A FORMER housing manager with a passion for jewellery found her silver lining by changing career - more than 40 years after deciding not to study art.

Heather Dowds, 58, has always had a creative talent, and when she left school she did an art workshop with the council with a view to building up a portfolio for art school.

But then an office junior's job came up and she got it - and her artistic ambitions were put on the backburner.

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However Heather, who hails from Broomhill but now lives in Gourock, kept the flame alive by doing bits and pieces in her own time and would eventually go back to her first love.

She said: "I always dabbled, drawing, painting, going to museums and art exhibitions. I never lost that creative spark."

She spent a total of 38 years working in housing, rising to become an area manager with the council by the time of the housing stock transfer to River Clyde Homes in 2007, and then worked in the development side with RCH.

Her last role was overseeing demolitions in Woodhall and Larkfield and the regeneration of the areas with the building of new homes, but the artistic world was still calling her.

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Heather, who has a daughter Beth, 28, said: "I took a silversmith course at Glasgow City College and I went back for another one. Then I bought some materials and equipment and started making jewellery for friends and family.

"I really enjoyed making jewellery from home but working full-time, you don't keep it up.

"During lockdown, I got out my materials and didn't stop. I also did stone setting, I was self-taught."

When she got the chance to retire early from River Clyde Homes in 2021, Heather did a bit of soul searching then started her own business in December that year.

She said: "I was still registering for jobs for housing, I guess it's just what I knew. But I was making jewellery for my friend and her two daughters and it was that friend who convinced me to take the leap and start up the business."

Heather has since joined other local artists who have been taken under the wing of Gourock's Crow Cottage Arts studio with Alec Galloway and Louise Wylie.

This has given her a place to show and sell her work.

She said: "Alec and Louise have taken us under their wing. We have a pop-up here in the gallery every January and February. It's good being part of a bigger team, you can bounce ideas off one another."

Heather is always designing new jewellery, and works in silver, incorporating precious and semi precious stones.

She also gets requests for commissions and repair work.

She told the Tele: "I've done a few wedding bands and some really nice one-off pieces and a Cross of Lorraine pendant.

"It makes me happy to create a piece that I know the customer is going to appreciate."

Although she specialises in jewellery she also paints landscapes and watercolours and did a collage course and fused glass course with Alec.

Heather says she feels she has 'come home' in her new line of work and found the right place.

She said: "Early retirement from River Clyde Homes opened a door for me.

"I've swapped being suited and booted and wearing hard hats for jumpers and jeans.

"I've really been enjoying myself. I feel I am back where I should have been."