I love sharing exciting eyewear stories and new brands with my readers, so when Murray O’Keeffe reached out to me and we started talking about his collection, I was truly intrigued. Not only is Murray’s background and approach to optics inspiring, the story behind his brand Jukurrpa Designs has a story like no other.
Born and raised in Ireland, Murray comes from a family of Optometrists, Opticians and Ophthalmologists, dating all the way back to 1880. He came to Australia in 2003 and has dedicated his life to working in and across the Optical industries in both countries. The Jukurrpa Designs idea came to him after years of eyewear and personal experience, and by having a true dedication to sharing indigenous artworks.
Jukurrpa Designs features traditional artworks by Indigenous Artists from central Australia. Each model is unique and only comes in one colour, highlighting the artists, textures and most importantly the stories behind each artwork. This is such a unique concept that I am going to write another two blogs showcasing and discussing each frame in detail, exploring the artwork, the frame its featured on and the artists themselves.
So how did Jukurrpa Designs come to be? It was no easy feat, that’s for sure! Most of the Australian Indigenous artworks are protected and licensed and are not easy to re-produce, if it’s possible at all.
Fortunately, after a lot of hard work and exploring Murray and his team were able sign a licensing agreement with the Warlukurlangu Aboriginal Artists community, in Yuendumu near Alice Springs.
Murray works closely with the artists and uses their artwork under a long-term agreement, whilst also giving back a percentage of all sales. This income is shared amongst the entire community, contributing to projects and purchases like a dialysis machine and a swimming pool.
Over the last few weeks I’ve learnt a lot about Murray and Jukurrpa designs. Below are a few of the highlights from our discussions.
TEG: Can you introduce yourself as a little about your background?
M: My family founded Association of Optometry in Ireland, and we had a family business there since 1911. I started in surfacing labs when I was 15, before that in the family business. I then moved on to fitting labs, then qualified as a Dispensing Optician from England in 2001, went on to specialise in Contact Lenses from ABDO after, then left for Australia the next week after my exams finished in 2003. I opened up the eyesaBOve Lab in 2009, started designing shortly after. I closed the lab in 2018 to concentrate on fully designing, as I’m not the ‘Amazing Murray’ and here I am!
TEG: Tell us a little about your team (or is it just you?) And the artists?
M: Jukurrpa Designs is just me – MD and Designer, but I do have another Director in the company called Anthony Parisi who helps out from time to time and we bounce ideas of each other. The Artists come from a wide area near Yuendumu, about 350km NW from Alice Springs.
TEG: Storytelling is such a big part of this collection. Why is that important to you?
M: I love the meaning behind the artwork and what they are feeling when they paint, just adds so much more to it. I also see a lot of similarities of the Aboriginal culture and history with the Irish folklore as well, with storytelling, dancing and singing.
TEG: Of all your creations, what is your favourite product?
M: I honestly don’t have any favourites, as I spend a lot of time designing and picking each artwork to make sure they compliment each other and shows the artwork as best I can. When you launch a new range of only 8, it is hard to have everyone love all the 8 designs, but then you have to make sure most customers like most and there is always one they will love and then buy.
TEG: 2020 has been a difficult year for everyone. Have you felt any positive or negative impact on your business?
M: We just launched this new range in DEC 2019, so still quite fresh and new when Covid hit for us in Mid Feb, when it all came to a slow halt. We still kept selling and opening new accounts very slowly, but we totally understand, especially in lockdown. Before that we were doing well, we were in about 30 stores by then. But we are still pushing ahead with our plans and new designs out in Dec 2020, which seemed to be well received with our sneak peeks on FB. We are currently in 57 stores and growing maybe 1-2 a week and would love more stores to get on board !
With eyewear selection being such a personal experience and journey for every wearer, the Jukurrpa collection adds another element to someone owning a piece that really speaks to them. Story telling is a huge part of life nomatter where your from and there is something special about being able to wear a true piece of art in our every day lives. Sure to be a feaure and a talking point in stores, this collection truly does have a frame design to suit all kinds of face shapes and styles.
Murray has done an excellent job of trying to create something that will appeal to most customers, in a range of only 8 pieces. When I started trying them on though I was extremely impressed with the diversity between them all.
The artists at he heart of this collection explain the meaning of their artworks in such a passionate way that it is impossible to not feel some of that energy come through in the collection.
Make sure you’re subscribed to my blog so you don’t miss my next addition of Jukurrpa designs, where I start to look deeper at the frame collection, and the artists and stories behind each one.
To find out more information about the range or to contact Murray, you can find everything at: