Willie Weston work with Indigenous artists to create fabric and wallpapers for residential and commercial interiors, and I first came across them four years ago at a Melbourne trade fair. I was about 6-7 months pregnant at the time and walking around in a bit of a daze but was instantly drawn to their stand. Although I loved the whole range, I connected with one in particular – Jilamara by Jean Baptiste Apuatimi from the Tiwi Collection – and I used this wallpaper for Ziya’s bedroom. To this day I still adore it as much as when it was first installed.
Founders Laetitia Prunetti and Jessica Booth have built the business with a drive to support Indigenous artists, paying them for each metre that is produced and in doing so are supporting the continuance of art production in communities across remote Australia.
Can you tell us a bit about your background and the path that led to establishing Willie Weston?
Laetitia : Jess and I met at university about 15 years ago, while we were both completing our Masters of Art Curatorship. After uni, Jess and I established careers in the visual arts. I worked in contemporary Australian (non-indigenous) art, whilst Jess spent time working with remote Indigenous artists and art centres in the Top End. We always dreamed of doing something all of our own. We both still wanted to work with artists, but in a different way. In 2015 we took the leap – I was taking some time off with my first baby and Jess had just completed an industry research project looking at buyers of Indigenous art.
Jess : This project gave me a great insight into what people are looking for when they engage with Aboriginal art. It solidified the sense we already had that there was a huge gap in the market for sophisticated Indigenous design that seamlessly translated into contemporary interiors.
What inspired you to celebrate Indigenous art and design in the way that you have?
Jess : At the core of Willie Weston is a belief that Indigenous art and design is beautiful, incredibly contemporary, and deserving of a much more prominent place in today’s built environments. Our business is also built upon a fundamental drive to support artists to live in their communities by returning equitable, scalable and meaningful income streams to them through our work.
Laetitia : We set out to create a business that celebrated the diverse artistic output of Indigenous artists across Australia, but we wanted the artists to be along for the ride. So, rather than a one-off licensing fee, artists are paid for each metre we produce. The more successful we are, the more successful they are.
Where would be likely to see Willie Weston textiles or wallpapers?
Laetitia : We sell fabric and wallpaper by the metre, both to the interior design and architecture trade, and to retail clients. Our designs are available across a range of base cloths – commercial grade upholstery fabrics to velvet drapery linens… Our products have been used all over Australia and internationally, in residential projects as well as commercial spaces such as workplaces, restaurants and hotels. We always love it when we see images of homes with our wallpaper installed or our fabric used as bedheads, day beds and couches – and so do our artists. It’s very special to think that there are little pieces of Arnhem Land, the Central Desert or the Kimberley brining joy and colour into people’s lives and homes around the world!
Jess : A few commercial projects we’re particularly proud of are Lon Retreat – a luxury boutique hotel on the Bellarine Peninsula in Victoria, where our Jilmara wallpaper was used in one of the bespoke suites, and a big government project currently in the works in partnership with Zenith Interiors, a manufacturer of high end commercial furniture.
Can you tell us about one of your favourite artists?
Jess : We both have a bit of an obsession Nyapanyapa Yunupingu. She is a Yolngu woman from Yirrkala, near Nhulunbuy in North-East Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory. Nyapanyapa creates incredibly fresh and innovative paintings, both on bark and on paper. She uses both traditional materials from the earth around her home – natural ochres and the bark of stringybark trees – and manmade materials such as paint pens and acetate. Right now there’s a retrospective of her work on at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory in Darwin – we’re devastated not to be able to see it!
Describe your dream home and location.
Laetitia : To be honest I can see myself living in so many dream homes and locations, worldwide! I guess a common thread would be a sunlit, open and airy environmentally conscious house connected to the outdoors – preferably in a warm climate near the beach. Not too much to ask, surely?!
Jess : Ditto! Can I live next door?
Name one item in your home that you could not do without.
Jess : I have a great 1970s modular sofa which I reupholstered in our Singing Bush Medicine design (by Colleen Ngwarraye Morton of Ampilatwatja) in velvet – it is seriously plush and beautiful, every time I walk into the lounge room I am amazed by Colleen’s stunning artwork and proud of the business Laetitia and I have created working with such talented artists – I just love it. And the colourway I chose, ‘Dusk‘, is incredibly forgiving – I have two sons under 5 who snack on it and build cubbies out of it every day and it still looks fabulous!
Laetitia : I think my bed! I love it – my peaceful zone (most of the time!) and the artworks we’ve collected over the years – they each have memories attached to them and make me happy every day.
When you’re not working on Willie Weston, where would we find you?
When we’re not working on Willie Weston, we are usually with our children – it’s Stage 4 lockdown here in Melbourne at the moment so there’s not a lot of options for activities and with four boys between us we can most likely be found in the kitchen making endless snacks!! But in non-lockdown times, our boys are buddies and we love to be outside at the beach, local botanic gardens or at the gallery and museum. We do love dinners out – without the kiddies – but that’s not happening so much at the moment!
See more of Willie Weston here.