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Behind the Design: Shannon Lester of Steel Life

Categories: Exclusive Interviews, Modern Decor + Objects

Earlier this week we briefly introduced three new American brands as part of our series on emerging modern makers. Today we hear more from one of them. Shannon Lester, founder of Steel Life, oversees a collection of modern steel planters that are handcrafted in Bend, Oregon, using local talent. Steel Life’s designs have been featured in magazines like Dwell and Sunset, and Shannon lets us in on the story behind Steel Life’s success.

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:: How did you get into design of furniture / home goods?  How did you go about learning the skills?
With a degree in Landscape Architecture, I have been designing commercial and residential landscapes for the last 15 years.   Over the past several years, I have noticed a lack of modern, fashion-forward planters for my clients.

All the planters I came across followed the same basic- metal troughs, concrete urns or ceramic pots.  I wanted to bring something more design conscience and architecturally interesting to the modern home and garden while still being mindful of sustainability.  Keeping our work within the U.S., finding raw and locally salvaged materials to create our products and working with other small business owners has been a very important goal of ours.

:: How long does your design process typically take?
My design process can take from 60 seconds to 60+days! It really depends on what I am inspired by and when I can sit down and focus on my design vision.  It usually starts with sketches in my journal.  I then go out looking for salvaged materials to build my inspiration from.  Once I have a solid idea of what I want, I meet with one of the handful of local artisans I work with to create a prototype. Perfecting the prototype can be very labor intensive and time consuming, but it is important to work out all the details before bringing it to market.

:: What piece of work are you most proud of?
I am most proud of Steel Life’s Jack Planter. It was inspired by my memories of a more simple time. I remember playing the game ‘Jacks and Ball’ and ‘Pick up Sticks’ for hours at a time with my mother in the summertime.  I loved those great games!  The Jack Planter had to be uniquely engineered to give the illusion that the stand is formed from one piece.  It’s fun, playful, one-of-a-kind, and available in my favorite colors, sky blue and orange.

:: What are some of your hobbies outside of work?
Gardening is my main hobby, I guess. As far as what keeps me balanced and energized while I’m not at work, I would have to say that it would be activities such as hiking, skiing, camping, traveling, and spending time with my family and friends.

:: What would you do if you weren’t an artist/designer?
I can’t imagine what or where I would be if I didn’t have design in my life. I come from a family of artists and designers, so it is really what I know and have grown to love. Maybe I would be a flight attendant. I love to travel and to experience new cultures. It would give me the ability to take my family on more trips too.

:: What are some of your favorite blogs or design resources?
My favorite blogs are Studio GLive OutsideModesticsDesign Milk, and Apartment Therapy. I also love Houzz.com and Pinterest for inspiration.

:: Are you digital?  If so, where can we find you?

Twitter | Pinterest 

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Check out the work of Steel Life’s Shannon Lester on the 2Modern site.

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