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Shelley Panton – Potter, Homewares Designer, Retailer, Stylist

Shelley Panton
Potter, Homewares Designer, Retailer, Stylist

What is your professional or training background?
No formal training. I started a market stall when I was 12 selling various things I could sew. When I finished school I began a diploma in Fashion Design but jumped ship 9 months later to take on a full time job as a Window Dresser & Visual Merchandiser with Country Road. I stayed in this role for four years before spending 4 years living overseas to pursue painting and freelance styling.

I also grew up in a family of creative parents who both were one of five children with absent fathers. Mum’s side were Sicilian cane farmers in Bundaberg who were very poor. They lived a very self-sufficient life – which teaches one to turn nothing into something.

After living overseas I working in fine dining restaurants while I got my feet on the ground, this lead me to work in catering, which lead to freelancing as an Event Stylist.

What do you make, create or do?
Under the umbrella of my studio & store I design and produce functional tableware, handcrafted on a potters wheel using stoneware clay. Alongside this I stock furniture, homewares and art by about 30 other local craftsmen and designers, and do a bit of interior styling for events and private clients in my spare time.

What other creative areas would you like to explore as a side-project to your current work, or move into full-time?
Continue designing and producing Melbourne made handcrafted furniture and homewares and eventually set up a second location (including accommodation & workshop facilities) in the country.

What skills do you have that help you run your business, or what skills would you like to develop?
Skills: It has taken me years to appreciate my ability to turn a simple material or object into something functional.

In terms of where I’d like to develop my skills: Before I set up my business I had travelled off and on and freelanced. And then came the recession. When I found 88 Park Road I was determined to say goodbye to my days of living week to week and wondering where next months rent was coming from. I wanted to create a strong business foundation and build a brand, allowing me a long-term platform where I could turn my creative ideas into a viable business.

I struggle sometimes with the administration side of building a business and would love some help on this side of things.

As a small business owner I think it’s important to learn how to run all areas of your business before contracting the work out (after 14 months I am just about to hire a bookkeeper).

List five people, businesses or websites/blogs that keep you motivated and inspired, and why?
Amanda Henderson, founder and creative director of Gloss Creative – I first met Amanda in 1996I was a junior window dresser at Country Road. I was in awe of her back then and still am now. Our paths crossed again in 2005 and she gave me my first break as a freelance Visual Merchandiser & Event Stylist and introduced me to Melbourne, behind the scenes. I’m inspired by the way she conceptualises her ideas. Amanda has been so generous to me with her time and has become a friend and confidant.

Fiona Sweetman of Hidden Secrets Tours – a dear friend who has been a tremendous support over the years and in particular when I was getting my business off the ground. It’s invaluable having a friend who also runs small businesses as they really get the ins and outs of your day.

The Design Files – I love reading Lucy’s blog to keep up to date with other creative people in Melbourne.

Orio Randi, owner and designer behind Arteventa, Pepperino and Thomas Place Furniture – He is a second-generation Italian timber craftsman. I adore his product, and admire his vision and ability to turn the age-old craft of furniture making into a successful business. He has an amazing workshop tucked away in the back streets of Prahran, complete with a commercial kitchen and enough space to seat 60 guests for dinner. He’s created my ultimate dream workshop/entertaining space, as a fellow food lover and craftsman.

My Dad – When I had the idea to start my business my dad was one of the few people who actually thought I wasn’t mad. Having started a business himself when he was 31 he was right behind me. When I took on the lease at 88 Park Road he got on a plane to Melbourne for the first time to help me build my shop. I cherish the two weeks we spent together. He taught me a lot about woodwork and construction, and I loved hearing many of his life stories about things he hadn’t shared previously.

Contact Shelley via info/at/

Posted by: Tess McCabe
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