Gillian Kyle – Scottish artist, designer and local business owner
After transforming a passion project into a one-stop-shop for all things Scottish, Kilbarchan’s Gillian Kyle takes us inside her thriving — and Tunnocks endorsed — enterprise.
How did the business come about?
I studied textiles at art school and I really wanted to be a fashion designer but I realised that if I wanted to do that, I’d need to move to London.
However, I was in my 30s and living in Glasgow with my partner, so I didn’t really fancy relocating to a bedsit down there (laughs), so I had to make something happen here.
I was living in Govanhill at the time and went down to my local corner shop with the idea of doing a Scottish still life as a bit of fun. I think I’ve always been interested in the aspects of Scottish culture that we’re so disproportionately fond of that other people don’t have.
Tunnocks, Irn-Bru, plain loaves, things like that. I’m fascinated by packaging design and branding in terms of how that interacts with culture and their ability to conjure up a whole load of emotions. It all began with some bags and tea towels at craft fairs and it all just grew from there”
How did your relationship with Tunnocks come about?
Once I realised this had the makings of a business, I had to phone them up. Straight away, Mr Tunnock invited me in. He’s a big patron of the arts and essentially told me to ‘just go for it’ and now, we’ve got a proper license agreement. It’s a really nice relationship. I’ve even had guided tours of the factory by Mr Tunnock himself!
Is it rewarding to help Scottish ex-pats maintain a little slice of home?
Within the UK, we definitely send a lot more south of the border. Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US account for a lot of our business. Things like our artwork and suitcases tend to go overseas as, in the case of the prints in particular, it lets people have something on their walls to remind them of home.
Oftentimes, you have people who live in Scotland sending things to ex-pat relatives to make sure they don’t forget their roots. The nicest thing is when people get in contact to say that they’ve bought stuff as they were feeling homesick and it helps them stay connected. Those little stories keep you motivated when all the tougher aspects of business get you down.
- Pokémon Go in Renfrewshire – Gotta Catch Them All!
- An Adventure at Gleniffer Braes by Thomas Campbell
- Piccolo Mondo Renfrew dinner review by Renfrewshire Foodies
What’s your plan for the rest of 2021 and beyond?
I’m running the whole thing now and selling to shops, so we’re scaling that up to make it a bigger part of what we do. New designs, new products, new markets, just taking it all to the next level. I’m really excited.
Gillian Kyle Quickfire Q&A
Favourite Designer Timorous Beasties and Orla Kiely
Best Place for Coffee Blend, Paisley
Best Place to Eat Butchers Steak & Grill in Elderslie (best steak in the world IMO!)
Favourite Bar in Renfrewshire The wee bar at The Coach House in Bridge of Weir
Check out Gillian Kyle’s full range of bespoke products here.