Do you have a dream that you have avoided putting into action for whatever reasons? It can be hard to overcome fear, time, finances, lack of confidence, among other things. Shannon Weekes, from Industriale who creates upcycled industrial furniture, used to sit around loving design and what other people were making, but thinking she could never do it. Something shifted in her life when she made a move to an isolated mining town, where she ended up working in the prison. This journey pushed her into action and her business was born. She now she makes furniture from recycled timber and steel, with a focus on industrial cast-offs. Think wheels, cogs, signs, rebar, and all things rusty – something I know a lot of you will love!
Based in Perth and opening in 2014, Shannon has always loved design, and says that as she has grown older, it’s progressed from “fashion-obsession to interiors”.
“My attraction to industrial style stems from it being utilitarian, functional, and designed for use. I’m not interested in things that are ‘kept for good’, to me that’s wasteful. Not to mention, anything meant for industry has to be built to last. So I make industrial style furniture because I like the aesthetic and I like the history of the bits and bobs I recycle in doing so”.
Shannon’s story about starting her business is a little unusual. It starts with her and her husband moving from Melbourne to a mining town in WA’s Pilbara, Shannon with possibly the least useful qualifications she could have in such a place – a MA in Philosophy and a teaching diploma! At this point, she says, she was a design lover, but she expressed that via shopping rather than making. “I’m shocked by pretty much everything about my new environment – the heat, the blistering sun, the bugs, the snakes, and the lack of options in terms of creative ‘stuff”’.
Her teaching qualification led her to a job in the education centre of the local prison, where she worked to coordinate education and vocational training for prisoners. “I started to think … hey, it’s kind of cool that these guys get to learn to use bobcats and forklifts and build things, I wish I could do that… but I wasn’t ready to do anything yet. I couldn’t see how”.
Unlikely as it is, it’s through the prison that Shannon came into contact with a bunch of creative people, artists, performers, makers of stuff. They’d come to the prison to work with the prisoners, and she was fascinated at how they’d make a living following what they loved. But still, at this point, she was convinced she could never do it herself.
The first real milestone in getting her business started was probably the car – “I got my husband an old Mini Moke for his birthday, as a restoration project. I couldn’t well leave him to do it all himself, so I ‘helped’, in the same way that little kids ‘help’ with the washing up… but I gradually became more useful on the tools and less afraid of getting grubby. It was really satisfying and made me less afraid to try new things”.
When she left the prison, she started at a non-profit agency that provided all sorts of employment assistance. One of her roles there was a mentor to apprentices, and this was the real turning point for Shannon. She decided to start an apprenticeship as a boilermaker. “I had this idea that when I finished I’d be able to get a great job, save up, and finally start making furniture … The end of the mining boom changed those plans, and I skipped a few steps. We moved to Perth, and here I am, making furniture!”.
When it comes to sustainability, Shannon believes it is absolutely critical. “If we all use more than we need now, we will simply run out of resources and everyone’s quality of life will suffer in a big way. In terms of my business, this means that I buy recycled materials wherever possible. I have become really good at quoting, so I rarely over-order. Sometimes offcuts are unavoidable, but I find use for them in other projects, or give them to friends who make smaller objects like mirrors or boxes. Everything can be used somewhere”.
In their own home, Shannon and her family are as sustainable as possible. They do all the basics: green power, recycling, composting. They are also vegan, so that helps too (although it makes it a bit hard to find welding gloves). In terms of design, most of Shannon’s furniture is vintage, salvaged, or made by her. “We go by the mantra ‘buy well, buy once’, so furniture only makes it into our place if it’s going to last. Like anyone we’re not perfect, but we do the best we can”.
Shannon’s Tips For A More Sustainable Home
- Forget what’s in fashion, and buy what you love. Sometimes the two will coincide, and that’s great, but it’s also rare.
- Buy old stuff that’s in good nick – if it’s lasted sixty years, it will probably last sixty more.
- No-one ever said ‘I’m glad this is made of chipboard’.
- If you’re buying a home, think about how much space you really need. It all has to be heated and cooled, and with smaller block sizes, bigger houses mean less green space that keeps you naturally cool.
- Finally, don’t let fear of being imperfect stop you from doing things. It all adds up, so make small changes. Buy recycled loo paper and earth-friendly washing up liquid. Stop buying cage eggs. Be more vigilant about putting things in the recycling bin. Make a grocery list so you don’t buy things that will sit unused in the cupboard and expire. Every little improvement counts.
Totally agree! What a wonderful story, proving that you can always follow your dreams if you give yourself permission and have a crack! Industriale is part of our Sustainable Home Hub, so hop over to check out the business and follow Shannon across Social Media. You can also find out how to add your business to the hub here. Do you have a dream you would love to put into action?