Family cashes in on gran's 'hoard' of recipes

THE pieces of paper might look like a pile of old hand-scrawled recipes with more sentimental value than monetary worth.

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n Esther and Ishbel have set up their own textiles business in the garage of  their home inspired by, inset, Granny Donald, top, and Great Granny Isa   Pictures: Mark Mainz n The designs include oven-gloves, napkins and  tea-towels, all with appropriate food messages Esther and Ishbel have set up their own textiles business in their garage
n Esther and Ishbel have set up their own textiles business in the garage of their home inspired by, inset, Granny Donald, top, and Great Granny Isa Pictures: Mark Mainz n The designs include oven-gloves, napkins and tea-towels, all with appropriate food messages Esther and Ishbel have set up their own textiles business in their garage

But to an entrepreneurial mother and daughter, these foodie heirlooms are the prized possessions that have helped them start a business.

Ishbel Muir, 56, and Esther, 26, have ploughed four generations of family secrets into their textile company, Rhubarb & Ginger.

Hundreds of concoctions, some dating to the early 20th Century, are the inspiration for their hand-printed, hand-sewn aprons, tea-towels, oven-gloves and cushions.

There are contributions from the annotated notes squiggled on to that bible of domesticity, Mrs Beeton's Book Of Household Management, first published in 1861.

There is great-granny Isabella Macmillan's kitchen wizardry, and granny Margaret Donald's homemade petit fours that were given as gifts in place of bought Christmas presents when money was scarce after the First and Second World Wars.

Even the company name is derived from great-granny Isa's traditional jam, which has been tried and tested over the generations.

Ishbel, from Cambuslang, said: "We saw the rhubarb and ginger jam recipe and I thought rhubarb and ginger sounds nice together.

"It makes your mouth water – it is very evocative. That is what we wanted our designs to do – you can almost feel the taste of the food."

Ishbel, a textile graduate from Glasgow School Of Art, has taken early retirement from her job as an art teacher in East Kilbride to work full-time on the venture.

The initial idea started as a degree project of Esther, who has an honours degree in textiles from Gray's School Of Art, Aberdeen.

Having initially started looking at Second World War material, she turned to the collection of family recipes to draw inspiration.

"I like old things and like the smell of old recipe books because they remind me of grandma, just the colours and the texture of it all," said Esther.

"I think it looked lovely. I am a big fan of vintage and antique and didn't want to throw them out."

After graduation, Esther worked in retail for three years.

But she knew she wanted to start her own business, so began talking to her mum about extending the academic project into a commercial entity.

"We then decided to carry on the theme because I was quite successful with my degree show," added Esther.

"People were really interested and it was quite commercially based. We thought: 'Why not push this?

"I got my mum's input, putting our talents together, and the designs formed nicely."

The pair have transformed their semi-detached Victorian home to help realise their vision.

The garage has become a darkroom where the templates for their screenprint are created.

Eldest daughter Hannah, an architect who lives in London, drew up the plans that were used to convert the dark and dusty basement into a bright and warm home studio.

Ishbel's husband, Ian, used his 20-year experience working for a label printing company in Clydebank to set up the reprographic studio in the garage.

Instead of shelling out £2500 on new equipment, he trawled the internet to find out how to fashion a home-made exposure box.

Esther's boyfriend, Jim, is called upon whenever help is needed with making the swingtags for their designs or even a spot of ironing.

Each of the printed swingtags list the ingredients and method of the recipe that inspired the design.

Ishbel added: "My mum was a great selective hoarder.

"It is our passion for being creative throughout the family that has meant these things have been passed on.

"I have three folders of my recipes, as well as all the ones downstairs that we use for designs.

"We like well-tried recipes. You can tell the ones that have been used a lot."

After their workspace was completed in September, the pair launched the company officially with a house party two months later.

Two bright yellow aprons hang up next to the paint-splattered sink of their basement studio, while the print table has a length of cotton printed with their 'orange marmalade' designs.

On the plain walls are bright mood board ideas – with cakes, memories, birthday, Easter, Christmas and tradition concepts to work on.

They have sold their products at craft markets in Glasgow and St Andrews, and will be attending the Makers Market at Hillhead Library on February 23.

Esther has also set up an e-tail site through a free website builder.

"My friend suggested a website, which was the easiest thing you can do – it was so creative," said Esther.

When an e-mail alert arrives from PayPal, the internet payment website, it is "all hands to the pump" to deliver the product to their burgeoning online customer base.

They are putting together a dossier on the business to approach about 40 retail outlets to take their product on to the high streets in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

They also hope to be able to adapt their service to create bespoke items, such as napkins, aprons and table covers, for restaurants or hotel chains.

The business has been entirely self-financed, which has meant a rollercoaster of emotions.

Ishbel said: "One day you are terrified, the next you are excited."

Esther added: "That is what you are always going to get with your own business - and working at home with family as well. We're all in it together."



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