Studio Tolsta launched

Catriona sets up business in North Tolsta

It took travelling half way round the world to India for Catriona Maciver to realise that what she wanted to do was set up her own business.

While London, where she studied graphic design at Central St Martins College of Arts and Design, was the obvious choice, Catriona chose instead to head to North Tolsta in Lewis.

Catriona Maciver

As a second generation islander Catriona had spent a lot of time in the village as she grew up and looked forward to the challenge of creating her design studio in the Hebrides.

Now, speaking as she was getting ready to launch her online shop on her website ( Catriona explained that after graduation she had gone to work in a graphic design studio in India. While there she had been hugely influenced by the entrepreneurial spirit all around her.

“Being in India was a great opportunity to see and experience enterprises at all levels - from the vendors in the street markets to the artisans block printing at home, to the huge leather factories outside Delhi. While I was there I was lucky enough to also meet some very inspiring women who had built up their businesses on their own from scratch and were now hugely successful in their field and doing amazing things,” said Catriona.

When her contract ended in India she returned to the UK fired up by the many examples of entrepreneurship she had witnessed. 

When she was told her parents were moving to her father’s native North Tolsta, Catriona felt the time and place was right to make the plunge she had dreamt of.

Since arriving last year, Catriona has worked freelance from her temporary studio, a former loom shed. These last few months, though, have been focussed on setting up Studio Tolsta and establishing a range of product lines to take to market and building up stock.

These have been textiles, homewares, bags and ceramics, sold through a local network of shops including Mosaic, An Lanntair, and Buth Tholastaidh.

One of the first products to go on sale has been a range of cotton fabric cushions, with stylised interpretations of Stornoway and a range of cushions bearing reproductions of Stornoway business adverts from the 1950s, 60s and 70s. After sending off a consignment of her work to Germany, next up are an order of tea towels for Stornoway butchers, Charles Macleod Ltd. (Charley Barley’s) due to go on sale in the shop now, the launch of a new range of distinctive ceramic mugs, and a project in August with an Indian book publisher.

With so much going on, Catriona is finding herself working long hours to keep up. For, in addition to Studio Tolsta, she also sets Seanachas, the North Tolsta Historical Society newsletter, is in the process of moving house in the village and setting up a new purpose-built studio. 

Despite all that is going on right now, one thing this fledgling businesswoman keeps firmly in mind is the use, as far as possible, of organic materials that are responsibly sourced from local companies and UK suppliers. It is an issue that’s close to her heart and by acting on it is doing her bit to help protect the environment, she believes.

Taking the long view, then, is something Catriona takes seriously - be it her career or the planet.

Reproduced courtesy of EVENTS - what's happening in Lewis and Harris (