MacOjay - luxury fabrics and contemporary design from Tarporley

PUBLISHED: 00:09 19 April 2013

Julie OShea and Claire MacGillivray

Julie OShea and Claire MacGillivray


Luxury fabrics and contemporary design are at the heart of a new home furnishings company near Tarporley.

Words By Emma Mayoh Photography By Kirsty Thompson

Claire MacGillivray struggles to part with the products she makes with her business partner Julie O’Shea. It’s not because she is precious about the cushions, throws and scarves the pair craft from Claire’s home on the Oulton Park Estate. It is because she cannot resist the feel of them.

‘They all feel so soft and they are so tactile,’ said Claire. ‘Julie laughs at me because I’m always feeling the cushions.

It is a bit of a guilty pleasure but I just love beautiful things made from beautiful materials. I love the colours and all the

different textures.’

Last year the pair, both 47, decided to launch their home furnishings and designer scarves business, MacOjay. They have enjoyed many successful years in the industry.

Claire worked as a lecturer in machine knitting and textiles at a college in Inverness – where she lived for several years with her artist husband, Ian. She also designed printed textiles for Dorma, the bedding company. Julie, who lives in

Eaton, worked for almost two decades designing children’s clothing and bridal collections for high street chains including BHS, Next and George.

But it was when Claire moved back from Scotland to her current home on the Oulton Park Estate, near Tarporley, that she started thinking about setting up a company.

She took on several projects in the first few years while bringing up her children, Dan, 17 and Scarlett, 15. She taught art

classes and held creative projects with local schools, including Eaton Primary.

But when she got in touch with Julie, who she had first met while they were on a foundation art course in Chester more than 20 years ago, they started thinking about launching a business.

Claire said: ‘I came back from Scotland and had this idea that I would really like to make cushions. But I also wanted to be

there for my children.

They are a bit older now and I thought it would be good to finally do something more official.‘We started experimenting with

embroidery designs but the technique wasn’t right for what we were doing. But it was a good part of the design process and

helped us to get where we are now.’

Over the past few months the two women have developed several cushion designs as well as beautiful throws and scarves. They use luxurious fabrics from mohair and Alpaca wool to velvet, high quality linens and silk. They love to use lots of colour and texture to create contemporary designs that make an impact.

Claire and Julie get advice and help from an expert knitter at the Metropolitan Machine Knitting Centre, near Nantwich, and use Manchester-based seamstresses for some of the sewing work.

They source materials from UK based companies, including Berisfords Ribbons in Congleton and threads from Jaycotts in Chester. But on their quest to find the right suppliers, Claire and Julie discovered that the traditional skills and the materials they needed were more difficult to find in the county. They hope to be able to improve this in the future by offering training to budding designers and makers.

Julie said: ‘We have found that there aren’t a lot of local people offering what we need. It was something we were

surprised about but we want to help with that.

‘We would love at some point in the future to work with local colleges to have trainees in the workshop with us so we can pass on our skills. It’s something that’s important to us.’

Julie and Claire also hope to develop and expand their range and supply a luxury, high-end store. They have dreams of their creations being stocked at Liberty, the renowned London department store. However, they have no aspirations to develop into a huge business. They want to produce small amounts of high quality items that will be cherished.

Claire said: ‘We want to build on the core of the design work we have. We want to give people more choice but we also want to establish our identity and for our pieces to become easily recognisable as ours.

‘Colour will always be a big part of our work, as will the different textures. The world is not black and white and we don’t

want our pieces to be either. It’s not that we’re creating family heirlooms but we hope that we are producing things that people will think are special and will look after for a long time.’

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