Design Q&A: Nikki McWilliams

DESIGNER/maker Nikki McWilliams on great escapes, her design work and cookbooks

Dundee Designer Nikki McWilliams. Picture: Neil Hanna

How did you end up doing what you do?

I graduated from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design in 2008 with an Honours Degree in Drawing, Painting & Printmaking. Whilst working full time in retail, I was invited to make some work for an exhibition as part of Glasgow’s Doors Open days in 2009 and I started experimenting with screen-printing and making multiples. The pieces I made sold out on the first day.

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Who or what inspires you?

My Mum. She’s sewn and made things since she was a little girl, and left her job with the civil service when I was born to start her own children’s clothing company, whilst looking after my brother and I. She taught me that anything was possible with a wee bit of imagination and a lot of patience.

What is your starting point for any new project?

Experimentation. Playing with materials and ideas.

What designers/makers do you admire?

Donna Wilson, Charles & Ray Eames, Crispin Finn and my cousin Danni McWilliams, who launched her fashion label this year.

Were you involved in craft from an early age?

One of my earliest memories involves making cola bottle vases when I was four. I covered the bottles in plaster of Paris and adorned them with shells. They probably looked hideous, but I felt so proud of what I’d made.

What makes a home?

Having a pet. My boyfriend and I live in a top-floor flat in Dundee and it’s too small to have a cat. The life-plan is to move somewhere feline-friendly.

Is there any object you desire?

I’d love a garden.

What is your idea of a great escape?

Anywhere with a warm breeze, and interesting things to see and do. We fell in love with Berlin this year.

Camping under the stars or hotel comforts?

I don’t often get to stay in hotels, so it’s always a treat when I do.

Big screen movie or TV drama?

I love the movies. We have an amazing cinema at Dundee Contemporary Arts.

What book would you recommend to a friend?

It would have to be one of my cookbooks; The Art of Home Cooking by Stork is an oldie but a goodie.

Best music to work to?

I listen to BBC Radio 6 music in the studio. For me, Frightened Rabbit are the best Scottish band of the moment.

What are your top tips for 24 hours in Dundee?

Breakfast in town (T Ann Cake on Exchange Street is my favourite) then head to the McManus to catch the current exhibition. Try to find all of the city’s hidden public art (we have a bronze dragon, monkeys, squirrels and lemmings) before barbecued food and craft beer at Duke’s Corner. A film at the DCA or drinks in the bar (or both) is always a good shout in the evening.

What are you working on at the moment?

New pieces to be exhibited in London at Top Drawer. I’ve increased my homewares, and am adding new ranges like gift wrap and DIY kits.

What makes you laugh?

Napoleon Dynamite – best film ever.

• Nikki McWilliams’ new collection can be seen at Top Drawer Autumn at London’s Olympia until 17 Sept (; @nikkimcwilliams; NikkiMcWilliamsDesign)