Textile designer Donna Wilson on her colourful and messy workspace and what she’s looking for in a winning entry at this year’s Mollie Makes Handmade Awards…
Donna Wilson is one of craft’s biggest success stories. From learning to knit and create as a child on her family’s farm in Aberdeenshire, to setting up her design studio in east London, the mum-of-two is an inspiration for many designer/makers starting out. And her cushions look amazing in our living rooms too!
Her quirky knitted toys were the first items she made after honing her skills at The Royal Collage of Art and the cute critters soon caught the eye of local shops around the city. Now 13 years later Donna’s contemporary furniture, homewares and textiles are stocked in over 30 countries, she has collaborated with John Lewis and even started her own clothing line, making her the perfect judge for the upcoming Mollie Makes Handmade Awards.
We caught up with Donna to find out where her love for making comes from, how her greatest inspiration is still her granny and why she’s passionate about keeping British craftsmanship alive…
As a judge at the Mollie Makes Handmade Awards, what would be your top tip for makers who will be presenting to the judges?
Be original. It’s so easy to get distracted by what others are doing, especially on social media. Don’t compete – create! I’m really honoured to be an ambassador for craft and making and I can’t wait to see what everyone does.
You’ve won awards in the past, what difference did they make to you?
I won Designer of the Year for the Elle Decoration Design Awards in 2010. I think that was when lots of people started to know who I was and take me seriously, which is so important.
Where does your love of making come from?
I was always making and being creative at a young age. I was very much influenced by my granny. She was very inspiring and always encouraged my sister and me to look at things really closely. She taught me how to draw and paint, and tried to teach me to knit and crochet when I was really young.
What inspires you?
Travel, packaging, nature, music and sunshine – basically the world around us!
Who are your favourite makers?
Alexander Girard, Stig Lindberg and my grandma!
What does your studio look like?
Colourful and messy! I normally have bits of paper and samples everywhere! I am a messy person and do find that if I don’t have something that I need to do out in full view it tends to get forgotten about. I have a lovely bear sample sitting on my desk at the moment.
What do you do on your average working day?
I still do a bit of everything – selecting colours, mood boards, designing and making samples, production, marketing, admin, and everything to do with the day-to-day running of the business – and I’m still learning as I go along. Managing the business side of it is challenging, as is making the right decisions about what to spend our time doing. It’s also a part I really enjoy though, as I never thought that I’d be good at it, but as we’ve begun to have more success I think I must be OK.
What are your top tips for running a creative business?
The main things are to work hard, be nice to people, nurture relationships with customers, collaborators and work colleagues and always be determined. I think there is always room for more creativity, as long as you’re being true to yourself and finding your own voice.
What has been you proudest project?
Right now, I’m really excited about launching my publication about creativity. It’s called MYO (Make Your Own)
Name three things you can’t live without?
A sketchbook and my two boys, Eli and Logie!
What does making mean to you?
I want to promote local manufacturing and help keep British craftsmanship alive. There’s too much disposability in products and consumer goods nowadays and it’s environmentally irresponsible. I believe that if you have something that is handmade, it’s somehow more special than something made carelessly or mass-produced, so you’re more likely to keep it for years instead of throwing it away. I want to make things that people use, keep and treasure for years.
Who would your dream collaboration be with?
The director of the film Science of Sleep, Michele Gondry would be amazing, he uses a lot of making, craft and imagination in his films.
Running a craft business? Promoting and supporting handmade through an online boutique or building a community of makers through a hashtag? Enter the Mollie Makes Handmade Awards 2017.
Read Pinterest’s Communities Manager, Kate Allchin top tips for creating a winning entry.