behind the design:

meet vicki murdoch

founder and creative director
of silken favours

One look at illustrator and designer Vicki Murdoch’s Instagram @silkenfavours, and you instantly feel a bit lighter. Splashes of bright, vibrant colours clash with sketches of everything from cheetahs to hands (and we’re definitely making space in our homes for one of her silk octopus pillows who she dubs “a big squishy, ocean-loving babe”).

She’s also the creative behind our limited edition CoppaFeel! tee – as well as our most recent snake and hand pendants.

From growing up in rural Scotland to queueing to show Liberty’s head buyer her wares as a young graduate, Vicki is simply a woman “obsessed” with drawing and design – and it all started with something we didn’t expect.

Discover where she gets her inspiration from, how she landed her dream gig at Liberty, and just what went into our CoppaFeel! collab.

Missoma: Have you always been creative?

Vicki Murdoch: I’ve certainly always had an interest in design. I had a stamp collection from around the age eight – it sounds a bit geeky but I remember really loving the delicate intricacies and playing with all the different compositions.

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I embarrassingly started a hedgehog club when I was around nine, which basically involved meeting up and drawing / obsessing over hedgehogs so I suppose I have always been very inspired by the the natural world around me, which there was an abundance of growing up in Scotland.

M: how did you end up starting Silken Favours?

VM: It all happened quite organically. I studied textiles at Chelsea School of Art and my final degree show piece was the ‘Cat-a-Van’. Basically I bought a cheap 1960s Cheltenham caravan and completely re-designed and upholstered the interior with my hand drawn cat inspired designs.

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That summer I took the Cat-a-van as an art piece to lots of music festivals with a lovely group of friends, where we all dressed up as cats and invited festival folk to come into my trippy cat world. I loved the joy that the cat-a-van brought to people and myself and knew that’s what I wanted to somehow do as a career, I just had to work out how to make it happen.

After graduating I worked as a freelance print designer for a couple of years whilst designing my own prints. I made a few bespoke silk scarves for friends and family as birthday gifts – one of them was for my parents with illustrations of all the birds that came into their garden, which when they opened the box, and saw what was inside, made them cry with happiness. They have it framed on their wall now. I basically wanted to then make one for everyone I loved, but that seemed a bit tricky and very time consuming so I created my first collection of silk scarves called ‘The Heart Collection’ and Silken Favours was born...

M: what was creating during lockdown like for you?

VM: Not hugely different in some ways. I work alone most of the time so that part was the same. The main difference was the lack of childcare which was challenging and wonderful in equal measures.

M: where do you get your ideas from?

VM: I have so many ideas in my head that they spill out anywhere! Not getting out so much these days, I’ve actually been inspired by the illustrations in the books I've been reading to my daughter … I’d love to do my own one day. Fashion inspires me, as well as exhibitions, beautiful books and films.

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Going to the Lake District and back to Cornwall this summer, collecting things with my daughter to make nature crowns and potions, has reignited my passion for nature and reinforced why I want to surround myself in it. As soon as I have the ideas I want to rush home and draw – I now have a whole list of bubbling ideas down in my diary that I’ll pick one from and start designing.

M: you worked with us on our CoppaFeel! Tee – describe your creative process…

VM: I’ve always loved drawing hands (they are such an expressive part of the body) so this was super exciting for me.

I start out by sketching onto paper with a really fine black pen, which I enjoy particularly to get a break from screens. I get really obsessed with all the imagery and spread it out around me, and start drawing individual illustrations. I then scan them all in and start building on them and colouring digitally. I play with the composition digitally too, which is great as then you’re free to move everything around much more easily.

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For the tee I drew the hands from every angle and got really into it, drawing all the different chains and motifs. It was a really fun brief and being in love with all the jewellery helped a lot! It’s also wonderful being able to work with a charity and spread awareness – it adds an extra bit of happiness to my role.

M: your introduction to missoma was actually very serendipitous…?

NH: Yes! Before I got a call from Marisa I’d sent my boyfriend quite a few hints about Missoma and had got really obsessed with the Lucy Williams Gold Entwine Hoops. I started screenshotting them and sending really obvious hints until finally I got them for Christmas! Marisa then got in touch with me in January which felt very much like fate. I had actually met her a long time ago in Fortnum & Mason at an event so I knew of her but hadn't yet become as obsessed with the brand as I am now. It’s so special working with a brand where you already adore the products and know how lovely the lady behind it all is.

