Los Angeles through fresh eyes with Niki Pilkington.

Los Angeles through fresh eyes with Niki Pilkington.

Originally from Wales in the UK, Niki Pilkington recently moved to Los Angeles after four years in New York. An artist, illustrator and creative director, Niki's work is known for it's highly charged, colorful aesthetic and use of phrases, often in her Welsh mother tongue. Her work adorns the walls of private collections and galleries, as well as collaborations with Sir Paul McCartney, TopShop, Ted Baker, MTV, BBC and Nike among others. We spoke to Niki on her new home in California, creative culture and making a proper cup of tea.

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ON WHERE YOU’RE FROM

Wales, UK. 

ON YOUR MOVE TO THE USA 

I’d always wanted to live in New York. Being self employed means I can pretty much work from anywhere and the agency my husband was working for in Paris have an office there, so when he was offered the position he (well, we..ok, I) said, yes please! Being from such a tiny village in Wales, I’d always wanted to travel to broaden my career opportunities and feel more inspired. UK to the USA felt right for us and both of our careers and I’m so so happy we did, its been four and a half incredible years. 

ON WHERE YOU’RE LIVING IN LA

Marina Del Rey – we knew we wanted to be near Venice for my husband Johnny’s commute so after countless viewings in all types of neighborhoods, Marina Del Rey just seemed like the best option for us. I work from home so need plenty of space and lots of light and the apartments here are ideal for that, plus we’re just a short walk from Venice and all that fun stuff. It definitely feels so much more ‘livable’ after our teeny tiny NYC apartment. 

 

Airplane window and ‘Neon to declare’ by Niki Pilkington. Images courtesy Niki Pilkington

ON THE MOVE FROM EAST TO WEST COAST

Aside from the obvious (all my extra freckles thanks to the ridiculously beautiful weather) I feel like it’s a much healthier pace. I constantly felt like I was trying to keep up with everyone in NY, in every aspect – everything was a hustle, even queueing for groceries was a competition, but here things get done, just a little calmer. Maybe Angelenos are just better at hiding it, but that’s how it feels so far anyway. I’m not loving the extra time difference from the UK, it makes keeping in touch with family and friends tough, but now they get to visit us in LA so, not so bad..

ON THE BEST THING ABOUT LIFE ABROAD 

The constant new everything! I still can’t get my head around how entirely different each state is from one another. It always baffled me why so many Americans don’t have passports, but now living here you can kind of get why. I mean don’t get me wrong, I think everyone should travel and experience as many cultures as possible, but there’s just so damn much to see in the USA. I’m working my way through it all, one ice cream spot at a time.

Here things get done, just a little calmer. Maybe Angelenos are just better at hiding it, but that’s how it feels so far anyway.

ON SOMETHING THAT SURPRISED YOU ABOUT LA

Just how massive it really is and how much there is going on all the time. There’s events literally every night, for every type of thing and really great ones. These past two months I’ve been to more events than like a whole year in New York. I’m going to need a bigger diary! 

ON THE BEST NEW PHRASE YOU’VE HEARD IN AMERICA

I’m not sure it’s the best, but I can’t get over how often Americans say ‘Uh huh’. In the UK, if you say ‘Thank you’ to someone, the response is automatically ‘you’re welcome’ but that’s replaced with ‘Uh huh’ here – at first I thought people were being dismissive or rude, but I’ve come to learn its just what they say, not rude, just their version of the over polite ‘you’re welcome’.

 

Above: Niki at work in Los Angeles. Below: Neon color palette and bubble gum print. Images courtesy Niki Pilkington

ON HOW LIFE IN THE USA INFLUENCES YOUR WORK

I think I must be influenced in some sense, but I’d say mostly it’s my drive that’s on supercharge now. I’ve always been ambitious, but there’s so much competition I’ve got to hustle harder then ever.  

ON CREATIVE INSPIRATION

I try to go to as many events as possible because I always find them a massive inspiration in terms of knowing what’s going on / what’s new. It’s also a great way to meet new people in my field and get introduced to what they’re doing. Working from home can be quite solitary and it’s easy to get caught up in yourself too much, so getting out and meeting as many creatives as possible is important. I’m inspired by fashion, music, food, nature, you name it, so I really do come up with ideas everywhere, so I’ve always got my notebook with me just incase. 

I’d say mostly it’s my drive that’s on supercharge now. I’ve always been ambitious, but there’s so much competition I’ve got to hustle harder then ever.  

ON TIPS FOR ARRIVAL

I can’t advise on the car front because we didn’t have one in NY and we’ve made the conscious decision not to get a car here *everyone in LA gasps, I know* but we figured, Johnny will cycle to work, I have a bike too and I work from home so during the week I’m mostly working in one place. I guess my main advice would be get yourself a credit card right away and start building your credit as soon as you can so you can avoid the embarrassing rejection on small things like ‘store cards’ that they hand out left, right and center in the UK. Oh and social security – no-one ever really told us just how important it was to keep that little number to yourself. Now I have it memorized but both of us carried those little cards everywhere with no clue how bad that could have been if we’d lost them.

 

‘Let’s stay in bed’, Niki at work in her studio and ‘Milk’ print. Images courtesy of Niki Pilkington

ON THE BEST FLIGHT YOU’VE TAKEN

That’s as easy one. My husband proposed to me on a flight from Paris to Las Vegas –  then we got married there a couple of days later! He did it over the tannoy (woke everyone up, said some absolutely beautiful things about me, got a round of applause – at this time I thought I’d got away unnoticed, with all eyes on him, until he announced which seat I was sat in, so every single person saw me, bright red, a little ‘fear’ sweaty, wrapped in two blankets and a sleep mask on my forehead – totally as glamorous as it sounds. 

ON LA TACOS

Petty Cash Taqueria, West Hollywood

ON GALLERIES 

 I’ve only had time to go to one so far – the LACMA to check out the David Hockney exhibition (and get an obligatory shot by the lampposts). 

ON GOOD DRINKS

Broken Shaker, Downtown

ON AN INSTAGRAM TO CHECK OUT

@tanyawhitebits – ok, shameless plug, but it’s a new self tanning brand I’ve just become the Creative director of and right now I’m working hard behind the scenes creating illustrations for the packaging and rebrand. 

ON GOOD TEA

Home for sure – I ask everyone who visits to bring me ‘proper’ tea bags, so I’d like to think I make a pretty great cuppa in Marina Del Rey. But for coffee I love DayGlow, Silver Lake – such a cute spot. 

ON SOMETHING FROM THE UK YOU NEED A FIX OF 

I miss proper ‘chips’ (English extra thick cut fries) I’m still trying to find ‘the spot’ but Wurstuche, a German place in Venice is a pretty good back-up until I do.

 

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Nuggets in this interview

inspiration

LACMA, LA

"The LACMA to check out the David Hockney exhibition (and get an obligatory shot by the lampposts)".

–Niki Pilkington

neighborhoods

Marina Del Rey, LA

"We wanted to be near Venice.. Marina Del Rey seemed like the best option for us".

–Niki Pilkington

food and drink

Petty Cash, LA

"Tacos...Petty Cash Taqueria, West Hollywood".

–Niki Pilkington

need to know

Social Security Number

"Social security – no-one ever really told us just how important it was to keep that little number to yourself".

–Niki Pilkington

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