Donna Wilson has been called ‘wonderful with wool’ and a ‘material marvel’. Her distinctive designs have won her an army of dedicated fans around the world and given her the reputation as one of Scotland’s brightest design stars. As well as her collection of lovable knitted creatures, the past seven years have seen Donna produce blankets, cushions, trays, wooden dolls, scarves, socks, tea towels, upholstered furniture, even stationary and books. In fact there isn’t much that Donna hasn’t turned her creative hand to!
Donna is committed to making pieces that will last. From her creatures to the upholstery pretty much all of Donna’s designs are made in the UK from 100% natural fibres, like lambswool which is both durable and environmentally friendly.
Which comes first for you, personal style or trends?
Definitely personal style. For me its important not to look to much at trends as my aim is to create something new and fresh, and that has to be a personal response. I guess its inevitable to be influenced by what surrounds us, but I want to try and keep ahead and create designs that are unique to me!
What are you currently working on and how is it shaping up?
I always have lots on the go at the same time. Otherwise I panic that I’m not busy enough! At the moment we are putting the finishing touches to the Winter ’10 collection which will be launched in August- new hats, scarves and even gloves, as well as soft furnishings. I have always sold scarves but I thought it might be nice to create more of an accessory collection this year.
I’m really excited to be working with Sharon Knightly, an animator, on a music video for Gideon Conn. I saw Gideon perform at Glastonbury a few years ago and thought he was amazing. The happy music seemed to suit my creatures perfectly, and I have always wanted to bring them to life through animation so when this opportunity arose I jumped at the chance. I can’t wait to see the results!
Oh, also at the end of May we are creating a giant maze of yarn for a festival in my home town in Scotland. Its going to be a labyrinth of multicoloured yarn that people can interact with!
What’s currently inspiring you?
I’m really into Scandinavian design and artists. Being from Aberdeen, I think I might have some Scandinavian blood! I love the work of Norwegian ceramicist, Stig Lindberg. I think its the simplicity, the reference to nature and use of natural materials that I’m drawn to. I just need to plan a Scandinavian tour!
Has your business developed in the way that you anticipated?
I think so, although I never really imagined that I’d create a business from making knitted creatures. The products have evolved and I have had to become a bit more business minded than comes naturally. I’m so determined to keep developing and not stand still. When you’re working all the time, its sometimes difficult to stand back and see whats happened. I occasionally get a glimpse of it when I see things in magazines, or get some good feedback from people. I heard that Orlando Bloom bought two of my trays, and Sheryl Crow has bought a pouffe!
Do you work best alone of collaboratively?
I enjoy both. Collaborating is more difficult as you always feel like the design has to be a bit of both you and the collaborator. I quite like it when its just the way I want it! having said that I think that collaborations are very important as they make you do things that you wouldn’t normally, and that challenge is really good.
What is currently tempting you to make a purchase?
I would really like to buy a ‘love seat’ from Ercol. Its so simple, smooth and lovely, and also its made in the UK.
What’s the best thing about your job?
Creating happy products that people like and buy! Sometimes I can’t quite believe that! Also I am my own boss and can choose when I want to do the exciting things and leave the boring things until later!
Pencil and paper or computer and mouse?
I wish that it was just pencil and paper, but I do spend a lot of time on the computer. Even with designing, I have started to use ‘Illustrator ‘ quite a lot to generate different combinations quickly. All of my ideas do start off with pencil and the back of an envelope, or whatever comes to hand…
I feel most creative when…
I am on a train traveling through the countryside with a sketchbook and no internet!
Any final words of advise?
Keep determined, work hard, be confident in what you are doing and have fun with it- easier said than done sometimes but we all know that if we really, really want something we can get it!
Donna Wilson in her studio
Hand Painted ‘Staffordshire Dogs’