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Tormented Textiles Podcast with Freddie Robins + Martina Margetts

8 October 2018

As you may know, this year is the fifteenth birthday of my brand, and we celebrated last month with a pop-up shop as part of Shoreditch Design Triangle, where we set ourselves the challenge of hosting fifteen events (I think we made it?!).

One of the main events was a Tormented Textiles panel discussion, where I was joined by textile artist Freddie Robins and contemporary craft expert Martina Margetts for a panel discussion on the trials and tribulations of living a creative life. As Martina pointed out at the start of the talk, we’re all connected by the Royal College of Art – both Freddie and Martina have taught there, and it’s where I studied for my MA in Mixed Media Textiles, which brought about the start of my career.

As artists and designers working with textiles, Freddie and I have had quite different, contrasting careers. Whilst I’ve spent the last fifteen years building a commercial brand, Freddie is an internationally renowned textile artist, educator, researcher and writer, whose work challenges the idea of knitting as craft. As one of my tutors at the Royal College of Art, and she gave me the confidence to approach the very first store to stock my Donna Dolls, Couverture and the Garbstore in West London – without Freddie’s encouragement, I would have probably been too shy! She’s continued to be an inspiration throughout my career, so I was thrilled that she could join me to reflect upon the last fifteen years.

As the editor of the Craft Council’s Crafts magazine for nine years and postgraduate teacher at the Royal College of Arts, critic and theorist Martina Margetts did an amazing job of leading the discussion, asking lots of thought-provoking, challenging questions.

What draws us all together – and what I hope comes through in our discussion – is our passion for crafts and making.

Here are a few soundbites starters, and you can listen to the full conversation and Q&A session on Soundcloud via the link below – special thanks to Alice Williams for the audio recording for this podcast, and also for my How to Start a Creative Business podcast with Yiying Wang of Noodoll.

There’s an issue of textile art not being valued as highly. We had a really big tapestry on display in the window [of the pop-up shop]. When the artist told me it was worth around £2,000, I thought ‘wow, that’s quite a lot of money’ – but if it were painting, no one would blink an eye. I think if people see how something’s made, and they see the time it takes to make it, they might have more respect for the value that’s put on it. – Donna Wilson

I don’t think there was anyone in Crafts Magazine’s Power List who worked specifically in textiles. The people at the top of the list, who were seen to be the most powerful, were writers – or if they were makers, they were makers who wrote and were very well published, like Edmund de Waal, or makers who make in hard materials. That tells me that textiles is still not received or heard as well as it should be. For me, that was a bit of a wake-up call. – Freddie Robins

The game is being raised all the time, from our release from a sense of automatic understanding of everydayness – because textile is textile – into a really carefully inflected appraisal of what textile is offering us. Even though we’ve got Grayson Perry and Tracey Emin, both heavily engaged in textile, we’re still not quite there yet. – Martina Margetts

I should also mention that Freddie collaborated with me on a gorgeous pair of gloves for my new Autumn Winter collection – the All the Time Gloves – and as a special treat, you can use the code TICKTOCK20 for 20% off via my online shop.

Donna x

Donna Wilson - All The Time Gloves - Caspian

All the Time Gloves - Appear Here