A sheepdog poses against a backdrop of rolling hills; a row of cottages sits in the shadow of a graceful willow tree; and boats bob about in a picturesque harbour.
These are just a few of the delightful scenes that May McGregor has created on lampshades, stools, cushions and canvases in Rosiemays studio in Pitscottie, which she shares with her equally talented sister Rose White. Rose’s delicate touch with the paintbrush transforms furniture, giving it a new lease of life and reflecting her love of nature. No two pieces in the studio are the same.
She also paints pictures and a variety of other items with unique decoration. “I paint just about anything, I even painted my fridge during lockdown,” she reveals.
The sisters grew up in Perthshire and were brought up doing handcrafts. “Our mum was a seamstress and also a knitter, crocheter and did painting,” says May. “She was our inspiration.”
Rosiemays (a combination of the sisters’ names) came into being in 2011 after several successful events selling their items had people asking for more.
“We started with a craft fair, with homebaking, in our garden for a charity that we supported and people kept asking us to hold similar events again,” says May. Another popular event in Strathkinness village hall eventually led the sisters to start Rosiemays, and after a couple of years they had their own studio built.
Every item they create is unique and therefore no two pieces are the same.
The process can be painstaking but May relishes how different materials or fabric can be created to give life to a shade or stool.
“I like designing within the seasons which keeps it interesting for me,” she smiles, before describing the process involved in making one of her popular lampshades.
“I start with a basic shade of strong fabric. It is then painted with a background, depending on the design – for example, if it is a coastal theme I would paint sea and sky.
“Once this is dry, which takes between four and five hours, the drawing detail is done, like the harbour wall and shingle. The small coastal houses are made and sewn by hand and treated with a firming solution, then once dry they are adhered to the shade.
“Another drying time is needed before final details are added.
“One shade, including the drying times, could take two to three days to complete,” she says.
Meanwhile, Rose will be hard at work on an item of furniture, explaining: “A piece of furniture will be cleaned and repaired, if necessary – my husband Ian is on hand to do all the repair work needed.
“This might involve sanding but not always as the paint I use adheres to most surfaces.
“I will paint two to three coats of chalk or milk paint, then I like to distress the piece to give it some character,” she continues.
“When it is all dry I will start to handpaint the design which will vary with every individual piece. This is without doubt my favourite part, deciding on the detail of the decoration once the basics are done.”
Once this has been completed and dry Rosie will then varnish it to give it a durable surface.
“Depending on the size of the piece the whole process can take between two and five days to complete but I just love seeing what was an old and often dark piece of furniture transformed with, perhaps, wild flowers or whatever takes my imagination.”
Furniture is sourced at auctions, internet sites and second hand sales and the sisters are always on the lookout for something different.
Fabrics used for shades, stools and canvases are mostly recycled from old clothes, blankets and materials sourced in charity shops or end of lines in fabric stores.
With customers from all over Scotland, commissions are a large part of Rosiemays and the sisters were relieved when lockdown was lifted and the business could reopen.
“Lockdown has affected us, as it has many others,” says May. “The studio had to close and we missed out on different events that we usually participate in, the main one being Open Studios North Fife in early May. This is normally a huge weekend for us as we can see 200 to 300 people visiting the studio.
“Once lockdown was eased we were able to open again with controlled visiting and we were also able to take commissions again.”
The most popular items include lampshades, cushions, candle blocks (made by Rose’s husband Ian and decorated by Rose), paintings and pieces of furniture.
“May also makes beautiful canvases with themes like the Nativity as we like to include the meaning of Christmas in our designs,” says Rose.
“At the moment, in the run-up to Christmas, I can’t keep up with the demand for our little white decorated wooden hearts.
“They’re just flying out of the door!”
As both Rose and May work – Rose is a part-time private carer and May is a diversional therapist – the business needs to be fitted around their working lives.
“We’re busy but we love it,” says Rose. “I would encourage anyone to follow their dream even if you’re pushed for time, and to try something even if you think you can’t do it. I didn’t know I could paint until I started doing it, and you get better over time,” she says.
Rosiemays studio at Pitscottie is open every Friday and Saturday from 10-5pm and items are also for sale also at Seaweed ‘n’ Stuff, Charles Street, Pittenweem 11-5pm Wednesday to Sunday, 11am-5pm.
Visits to the studio, outwith opening times, can be arranged by appointment. T: 01334 829422 w: facebook.com