Launching a textiles brand wasn’t on the horizon for young Melbourne art curators Jessica Booth nor Laetitia Prunetti when they crossed paths in 2005, as University of Melbourne Masters of Art Curatorship candidates.
Laetitia first majored in art history and went on to freelance as an art writer and curator, co-directing the Melbourne Art Fair in 2012. Meanwhile, Jessica, with a background in fine art, specialised in Indigenous art, working as a curator, lecturer, researcher and advocate of the Association of Northern, Kimberley and Arnhem Aboriginal Artists.
‘Our love of art and design has always been part of our decade-long friendship, and we always had a desire to shape flexible working lives for ourselves,’ explains Laetitia. ‘It seemed inevitable that we would one day develop a business together that combined these things.’
In 2015, this ambition materialised, and Willie Weston began connecting with Indigenous artists to develop commercial grade furnishing fabrics. ‘We saw this model as a way to continue working in the arts, albeit in a different guise, offering artists an additional income stream alongside their art practice, and bringing sophisticated Indigenous art to the interiors sector,’ Jessica says.
To develop a collection, Jessica and Laetitia first consult with artists and remote art centres across Australia to select artworks, leading to a varied array of motifs – from flora and fauna of the desert, to ceremonial body painting designs – that honour diverse regions. Next, they create design layouts for each artwork and collection colour schemes, before the sampling phase begins. As each textile design take shape, ‘artworks come alive in a whole new way,’ describes Laetitia.
Willie Weston recently branched out into beanbags, creating a limited run in collaboration with Sydney furniture brand Koskela, which feature the botanical artwork of Rosie Ngwarraye Ross. Offering outdoor canvas, indoor weave and natural linen, upcoming collections will also be available on velvet, Belgian linen, and soon-to-be wallpaper. The duo is also planning for larger-scale projects in public spaces.
Laetitia and Jessica are devoted to attracting more people to contemporary Indigenous textiles, at home and abroad. ‘We pay artists for every metre of fabric produced,’ says Jessica. ‘Our big hope is that Willie Weston will grow to a point where it can provide meaningful income streams to many more artists across Australia.’
See more from Wille Weston here. Designs from the label are on show as part of ‘AT HOME: Modern Australian Design’, an exhibition inserting the work of contemporary designers into the Georgian interior of the Old Government House in Parramatta, until January 22.