Few creators have managed to become as iconic and passionately adored as the ever amazing Donna Wilson. Her one-of-a-kind style, quirky creations and incredible collection of products are testament to her talent and years of hard work...
Donna tells us a little more about what inspires her wonderful world...
When did you realise you had a passion for design? What made you want to become a designer?
Since quite a young age, I knew I wanted to spend my days doing something in art and design. I was always drawing and making things, and was always most happy with a pencil in my hand. And I was very much influenced by my granny. She was very inspiring and always encouraged me and my sister 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. In fact, my granny was a bit of an amateur artist herself, so she would get our little doodles and drawings framed and sell them in local art shows in the nearest town. So from quite an early age I realised that you could sell your work and make money from it.
Where do your inspirations come from?
All over the place - the landscape, music, dreams, magazines, ceramics, Scandinavian design, people. Sometimes I just see a tiny snippet of something which triggers an idea, which is then developed into a product. Some time ago I went to a small remote island off the coast of Newfoundland and came back feeling really inspired by its landscape of boats and houses. But normally I find inspiration everywhere; it can be a tiny piece of cloth, a picture in a book, or found object from my travels. Nature is also a big inspiration for me, particularly the plants and animals in the British countryside.
How did you learn to knit? How old were you at the time?
My grandma tried to teach me to knit and crochet when I was really young but I didn’t have the patience. Even now I’m not very patient for hand knitting, I prefer to machine knit. We were taught the basics during my BA, how to cast on and off etc. That was in 1996, and after that I taught myself the rest to get the effect that I was looking for; I always loved the way I can create a fabric from a strand of yarn, in the texture colour and pattern I want.
What were your first knitted creatures? What inspired you to create them?
After the long leggy dolls, I made the weirder creatures, some of which are still in my collection now. I had a small family of them and I can’t remember which one came first, as they were all born around the same time: Edd Red Head, with the giant head and tiny body, Angry Ginger who was ginger with a hairy chest, Bunny Blue who had 4 sets of ears and 4 eyes, and Canibdoll, who was inspired by a story that was in the news at the time- a German cannibal advertised to find a mate to eat and he got a few applicants! I always loved the way children draw and I think a lot of that is expressed in the way my creatures look. A toe can be bigger than a head, limbs are asymmetrical - there are no rules! And the creatures' personalities are often inspired by people in my life. Although the creatures sound a bit weird, they are not scary. They are more like a band of collectable companions that people wanted to look after.
What do you love most about what you do?
Designing, and I have only recently given myself a bit of time to do this. I used to design in my own spare time, and on the back of an envelope on the bus! But I have been spending the last few weeks making mood boards, sketching and trying things out on the machine, and I remember why I love it. Being creative is a fantastic feeling, and I’d recommend anyone to give it a go. I also really enjoy making things that make people smile!
What is your brand ethos?
I'm passionate about creating products that people can connect with and making things that make people smile. And the studio is committed to making things that our customers will treasure. We strive to make products that are equal parts warm, friendly, familiar, cosy, and high quality. We use UK based manufacturers and suppliers wherever possible, doing our bit to keep craftsmanship alive. I think essentially, I like creating products that remind people of their childhood, nature, and the loveable imperfection and quirks of people and the world around us. I think that's something that almost anyone can relate to and find endearing.
What five words would best describe you?
Colourful, smiley (most of the time), messy, bendy, Scottish.
What are 5 things you couldn't live without?
A sketchbook, a stapler, music, colourful paints, the sea.
Do you collect anything?
I have to try very hard not to collect too many things. If I had enough space I would collect everything as I love being surrounded by inspiring objects. I do have a shelf at home that's got a collection of painted wooden dolls in all shapes and sizes. Some are from a trip to India, others are dolls that I've made, and some are lovely antique dolls with round ball heads from Japan. I love how there is a strange variation among them but that they all have nice faces.
What are your passions and how do you aspire to share them with your child?
My love for nature and animals, being creative and pushing things on, making things with my hands, colour and pattern, and working with small factories and manufactures in the UK. My partners and I are always really encouraging him to play and make things, be outside, and the not to watch too much TV! But I guess he will make his own way, and that's fine!
To check out more of Donna's incredible creations, head over to her website.