Last month I got together with designer-maker and all-round business whizz Nikki McWilliams to talk shop. For those of you not already familiar with this sugar-coated brand, Nikki’s instantly recognisable Tunnock’s Teacake cushion is practically a staple representative of Scottish craft, her long list of stockists boasts some of the best boutique stores in the UK, and she achieved this all in just a few years? I wanted a quick run down on how and why it was done.
“I love that everyone has a cake or biscuit that has happy memories for them- I really like the element of nostalgia that can be associated”
Nikki, why did you decide to start your own business?
After I graduated from Art School I went into a full-time retail job to pay the bills. The hours I worked pretty much took over my life and I regularly had to miss family events and occasions with friends. I also didn’t feel like I was able to express myself creatively, which is what I’d worked so hard throughout my degree study to do. I really wanted to make my own hours and be my own boss, whilst doing something that I enjoyed. This was the drive for me to set up my own business.
You trained in textiles and experimented with soft sculpture. What made you decide to create your own brand rather than be a conceptual artist?
I’d always been interested in design and creating objects that were beautiful as well as being functional. I like to think of the things I make as little pieces of artwork.
How do you maintain balance amongst the many ‘hats’ you have to wear when running your own business (creative, financial, commercial…) ?
I suppose the fact that there are such a variety of different duties within my practice is what I love the most about it. Every day is unique and routine is something that I’ve never been that big a fan of.
What is it about cake and biscuits that has you coming back time and time again?
Aesthetically, sweet foods are usually really good looking (which most of the time is what makes us want to eat them!) – so there’s that. I also love that everyone has a cake or biscuit that has happy memories for them- I really like the element of nostalgia that can be associated.
Tell us about your recent work with brilliant Scottish store Wool & Co
I met Laura who runs Wool & Co on the day she opened her store in Dundee. I instantly fell in love with the space- it was bright and clean with a splash of colour! Laura got in touch a while later and we decided to collaborate on a Pop-Up shop soon after. I don’t have my own permanent physical retail space, so it was really great being able to create a window display and to spend some time chatting to those who visited the Pop-Up on the day. Laura has promised to teach me how to machine-knit so I’m looking forward to learning some new skills with her!
What is it like being a creative person in Dundee?
Dundee’s a great place for creative folks who like to work hard. The DCA has an amazing programme of exhibitions and great studio facilities. Going to see a film at the DCA cinema with a glass of wine is one of my favourite evening treats.
What’s next on your agenda?
Our new lampshades have been really popular since we trialled them a few months ago, so we’re looking to add a few more designs to the range. We’ve also just introduced some new cake-inspired cushions, which is a whole new avenue for us- very exciting!
Head on over to Nikki’s website to check out the full range – something about these pieces makes me think “gift for the person who has everything” and “how many hints will I have to drop before someone buys me the lampshade?” Delicious problems!
If you like being peppered with mouth-watering sweetness I also urge you to follow Nikki on Instagram – you won’t be disappointed!