Jade Boylan lives, designs ‘Candy Doll’ pins on the Isle of Man
Artist’s home is a former power station for the British island’s electric railway system
There’s a 221-mile stretch of land located in the Irish Sea, almost equidistant from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
The Isle of Man is recognized by people in that part of the world for its rich history of Celtic and Viking heritage and folklore dating back to 6500 BC, and for its lush green countryside that’s speckled with what remains of Medieval castles.
For such a small place, the island has quite a few surprising ‘claims to fame. It has its own government (the oldest continuous parliament in the world—and the first legislative body to give women the right to vote) and its own language (Manx Gaelic). It’s also home to a tailless breed of cat known as the Manx. It plays host to the most dangerous motorcycle race in the world (The International Isle of Man TT) and is known for being the birthplace of the disco legends, The Bee Gees.
For 27 year-old artist and pin maker Jade Boylan, it’s where she calls home.
“I live in a 120-year-old house. My home was originally one of the stations to generate power for the Manx Electric Railway that runs up and down the island,” she said.
While the power station was built in 1898, Boylan isn’t sure when it officially stopped producing electricity and shut down operation. She just knows that it was abandoned for at least 50 years before her father bought the derelict building at auction the same day she was born.
“It took him three years to renovate the place,” Boylan said.“When he bought it, there was no roof, and a huge tree had grown in the middle of one of the rooms. We moved in a few weeks before my fourth birthday and have been here ever since
“I really love living in a house with such an unusual history. The only downside is that the stone walls are three feet thick in places and the WiFi only works in about four rooms.”
The house is also headquarters for Boylan’s business, Candy Doll Club, where she designs and sells her brightly colored, feminist and 90s-nostalgia inspired pins and patches by way of the internet. The artist is a self-described “candy pop painter” and “full-time daydreamer,” who said that even as a child, she took issue with the expression “like a girl.”
“When I started designing pins, they immediately had a ‘girl power’ vibe – probably thanks to growing up obsessed with the Spice Girls,” she said. “And the ’90s influences soon followed. Now my work is a mixture of the two: feminist-inspired flair along with stuff from my childhood.”
Boylan makes and sells pins that are sold in shops around the globe, including in the U.S., France, Ireland and The Netherlands.
One place they aren’t carried: the Isle of Man. The island just doesn’t have an enamel pin community, Boylan explained.
“I only know of one other artist currently selling their own pin designs,” she said. “There are quite a few shops selling pins, but sadly, they’re mostly selling the same cheap – and often ripped-off — designs you’ll find online. I’ve approached several shops with my wholesale line-sheets, but so far no one has been interested in stocking my pins locally.”
The artist said she’s inspired by “bright colors” and “anything glittery,” but also draws from a lot of different places — many comforts from childhood, like toys, games, shows, foods, films or songs. Sometimes, she’ll visit a charming nearby forest reserve that’s filled with Bluebell flowers in the springtime.
“It’s definitely very inspirational living here,” she said. “If I’m ever feeling in a bit of a creative block, I usually go for a walk in the nearby Ballaglass Glen. Even though I’m not directly inspired by the flora and fauna of the island, the wide-open spaces and soaring blue skies often manage to conjure some new ideas in my head.”
The artist made her first pin in October 2015, and officially launched her first pin that December. Boylan was interested in pins for their “collectability factor,” she said.
“As a kid, I collected all sorts of things but as we grow up we don’t always keep that urge to collect stuff. Pins are great because it doesn’t matter how old or young you are, you can still collect them.”