Session 10: Donna Wilson

For this dröm sessions, we speak to Donna Wilson! I’m sure she needs no introduction at all! Personally we’ve been fans of her craft/work, we remember going crazy after seeing her launch of her cushion cloud range, we wanted every single one of them! That was years back, and now this year – 2013, marks Donna Wilson’s 10 years anniversary! How time flies!donna_wilson_10_years

Hello there Donna! We’d like to know how did art became a part of who you are, what started your passion?
I think it was at quite a young age, I was always drawing and making things, and was always most happy with a pencil in my hand. I didn’t know what I wanted to be as a child, but knew it was going to be something to do with art/design.

Painting on ceramic Staffordshire dogs

What sparked off your affinity with knitting? Is there anything in particular that you adore when working with this medium?
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 love the way I can create a fabric from a strand of yarn, in the texture colour and pattern I want.

I always work with natural yarns, mainly lambswool, I love the colours you can get as well as its felting properties.
piggy banks foe Isetan Japan
piggy banks foe Isetan Japan 2
A series of “piggy banks” conceptualised and made by Donna Wilson for Isetan, Japan. What a great twist and breakaway from the stereotypical ceramic version! Donna decided she would knit for her version of piggy banks – squeeze their mouths together and they open up, and there you can store your cash!

What inspires or motivates you to create the way you do?
I am inspired by 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. I recently went to a small remote island off the coast of Newfoundland and came back feeling really inspired by its landscape 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.
Creatures for The Future Perfect
Donna Wilson’s Rainy Day blanket and Cuddly Cloud cushions.

If we had the opportunity to scout around your creative brain, what do you think we can find or see inside Donna’s head? Will we get to see some of your creatures like Rill and Cyrill the squirrel fox?
Sometimes my head feels like it’s filled with a big messy ball of wool, lots of ideas patterns and colours! I find that having your own business you never really switch off!  I do sometimes have dreams of creatures! Sometimes I think I’m too messy, but I guess that’s part of being creative, as I like starting ideas and sometimes don’t like tidying up! Or sticking to rules and routines!

Watch this behind the scenes footage as Donna and Sarah set up their visual display for
donna X SS
Here’s Donna Wilson with Sarah Bagner (from Supermarket Sarah) in the midst of the set up!
donna X SS 2
And voila! Here’s the end product to the visual display!

In recent years, you expanded your area of discipline and went on to designing for furniture and upholstery! How different are they from creating your quirky creatures?
The design process is really similar no matter what you design. I start off in the same way, research, sketches, then making models.  I’ve found designing the furniture really challenging, and really enjoyed the collaborations I’ve done with SCP. I think it’s been really important for my practice to design furniture, as well as the accessories and creatures that we make in the studio. It adds another dimension to what I do but I suppose the difference is that we manufacture the accessories, where as the furniture is made in a small factory in Norfolk. I love collaborating with others, as you really end up doing things you wouldn’t normally do.

furniture4 furniture3


You had an exhibition in Tokyo last year at Trico, it seemed like so much fun having to paint on those walls and glass windows, and especially weaving the chairs! What were some of your favorite moments in Japan and also during the exhibition? I’m sure there were many Japanese Donna Wilson Fans!
We had a fantastic time in Japan, as we did a tour of the country, and visited 16 different cities . It was great to meet people, who liked my work, and chat to them.. Some people got me to sign some of their creatures with a marker pen! There were some really loyal fans My favourite moments was when an 89 year old woman came to meet me in her wheelchair. She gave me a photo of her with Cyril, Rudie and Rill. It was amazing to see how much people loved the creatures.
Sheltering from the rain at Trico

Donna Wilson cookies for Isetan, Japan. Aren’t they just adorable!

Donna Wilson candies for Isetan, Japan. How cute is this fluffy cloud, Gargh!!

Look at all these Donna Wilson cookies on display for Isetan, Japan. We would’ve gone so crazy if we were there!

What were some of the best and most encouraging things that your fans have ever said to you?
When I hear that my work has made people happy and sometimes people tell me that they have found my work inspiring and to keep doing what I do- that’s an amazing feeling, and makes it all worth while.

Fan Contribution by Monica Hajek, look at how Wilbur the Koala, Cyril the squirrel-fox, and Ril the racoon are having an adventure on bicycles!

You have been invited to collaborate on so many projects apart from your own product line. May we know which is your favorite Donna Wilson creation/collaboration, and why?
That’s difficult as I’ve enjoyed all my collaborations in different ways, but I think when a collaboration enables unexpected results is what I enjoy the most.  I loved being part of a music video for Gideon Conn- my creatures were animated and more recently I produced a kids activity book- I really enjoyed making thins book, as We had to make lots of little scenes for them. It was great fun photographing the creatures in their own little rooms and houses.

Video for the track ‘The Band Will Find Their Way Into Your Heart’ by Gideon Conn, starring Donna Wilson’s amazing creatures, animated by Sharon Keighley.
Donna Wilson and Rococo Chocolate Easter Eggs Donna Wilson and Rococo Chocolate Easter Eggs2 Donna Wilson and Rococo Chocolate Easter Eggs1
Donna Wilson and Rococo Chocolate Easter Eggs

Lastly, is there anything that you can say to advise or encourage all new/aspiring artists out there?
Really develop your own unique style work hard and stick to your principles. I was advised a lot to find manufacturers overseas, but I feel strongly about keeping everything made here and that’s become one of my selling points. and last piece of advice- love what you do… it’s so important.

For a show at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Donna Wilson creations are available at the little dröm store as well.