Shock of Grey

 Shock Of Grey LogoShock Of Grey OwnerShock of Grey Product

Shock of Grey, founded by Sarah Carroll Kelly in 2018, is a sustainable jewellery company based in Dublin 8. Sarah handcrafts statement jewellery that is colourful, bold, bright, unique and sustainable from unpredictable materials, such as wood, brass, plastic, silicone and clay. Pieces are designed, wood cut and painted and clay moulded and cast in Dublin. All pieces are individually handmade, meaning you will never meet another person with the same piece!


The moment Sarah discovered her first lock of grey hair, she knew it was now or never. The result is Shock of Grey, which is hand-crafted, sustainable, but bold and beautiful at the same time.

The inspiration for Sarah’s designs comes from many places; “I studied Fine Art Sculpture in Limerick School of Art & Design in the 90s and I think the making of this jewellery is the miniature manifestation of those skills. I take inspiration from the world around me and am like a magpie collecting and keeping things that interest me so I always have a bank of reference material. It could be a vintage book, a piece of modern art, a building and its shapes, a colour combination from a child’s toy. I do hand drawings and doodles and they often turn into a shape that becomes an element of my jewellery. I love coming up with colour combinations and get a gut reaction when it hits the mark”, Sarah explains.


Sarah spent a period of about a year researching all aspects of her business before taking the plunge. She began playing with materials, techniques and retraining on a gold smiting course in the Dublin School of Jewellery. She began undertaking market research amongst her peers, to see what they would be interested in.

“I had notebooks on me always in case I saw anything that I wanted to note or draw and took loads of photographs.”

Making the Decision to become Self Employed

“In the space of 5 years I lost my brother, one of my best friends and father and the shockwaves it sent threw me made me take stock of my life and what I was doing with it. They were all creative people who lived their creative dreams and I had ignored mine. In 2020 I left my safe full time job as a design teacher and started Shock of Grey full time.”

Sarah cites finding the confidence to leave her safe, reliable job and taking the risk to become self-employed as one of the biggest obstacles she had to overcome. She originally started Shock of Grey while she was employed as a design teacher and for the first couple of years and ran the business alongside her demanding full time job. It was during the first lockdown in 2020, while running Shock of Grey part time, home-schooling her two young children and also teaching her students from home, Sarah realised that something had to give. She stopped teaching in September 2020, worked on her online shop and devoted herself to running Shock of Grey full time.

“It was the right decision and I launched at a peak of demand and sold a lot of pieces.”, says Sarah

Challenges & Opportunities

Sarah, who also has a Masters in Digital Design, finds that while she is well versed in the digital design and marketing area of business, it can sometimes be difficult to know who exactly is best to turn to for assistance.

“I find that the biggest void of information and skill is the financial planning but there are really some pockets of knowledge that every small business lacks and that's where you can rely on the likes of LEO or the DCCI.” The biggest opportunities for Shock of Grey are usually recognition based. By being out there in the media, it means that more people are driven towards the brand and in turn leads to more sales and opportunities for Sarah and Shock of Grey.

“One example is a really successful photoshoot, which then led to lots of press, a Nationwide feature, a Late Late Show piece and ultimately ended up with Shock of Grey being stocked in the Kilkenny Design shop & Design Ireland. I was also selected this year to take part in Shoppe Object a trade show in New York and that makes the creative company dream very alive!”, Sarah smiles.

LEO Supports

“I used LEO at the very start to feel my way around the basic steps to set up a business.”

Sarah availed of the LEO training supports such as;

  • Business Advice Clinic
  • Mentoring- “The mentor sessions were useful to figure out best practice and standards for certain processes like customer service, dealing with revenue, what to register your business as (Sole trader/Ltd company etc)… I have since had some excellent sessions with LEO business mentors and training on how to fill out grant applications.”
  • Online Selling Masterclass for Craft & Design Businesses
  • Trading Online Grant Information Webinar

Sarah is also a member of the Women in Business Network. She is also planning on applying for financial grants soon to assist with expansion.

“Everything has been self-funded so far so I'm hoping that applying for a grant will help grow my business. It means that hopefully I will have someone working with me full time to fulfil orders and develop the business as we are currently in high demand.”

Adapting to Covid 19

With markets closed during the pandemic, Sarah needed another avenue to sell her pieces. By using her digital marketing skills, Sarah built her own website.

“During Covid, I built my own website so I could sell directly. Before that, I was selling via DM on Instagram and at markets & in some shops but the website really allowed me to keep a revenue stream while working from home. There were days at the start of the pandemic when I was terrified to go to post offices so I changed my packaging to be more slim and streamlined so I could just do a post box drop instead. I trialled new products and did live maker videos, which helped to grow my audience. The day I launched my site I had over 40 orders in about 2 hours. I thought right then that this might actually work!”

Building Craft & Design Enterprise Programme & Showcase Ireland 2022

“I was lucky enough to get onto the Building Craft & Design Enterprise Course with the DCCI and that was hugely helpful. I met lots of peers too and we are each other's sounding boards still when we are stuck on something. It’s very hard to create a community during a pandemic but we did! The course was intense and covered a lot some of which I didn't need at the time but can now still revert to notes.”

Shock of Grey exhibited atthe virtual Showcase Ireland 2021 and is now part of the 2022 line up. Sarah had visited Showcase previously and it had always been a dream of hers to one day participate.

“In a way it (virtual Showcase 2021) was like a soft introduction to tradeshows. Lots of contacts for stockists came out of it, but I can't wait to do it for real in person. It'll be so positive to meet new people and get my work seen!”

Sarah hopes that by exhibiting in person this year, it will help her connect with more stockists, especially in Leitrim & Waterford, two counties she is yet to stock her pieces in.

2022 and beyond

Expansion is big on the cards for Shock of Grey. Sarah tells us; “I’m super excited to be going to New York in February for Shoppe Objects design Show and later in the month back in Ireland for Showcase.”

She is also hard at work creating new pieces “I have new designs that are in development and an exclusive for the Kilkenny Design Shop for Mother's day. I've a photoshoot coming up in May too for a new collection and lots more exciting developments later in the year including moving into a new studio and taking on a full time maker graduate for NCAD.”