by Carolyn
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Those days plants are the new trend accessory. Pinterest is flooded with plant pictures and gardening workshops are mushrooming like never before. Therefore it’s not far to seek that we also need some nice planters, so our plants can fill comfortable and pretty. What’s to us a dress, that’s a planter to the plant. That simple.
Today I want to introduce you a lady who is making awesome planters, with a perfect balance between shape and color. Shannon Lester is the creative spirit behind Steel Life, a local business based in Bend, Oregon, that creates nature inspired planters and designs beautiful landscapes. Since her designs are becoming even more popular, Martha Stewart has already discovered them, Shannon currently focuses more on her home and garden line. You can also find Shannon over at Blooming Desert’s Daily Dirt blogging about gardening and if you are in Bend, you might be lucky to visit one of the many cozy, local business fairs where Shannon presents her products among other artist. While inspired by the nature and attached to locally-made materials we can be excited about what’s coming next from Steel Life forge.

Tell us a little bit about how did you become a landscape designer?
I originally majored in Geology when entering college. I loved learning about the natural environment, but the geology classes didn’t hold my attention as I had hoped. I worked at a plant nursery that next summer and loved it. I completely emerged myself in the Landscape Architecture program that next year in college and it was a perfect fit from then on.

You love the nature…How does this influence your work as a designer and why did you started
designing planters?

I really enjoy working with native plant material and designing landscapes that are
in tune with the natural environment. I began designing planters because I couldn’t find what I needed for my clients. I needed planters that were colorful, solid and architecturally interesting. It was natural for me to incorporate my life philosophy with my manufacturing practices…working locally with American-made materials and reducing our carbon footprint.

Describe the idea of your products? What is so unique about it?
Originally, I was looking for a new concept in modern planters. I wanted to step outside the cookie cutter styles that were then available. Steel Life products are unique in that they are made in the United States, they are made from locally salvaged and American made materials and they are a perfect dwelling for succulents and cacti.

What do you keep in mind when designing your products?
I try to stay practical in my designs. I want to bring a product to market that is design and trend savvy, ecologically conscience and affordable to homeowners. I also make sure that it is ergonomically correct for housing drought-tolerant plants.

As every job, being a designer has also pro and con. What do you love most about your job? What’s
not so great?

What I love most about my job is that it is flexible and can form to my personal life
commitments. First and foremost, I am a wife and a mother. This is a priority for me. To have a job that I love and can work around that is all I can ask for.

Have you any advice for somebody who would like to enter the world of landscape designing?
I think it is a great career for someone that wants to be self-employed. I suggest working in a plant nursery first. It is so important to know more about the plants that you are incorporating into designs other than just their latin
and botanical names.

The most people don’t have the space to design a big garden, especially here in SF, do you have any
advice for us what to keep in mind when planning a small green spot?

When you are limited on space, you are also limited on soil. I recommend using plant material that is drought tolerant and shallow rooted, such as succulents. They come in a variety of colors and textures and require very little care. Also, consider planting vertically and in layers. This will give depth and contrast to a small space.

Can you describe us your day at the …morning…. noon…. evening?
Typically, I am busy with orders and connecting with customers in the morning. In the afternoon, I find myself in our warehouse with my
husband filling orders. Evening are mostly taken up with family events and an occasional blog on Blooming Desert’s Daily Dirt.

Designer’s dream?
Hmmm. This is a tough one. I think my designer’s dream would be to revisit
the Chateau de Versailles and other such gardens in Europe of which I visited when I was younger. I now have a much better appreciation for design and history than I did back then.

This month we have the Earth Day, what is your favorite gardening trend right know?
I love having the ability to incorporate salvaged and up cycled materials into the garden. Salvaged tires, sod lawn pallets, old gardening tools, and reclaimed barn wood have been recent gardening trends that I have followed.
Follow Shannon’s Repurposed & Up Cycled Pinterest Board.

Top 3 destinations?
Oh, gosh. Just three? I guess I would have to say Hawaii, Switzerland and the Rogue River (where I grew up).

Currently addicted to…?
Hiking, coffee and micro beers.

Night owl or early bird?
Neither. I love my sleep.

Tell us some of your favorite Bend spots?
There are so many amazing spots in Bend! I guess a few of my
favorites would be Mt. Bachelor (for skiing and hiking), The Workhouse (for shopping local), 10 Barrel Brewery, and Hola (for happy hour).

Always in your bag…

Cell phone, lip balm, uni-ball gel pen, an engineers scale, keys and wallet.

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