East Neuk’s Jo has a head for heights and business – ‘I love each and every piece and sometimes have difficulty parting with them’

Jo Macfarlaneat home in Anstruther
Jo Macfarlaneat home in Anstruther

The family of East Neuk-based candle-making entrepreneur and painter Jo Macfarlane clearly have a head for heights!

Jo’s mum Betty is a talented artist who used to work for General Instrument in Glenrothes and drew technical circuits which were incorporated into the Apollo lunar missions.

And Jo herself worked as an air stewardess with Air UK in Edinburgh, British Midland short haul at London Heathrow then British Airways at Heathrow and Gatwick.

But it’s 45-year-old Jo’s talents as a self-taught artist, and a definite entrepreneurial streak, that have helped her carve out a new grounded career as a painter, candle maker and restorer of antique furniture.

Jo, who is from Pittenweem and lives in Anstruther says: “I have always been a maker and a bit of an entrepreneur. When I was younger I sold stones from the beach at my home with hand painted fine art images of birds.”

When she was seven she won a competition on 1970s TV show Magpie to ‘Draw your home’ winning her visits to London for a series tutored by famous artist Harold Riley who worked with the great LS Lowry. Riley had painted the portraits of Mandela and US Presidents.

Jo adds: “Art has always been in my blood but my career side tracked me into working for airlines for 16 years and it wasn’t until I had my son Archie seven years ago that I started up my own business.”

Her aim at the time was to have her paintings shown in the top Scottish Institutes and in galleries at The Mound in Edinburgh and the Mitchell Library in Glasgow, which she managed to achieve. She still has paintings hanging in Edinburgh, Craig Millars @16 West End Restaurant in St Monans and Rocca Restaurant, St Andrews.

The candle making and hand painting antique furniture really started as a hobby, but her love for all things eco, renewable and sustainable grew when her awareness of different types of candle making and waxes grew. She loves rescuing old furniture from auctions, giving it some TLC with some eco paint and re-homing.

She adds:“I love each and every piece and sometimes have difficulty parting with.”

Jo has just launched a scent named ‘Number 6’ to celebrate the sixth anniversary of her business.

She has a signature range of eight fragrances in the clear glasses with silver lids, and on the way an aromatherapy range and ‘World’ range to echo the scents of the beautiful destinations she visited.

She also has a small travel candle tin with a lid to pop into bags on travels. She used to take a candle away with her to burn in her hotel room to remind her of home.

She is also looking for a workshop to rent as she currently works from home which is great, but it does come with its own challenges. She firmly never turns up to work in PJ’s but always dresses ‘to the shoes’.

When Jo isn’t pouring candles or hand painting Antique furniture or kitchens she has been known to skydive, hanglide, firewalk, walk the Great Wall of China, compete in duathlons, half marathons and her latest challenges the A-Z of half and full marathons and Loch Ness Etape, mostly for charity.

Jo sells her candles online in Lilies & Dreams Edinburgh, Unique Beauty Kelso, Harbour Interiors Anstruther and is working towards scenting a well known St Andrews hotel with her candles.

Jo is currently looking into running candle making classes to share the ‘candle love’ and is going to donate a percentage of the cost to Sreepur Village, a childrens orphanage in Dhaka, Bangladesh which she has visited and likes to support.