Homegirl London pays homage to Nikki McWilliams. She’s renowned for making cushions designed to look like nostalgic biscuits like Custard Creams, Rich Tea Fingers and Malted Milk. Her work is inspired by a love of British culture, contemporary pop art and of course enjoying a lovely cup of tea with a biscuit. After studying in Dundee, Nikki set up her workshop in the city and began making her biscuit cushions and she hasn’t looked back since. She now makes a wide range of goodies including; prints, greetings cards, coasters, iPhone covers and brooches, I caught up with Nikki to find out more …
Q: Tell me about your design background.
A: I studied at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, which is in Dundee, Scotland. At Art School I studied Photography, as well as Fine Art Drawing, Sculpture and Printmaking. During this time I did a lot of soft sculpture and gallery textiles – making things using the practical skills I’d been taught by my mum – mostly based on instinct. Most of the things I was making at this time were quite abstract in their form and often not particularly pretty!
After leaving Art School I started making objects which were more functional and that could potentially have a place in folks’ lives. I started making cushions (which were a development of an idea that I’d had in my final year at Art School) as things that I wanted for my own home. Luckily other people seemed to like them too!
Digestive Biscuit Cushion, £29.50
Q: Why did you set up your business?
A: Setting up shop felt like a natural development of my practice. I don’t think I sat down one say and thought “hey, I want to run my own business!” but I always knew that I wanted to be my own boss, doing things my own way.
Q: Where are you based?
A: My studio is based in Dundee, the city I studied in. I’d always planned to move to Glasgow or even London after graduating but there was a really inspiring and creative vibe in the city and I wanted to stay a part of that. My studio is a lovely calm space within a converted Jute Mill; it’s the perfect place to get lost in your work!
Q: How many people work at your company?
A: Currently there are 3 of us. We all have a hand in lots of different parts of the business from one day to the next. I really enjoy working this way as I’m not the biggest fan of routine!
Q: Describe your design style.
A: I’d say my style is witty and fun with a little bit of the far-fetched creeping in. I remember telling my family that I wanted to make giant cuddly biscuits (back around 2007) and I think they thought I’d lost the plot. When I realised my ideas a few years later they got my drift entirely!
Nice Biscuit Cushion, £29.50
Q: Where do you draw your creative inspiration from?
A: Anywhere and everywhere. I’m interested in how objects that surround us on a daily basis can be really beautiful.
Q: What’s your fascination with British culture and pop art?
A: I think my fascination with British culture is all to do with my love of familiarity and nostalgia. Everyone makes their own associations with food and treats like biscuits and sweets usually hold happy memories for folks. For me, Biscuits and the culture around Tea Drinking hark back to simpler times.
Iced Ring Biscuit Cushion, £29.50
Q: Tell me about your collections.
A: Our current collection comprises of Biscuit cushions, based on original illustrations and packaging of cult Scottish brand, Tunnock’s. We also make prints, brooches and coasters. We’ve been steadily adding to the range over the last few years- and we’re hoping to launch a brand new capsule collection in 2013.
Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer Cushion, £44.50
Tunnock’s Tea Cake Cushion, £29.50
Q: Which designer do you admire and why?
A: I’ve got a lot of admiration for the Fine Artist Martin Boyce. His installation and sculpture work is inspired by the aesthetic of Charles and Ray Eames furniture which I think is really interesting. I like the idea that the lines between art, design and craft can be blurred.
Q: What’s the best thing about owning your own business?
A: The creative and social freedom!
Q: What one piece of advice would you pass on to someone wanting to set up their own business?
A: Find someone to talk to who’s in the same boat as you are. Having someone to discuss your progress with is invaluable.
Q: What’s coming up for the rest of 2013?
A: We’re travelling to New York and Toronto in April to explore new opportunities. We’re currently working on a new capsule collection for our range which we’re hoping to unveil very soon.
You can buy Nikki’s quirky goods from Nikki McWilliams. Credits: text by Homegirl London, images courtesy of Nikki McWilliams, special thanks to Nikki McWilliams.