We’ve joined forces with the talented folks at Bill Baber to highlight even more businesses who are designing and creating in Scotland, just like us! This is part of our Meet the Maker blog series. This month’s spotlight is on Caroline Wolfe Murray who creates wonderful homewares using traditional Harris Tweed, bright Liberty fabrics and, recently, laser cut wood pieces. Caroline lives in East Lothian, just outside of Edinburgh. She chatted with Lucy from Bill Baber about her inspiration and her favourite parts of Scotland.
Can you tell us how your business got started?
After studying archaeology and working as an archaeological illustrator for a few years, kids came along and I wanted to do something that would fit around them and be more flexible. In 2010 I started making personalised baby and kids clothing and blankets, but decided something that was more shop-ready and less personalised would potentially be a better income. I had been given some scraps of Harris tweed by my friend Tamsyn, and eventually I made some chicken doorstops from them. These proved popular, so I made more. Fast forward 10 years and I have a range of over 33 Harris tweed products and also a range of laser cut and etched products. I’ve attended 3 Trade Shows and built up stockists all over Scotland, and even some in France, Holland and the USA.
Where do you look for inspiration when you are designing new products?
I love things that are practical and look nice, and I’m heavily influenced by Scandi design, so I draw on these for inspiration. I also think it’s a wonderful thing being a Scottish-based designer and embracing how lucky we are to have Scotland as a brand. People come from all over the world to visit Scotland, and the diaspora and tourists love a Highland coo or stag! I also think it’s a beautiful thing to have the Harris tweed industry and the heritage behind it, it’s such a globally recognised brand which still has decidedly grassroots.
Can you tell us a bit more about how you make your products?
I have a purpose built studio that I work in from home, which also houses my laser cutter. This was originally a practical investment for cutting the tweed (previously all cut by hand), but I’m expanding my range of products into laser-cut and engraved wooden decorative items. When it comes to sewing, I have a small team of people who sew from their own homes across East Lothian. Every item is handmade, and finishing touches like button eyes are sewn on by hand. A lot of my time is spent fulfilling orders and doing paperwork, or dropping off and collecting stock, so I don’t get to do a huge amount of sewing myself!
What are your most popular products and which are your own favourites?
The top sellers are the highland cow doorstops and hanging decorations, followed by the scottie dog decorations! They are cute and Scottish, and make a lovely gift. My personal favourite are the linen-lined baskets, because they look nice and I use them to tidy away junk from every surface in the house! But I also love the combination of bright Harris tweed colours and Liberty fabrics, so I’d also choose a cosmetics bag as another fave.
If you had to pick one place in Scotland to recommend that people visit, where would it be?
Since childhood I’ve visited the Ardnamurchan peninsula on the west coast of Scotland. It’s a truly wild place, where time slows down and I can recharge. I love taking my kids there, and see them enjoy it as much as I did as a child, and still do. We go fishing, visit white sandy beaches, and put out food for the resident pine martens, badgers and deer. Even the midges don’t keep us away!