M: how do you feel when you create?

VM: There is so much involved in the day to day running of even a small business like mine – and not all of it is hugely inspiring. The bit I really love is to draw.

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When I get the opportunity to design I can get lost in it for hours and forget everything else around me. It can make me really calm like I’m in a meditative state or totally wired and energised.

What I create has a playful, nostalgic side to it so when customers tell me their pieces bring them joy that’s the best part. It’s so nice to create something that you yourself feel is beautiful and then someone else thinks so too – it’s those little moments of happiness that make it worthwhile.

M: you’re stocked in Liberty’s iconic scarf hall – how did that come about?

VM: I’ve always been obsessed with scarves – I used to have about 100 from charity shops that I’d collected over the years, like beautiful canvases. You can wear them, use them as a throw, put them on your head, or use them as art.

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I love printing onto silk because the colours come out so vibrant and crisp. Starting a brand with scarves, the scarf hall in Liberty's is the ultimate place to get your work in – that was always my end goal. Liberty have a walk-in ‘British Open Day’, where you queue up with thousands of people and then have two or three minutes to sell your wares to the head buyer, – a bit like Dragon’s Den but nicer. That was where they picked me up. I launched exclusively with them and I’m still stocked with them now after nine years! They provided Silken Favours with such an amazing platform.

I will always be so thankful to everyone at Liberty for nurturing me as a brand and helping me grow so organically. One of my all time favourite moments with Liberty would definitely be getting to design and install my own window display. Being an 80's child I loved the cheesy film ‘Mannequin’ so window dressing was a dream come true, let alone in such an iconic store with all of my designs.

With a design head things feel out of place, but you might not know why. It just feels more harmonious in the right place. Sometimes you just need to have a break, have a cup of tea and have a chocolate biscuit.

M: has it been hard to wear both ‘creative’ and ‘business-woman’ hats at once?

VM: Liberty definitely knew that I didn’t know what I was doing at first! I guess I’m classed as a businesswoman as I have a company but I don’t think of myself as one – I’m an illustrator and designer with a business.

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I didn’t understand their first email to me, it was all abbreviations and numbers, but I googled everything and pretended I knew what they meant. I learned a lot quickly and made loads of mistakes along the way! I had to learn on the job.

Every time someone posts a picture of my work it will always make my day and remind me why I’m doing it – even when I’m spending my day doing admin. If I’m feeling low I'll look at these pictures and they bring me back up!

M: do you know when a design isn’t right?

VM: I am probably a control freak but I’m also having to learn to let go of that now, especially having a daughter.

The other day we were sticking things up on her wall and in my head I was going “I want to move that, oh, it’s not straight…!”. Sometimes things get moved around the house and I’m thinking 'hmm...it just looks better 2cm across the other way!'

M: how do you deal with creative blocks?

VM: Creative blocks definitely come. If the work's for someone else, then there’s a brief involved which can make things lengthier but you can still sometimes design prints in an hour and know they'll love it. The next day though it could take you a week to do one design.

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It’s hard to give yourself that allotted time to think 'okay now, I’ll be creative for the next few hours.' Sometimes I need to do all admin one day and then be creative the next day, it can take some time to get into the flow.

Going for a walk is helpful and I try to do 20 minutes of yoga every morning to get into that headspace. (I’ve discovered Yoga with Adrienne in lockdown, it seems everyone else new of her before me.) However, sometimes you keep designing and it gets worse! To combat this I usually do a bit more research and go back to the beginning and remember what it was I was initially trying to do.

M: do you listen to music while you create?

VM: Always, I like to mix it up. I got really into Brian Eno’s Airports album when I was at art school– I like ambient music with no words as they can be distracting.

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I’ve always loved music from the 70s: The Beatles, John Martyn, Fleetwood Mac – and Joni Mitchell. She's my ultimate favourite singer / songwriter and also an amazing painter. In fact, I called my daughter Joni after her, so you can tell I’m a super fan.

The news can be so depressing at the moment but I do mostly have BBC 6Music on in the background. I’m into melancholic music; happy sad is my favourite!

vicki's picks

Vicki's art has a "playful, nostalgic side to it" – something she echoes in her accessories.

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