Catriona Maciver's homeware label combines her love for the textile traditions of Scotland and South India

“Textiles and craft can be a gateway to helping you understand more about a place, its culture and people."

Rebecca Vargese Published :  12th June 2020 06:00 AM   |   Published :   |  12th June 2020 06:00 AM
Backpack by Studio Tolsta

Backpack by Studio Tolsta

From the Western Isles of Scotland to the coastal city of Chennai, the journey of Catriona Maciver is one that is peppered with anecdotes of longing for a rustic life. It was this sentiment that caused the Glasgow-native to spend most of her childhood holidays at her ancestral village of Tolsta. Even as an adult, it was this feeling that spurred the graduate from Central Saint Martins, London to move her life to the little township of Tolsta (that has an approximate population of 500 people) — in the hope to rediscover a rural lifestyle. However, just as the graphic designer had finally set up her homeware label after a year of stay at her new hometown, she found herself heading to Chennai for a residency at a publishing house. And then, love happened — she met her future husband. “The trip was only meant to be for six months. But, I ended up staying on,” says Catriona, who has just launched her Chennai-based brand, Studio Tolsta.  

Catriona Maciver

Tales from the past
“Textiles and craft can be a gateway to helping you understand more about a place, its culture and people. My fascination with the indigenous textile of the Western Isles’ called the Harris Tweed (that is protected by law and can only be woven by the islanders of the Outer Hebrides of Scotland) is deeply embedded in the story and the history surrounding it,” she says, adding that the process, place and people behind a fabric, interest her as much as the cloth itself. Carrying this fascination over into her life in India, the 34-year-old has now combined her love for the textile traditions of both the countries and created a unique collection of travel bags, cushion covers, tabletop runners and quilts — featuring Harris Tweed and Indian handlooms. “I’ve always had the habit of forming attachments to specific objects — a favourite cup or a particular blanket. I find a lot of comfort and reassurance in using these things every day. I think I have been trying to create products that will hopefully give someone that same feeling.”

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What we love: The incredibly functional Cala Backpack that combines organic denim handwoven in Tamil Nadu and a moss green Harris Tweed.

Cala backpack & Takia cushion

Designer’s pick: The Takia cushions that are patchworked with neutral kala cotton from Gujarat and Harris Tweed pieces 

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A thing of beauty 
With the Indian counterpart of the tweed woven at the Chennimalai cluster in Erode,  all of Catriona’s products are minimalistic in their design. To this end, most of the surface embellishment comes in the form of patchwork made from blue, grey and neutral shades of kala cotton that is paired with contrasting hues of the textured tweed. “Back on the Isle of Lewis, it was more about finding textures and colours in the natural environment or patterns left behind on the sand.  In India, I find myself photographing grills and tiles, and looking for inspiration in the two-tone pastel buildings of South India. I guess, my work has involved comparing, contrasting and juxtaposing these two regions in various ways.”

Beyond boundaries 
Though currently tethered to Chennai, the Scottish designer tells us her love for the rural countryside and its indigenous traditions are far from over. Looking forward to further engaging with weaving centres in Gujarat and West Bengal, a collaboration in the North East is also on the cards. “I would also love to visit the region at some point as well, especially Nagaland — some of my favourite weaving is from there. That said, over the last year I have really enjoyed working in Tamil Nadu, so it will continue to be our main area of focus.”


Mats priced at Rs 1,000 onwards. Bags from Rs 7,800 upwards.