been previously a qualified British Army Drum Major and now a member of Dundee band MacKenzie Caledonian. With a workshop that she describes as “creatively chaotic”, she has worked on some exceptional, one-of-a-kind pieces of jewellery, as well as kilt pins for her own band and bespoke designs for individual clients which included cap badges.

Islay Spalding Studio / Grain and Glint Series / Photos by Islay Spalding

Although kilt pins are a particular speciality (see her wood and silver kilt pins from the Grain and Glint Series pictured above), Islay has also created everything from belt buckles and plaid brooches, to personalised wooden pins for men to be worn on kilts or lapels – suitably named Man Pins. These innovative brooches are the brainchild of herself and fellow designer Louise Forbes, and you might find them popping up on Instagram as they gain popularity, at the hashtag #moremenshouldwearbrooches.

Creating the Glengarry badges for Shotts & Dykehead however gave Islay an opportunity to try out production methods that she hadn’t previously, especially since this brief required the badges to be made from white brass. Sometimes known as German silver, white brass was a material less familiar to Islay, and this required her to find and visit a different Scottish casting company as part of her research.

“It’s a lovely metal, a warm silvery grey colour” Islay said. “We left the metal raw which I think is sometimes nicer, with a barrel polish and brush finish”

For Islay, a kilt pin or cap badge can take as little as a couple of weeks to make, however crafting these for a whole band and allowing time for the badges to be assayed and hallmarked too, means that from concept to finished product can in fact take several months. In the case of the Shotts & Dykehead cap badges, there was a lot to consider to ensure the final design was sturdy and of the finest quality. Based on the band’s new logo, Islay created several initial designs for them to choose from, and then the selected favourite was turned into a master badge. As with most of her designs she decided to write the font herself instead of using a computer generated option, which gave the badge a more unique feel.

The next challenge was deciding how best to attach the cap badge to the Glengarry.

“A lot of the newer badges use a regular hinged brooch pin, which from my experience can be a bit flimsy”, Islay said. “I’ve always preferred the way military cap badges are attached with loops that go right through the side of the Glengarry with a brass cotter pin to hold them in place, and luckily that’s what Ryan suggested for Shotts too.”

Islay is a fan of combining the traditional elements of metalwork with more contemporary designs, and tries to apply it to her work wherever possible – Shotts & Dykehead was no exception. When creating the Glengarry badges for the band, the majority of the processes carried out to make the master were exactly the same as they would have been hundreds of years ago, but with a few modern pieces of technology used to create the more intricate detail (such as lettering) and give the badges their premium quality. For a band with such a rich history, using these time-honoured traditional processes when creating metalwork for the uniform is always a detail that doesn’t go amiss.

Being creative with a bespoke design that fits her clients’ vision, while ensuring long-lasting, quality craftsmanship is Islay’s primary goal when she begins to produce her stunning designs.

“Cap badges that are not soldered on well or use a cheap metal can be easily breakable” Islay said, “…especially if your band plans to throw their Glengarries in the air on Glasgow Green!”

Lucky for Shotts, the cap badges stayed firmly in place when they went on to win their 16th World title at the World Pipe Band Championships last August and, as Islay predicted, throw their caps into the air in celebration.

Shotts check how secure their new badges are while celebrating winning the Worlds in Glasgow / Photos by John Kelly

Islay is currently working on her first silver sporran cantle, and getting ready to showcase her Perth-inspired kilt pins at the ‘Spotlight On’ event at Tayberry Gallery in June. You can also see her work displayed during Scottish Jewellery Week in May, specifically at Dundee’s International Design Festival. It seems that Shotts & Dykehead may be wearing an early creation from an artist who is sure to be making waves within the Scottish design scene for years to come.

If you want to view and buy Islay’s designs, including her ever-expanding Grain and Glint Series, you can find her work at, as well as on her main website,