A painting degree, teaching art and English in India and establishing a love for well-made fabrics and materials lead Shawnee Dean to create beautiful handwoven wall-hangings, cushion covers, pouches and accessories, with care and intention. Coupled with a 'found' collection of vintage ceramics and other curated vessels, the brand Shawnee Made and Found was born.
Tell us about your background, were you always creative?
I graduated with a Bachelor in Fine Arts majoring in painting at Queensland College of Art in 2016, before this though I spent 3 months teaching art and English in India. I've always been drawn to well-made and handmade fabrics and materials, and India is so huge on textiles, so these inspirations coupled with my desire to constantly learn new ways of making things and share that with people I think led me quite naturally to fibre arts and hand-weaving.
When I learnt about the art of loom weaving and saw some of the things people were making with it I became obsessed and eventually made my own loom and taught myself to weave. It's been about 2 years since I started weaving now and I feel like I've evolved a lot but I am continually learning new things about this process and where it can take me.
What made your pursue your creative passion?
I think the biggest driving force was my own need to be doing something creative with my life, and then when I started making the things I am now, the comments I got from people about how much they liked it or how unique my products were really solidified my beliefs that I was on the right track with this and I could take it somewhere.
When did you take the plunge and start your own business?
For about the last year I have been working on things that had a customer or audience in mind, rather than just making them for myself, but having a part-time job and studying full time at university was distracting me from really focusing on turning this creative outlet into a business and a way of life for me. So in October this year I was at a point where I felt like I was really happy with the things I was creating but didn't have the time to invest in it properly, so decided to quit my retail job and take the plunge into working on my business full time. So far it's been a great decision, but I still have so much more growing to do.
What does your brand consist of?
Handwoven goods and art pieces, fibre based earrings and other accessories, handmade baskets and original artworks.
I also have a found collection that I hand select items I feel resonate with and compliment the items I make.
Where is the label designed and made?
Everything handmade is designed and created by me (Shawnee) on the Gold Coast, Queensland.
Being a one-woman show means I limit the amount of things I can make and how quickly they are made, but I think it adds value to my products that they all have evidence of the hands that made them and are all original in their own way.
What inspires you?
I am extremely inspired by the Australian natural environment, so far as colours, shapes and materials. I use a lot of things from nature, and try to source as much of my materials as I can from within Australia, as well as hand dying some of my yarns and fibres with plants I can find locally. These processes of foraging and utilising the the environment around me continually inspires my work and design process.
Also, as weaving is such an ancient art form, I also get a lot of inspiration from textiles and tapestries from throughout history and across cultures.
What are your plans for the brand and where do you hope it takes you?
My main goal for this brand was to prove to myself that I could support my way of life by making things with my hands and using my skills. I like the idea of sharing my creativity with the community to enrich it rather than keeping it to myself. Long term plans are to be creating bespoke woven art pieces for people's spaces all around the country, as well as teaching workshops to share my knowledge and skills.
I am currently in the process of making a website and an online sales point as well, so that is my short-term plans for the brand.
What were the biggest challenges when launching your brand?
I think my largest challenge is time, and the pressure of a consumer culture that wants things fast but still to an excellent quality. By choosing to pursue hand-weaving, the qualities that I value in my products can't be achieved quickly, and the idea of making enough products and on a frequent basis is daunting when thinking about the slow nature of my process. But I think more and more people are appreciating the extra time and often higher quality of hand-made and slow-made, artisan products these days, and I think are more willing to wait longer and pay more for something truly original and high standard that supports an individual artist, rather than a large corporation.
What is the best thing about having your own business?
I have only just begun the journey of owning my own business and being my own boss, and I have a lot of space to evolve and master the art of it, but so far I have found the work I do is so much more fulfilling and I am proud of what I am doing. Being able to dictate my work life and be in control of the direction I take is extremely satisfying.
Connect with Shawnee Made and Found online, here.