The word is out about Mhairi’s success story

Former Rothesay Academy pupil Mhairi Mackenzie has branched out from web design to jewellery-making with a distinctly Scottish theme.
Former Rothesay Academy pupil Mhairi Mackenzie has branched out from web design to jewellery-making with a distinctly Scottish theme.

REMEMBER when the BBC decided to add subtitles to Britain-wide broadcasts of Rab C. Nesbitt in order to make it more intelligible to non-Glaswegian viewers? Or when the Proclaimers were urged to tone down their broad Fife accents in order to broaden their appeal?

Those are just two examples of the way in which, not too many years ago, Scottish accents, words and phrases were widely frowned upon.

Happily, those dark days have been well and truly consigned to history: and a former pupil at Rothesay Academy is making a huge success of the new enthusiasm for slang words and local expressions from all over Scotland.

Mhairi Mackenzie, though, is very down-to-earth about the success of her latest business venture, Bonnie Bling, which takes slang words and phrases from all over Scotland and turns them into distinctive pieces of acrylic jewellery – and equally frank about where the idea came from.

“My friend Sarah Richardson and I came up with the idea about a year ago, when we were slagging each other off over a bottle of wine,” she told us.

“We were using all these Scottish words and phrases, and at one point I told Sarah ‘I’m going to make you a necklace out of these words’ – and then I woke up the next day and thought, you know, that’s not such a bad idea.”

Early creations included ‘Och Aye’ earrings and a ‘Blether’ necklace, and now ideas are flooding in from all over Scotland for new words and products to add to the range.

“A lot of the words I don’t understand myself,” Mhairi confessed, “but I always do a bit of research to make sure the words are genuine and somebody doesn’t end up walking around with something offensive hanging round their neck!

“It really seems to have caught the attention of people, and I’m always getting requests for new products and new words. It’s starting to grow arms and legs, but you just need to learn to roll with it.

“That’s always a very difficult thing for a small business to do, and although I’ve been in business myself for a wee while, my other work is in the service industry, which is very different to retail and production.

“But it’s exciting as well as challenging, and I really relish the challenge.”

The company has branched out into fashion design too: earlier this year, its products caught the eye of the organisers of a Glasgow fashion show called In The Company Of Wolves, and Bonnie Bling accessories were combined with the show’s theme of 70s horror to great effect.

Some of those looks were recreated for a fashion shoot which took place on the island last week and combined Mhairi’s burgeoning business with her love of Bute.

“Although I went to school in a number of different places, Bute is where I grew up, and Bute is the place I class as my home,” she said.

“I’d always wanted to do a photoshoot combining my stuff with the Victorian architecture or the beach.

“We used clothes from The Dressing Room and accessories from Good Things – it was a great opportunity to bring a few city folk down to the island to show them what we’ve got.”

Mhairi – who juggles Bonnie Bling, now available on Bute through the Brandish Bute shop in East Princes Street, with her ‘day job’ at her own web design firm, Mucky Puddle – also says she owes much of her career path to the day when, as a second year pupil at Rothesay Academy, she was given a copy of an information booklet called Which Way Now?.

“I opened this book,” she said, “and it directed you to the topics you were interested in , what subjects to take, and what career you could have at the end of it.

“It looked like there were only two options for me: one was to be an artist, with great creative freedom and scope to express yourself and become very high profile, but the chances are you won’t make any money.

“The second option was to be a graphic designer, working to a brief, without the same creative freedom – but you might actually make some money at the end of it.

“So I just decided those were the things that I would do – although I’ll tell you now, I’m still waiting for the money!”

Mhairi’s regular routine sees her concentrate on Mucky Puddle from nine o’clock in the morning until around four in the afternoon, and then after a break for tea, she turns her attention to Bonnie Bling until ten o’clock or so – though often with the help of friends who come round for company as well as to help out.

But not everyone, it seems, finds such a hectic schedule easy to get their heads around.

“Some people find it difficult to understand, and get disappointed when you say you’re not coming out for a drink,” she added.

“They don’t seem to understand that it’s different when you’re self-employed – and even more different when you’re self-employed times two!

“But I always try to make time for friends, and I’ve met a lot of new people through going to craft fairs and markets, meeting retailers and so on.

“The thing is that I can’t relax properly any more when I’m not working.

“That’s why I love coming back to Bute - it gets me away from the city, but I can still go for plenty of walks and meet up with friends. I do miss the place a lot when I’m not here.”