Named Designer of the Year at the British Design Awards 2010, Donna Wilson is at the top of her brilliantly quirky game. Her original collection of curious knitted creatures (beloved of kids and grown-ups alike) have since been joined by ceramics, blankets, cushions and all sorts of other highly desirable tea-time accessories. To be found in supercool interiors outlets the world over, you can now check out the whole range at her online boutique.
Here Donna tells us how she got started and what keeps her creative:
Tell us, how did you first get into knitting?
I started knitting during my BA at Grays School of Art, Aberdeen in Scotland. I wanted to work in a spontaneous way, and create textures, and I found knitting gave me the effects I wanted. At Grays we more or less taught ourselves the techniques and I still love the fact that you can construct a desired fabric out of a ball of yarn.
I graduated from Grays in 1999, and then got a job in a knitwear company as an assistant designer for a year. I then went back to college to do my MA at the Royal College of Art (RCA), where I specialised in Mixed Media Textiles. At the RCA I started making products and sold them in shops like Couverture and Supra Girls London. They started off as the long leggy dolls - still in my collection, and evolved into the slightly more disturbing knitted creatures with two heads or extra-long legs, each with their very own character, the more peculiar the better for me.
Tell us about your more 'peculiar' designs.
The creatures are inspired by everyday oddities and deformities of life. They are loosely based on the characteristics of friends. I also want to celebrate the odd quirks and differences in people. I like to engage people with each character, whether grumpy or angry or hungry, they all have a sense of humour and a feeling of comfort. I love every creature, like they are my children. My furnishings are inspired by childhood stories like Alice in Wonderland. My imaginary wonderland is a land where everything is made of soft wool, trees are knitted and instead of growing leaves, pom poms sprout out, strange knitted creatures eat cup cakes and doughnuts sprinkled with stitching.
How do you work – from sketches, or do you just start knitting?
I usually do sketches in a note book, they look like little cartoons, tiny bodies with huge exaggerated heads, I get their look and idea on paper first, then start knitting. Usually they turn out very much like the drawings but occasionally I'll make some out of the scraps or off cuts, sometimes these rejects are just as successful as the planned ones.
What do you say when people ask what it is that you do?
I always say I make weird knitted creatures with two heads and angry faces - I love the reaction I get! Most people look a bit confused and some just think I'm mad. My work is playful, tactile and bright, inspired by the everyday oddities and deformities of life. I like to think of each of my creations as a character in my very own wonderland, where scale and perception are toyed with. In addition to the creatures I make a range of interior accessories, cuddly cushions, blankets, felt doily placemats, tea cosies, pom pom rugs and more.
What would you say is 'typical' Donna Wilson?
Colour, tactility, quirkiness and a sense of humour.
Check out the full range of Donna Wilson products available to buy online at www.donnawilson.com. Tel: +44 207 749 0768
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