Visiting Donna Wilson
Scottish designer Donna Wilson has a close working relationship with SCP. She has been designing upholstery, pouffes, cushions and accessories for us since 2005 and her own work is also very popular in our stores. Her Autumn/Winter collection will be on display as part of Design Department Store.
Donna was destined for a life in design from a very early age. Her Granny not only taught her how to draw and paint properly, but also showed her there was a lucrative side to designing. “She used to frame my pictures and sell them at little craft shops. Even as a teenager I was making jewellery and mirrors and selling them for pocket money. I suppose that was the start of it all.”
As the scale of production has grown, she is less involved in the making side of things, but she still enjoys the preliminary stages of designing and sampling new pieces. Inspiration comes from all over the place, from “illustrations, graphic design, books, things I see when I’m away, sometimes it might be a colour against another colour next to a pattern. Sometimes it’s just in your subconscious. I always try to keep it fresh.”
Her East London studio is bursting at the seams with boxes of colourful knitted creatures, cushions and samples and her small, tight-knit team (no pun intended) work closely to ensure everything runs smoothly. Donna is keen to work with people she gets on with and who understand her vision. She says when choosing which commissions to take on “sometimes the company might be great but the people are not quite your cup of tea. It’s important to get the relationship right.” With that in mind it is not surprising she produces all her pieces in the UK, with some people having worked with her from the beginning: “Bob and Elizabeth are this great couple in Gallowshields who do knitting for us. They’ve been really supportive.”
So what has she learnt since starting her business in 2003? “I’ve learnt two things. You need to say no to some things, which I’m not very good at. Also, I think it’s really important to stick to your principles. When I started out, people said I should get everything mass-produced in India or somewhere but I never really wanted to do that and it’s all worked in spite of that.”
Do you have any secret talents or party tricks?
“When I’m out at a party and I’ve had a few drinks I have been known to breakdance. At the time I think I look OK, but in the morning…”
Is there anyone you’d like to work with?
“Director Michele Gondry. I’d love to work on creating the set of a film like the one he did called The Science of Sleep.”
What is your essential item in your studio?
“My knitting machine. It’s obviously very important! I got a bursary from the Crafts Council so I could buy a motor for it. It completely transformed my life!”
Her new collection includes nautical hot water bottle covers, circus inspired arm warmers and mittens, new creatures and knitwear.