“What gets us out of bed every morning at Afternoons With Albert, is to help you (and the rest of the world) find adventure and enjoyment in each moment, to change the way you interact with the everyday.
Products should fit your lifestyle – not the other way around. We are passionate about crafted designs and aesthetic products. Like you, we’re excited by function and thoughtful design that make the most of all those little moments in life.” - Shane Thompson, Founder - Afternoons With Albert
A finalist in the 2018 GALA Awards, late last year TLSE spoke to Shane from Afternoons With Albert, getting the who, what and why behind the brand. Nothing short of motivational, his story makes you want to take that passion project of your own and turn it into something bigger and better.
[TLSE] Afternoons With Albert (AWA) took off from a successful Kickstarter campaign launched in November 2015, where the Cord Roll was completely funded within 11 hours. Can you tell us about AWA, the Cord Roll and how it all came into fruition?
[SHANE] As a child I spent Sunday afternoons with my grandfather (Albert) in his shed. He was an avid carpenter and tinkerer. I would pass him tools and do the small jobs, eventually graduating to making stuff of my own, with his guidance, for the family home. After the work was done we would retire to the garden and eat cake and drink tea, lovingly prepared by Nanna. This memory forms the basis for the name of the label.
After he passed, I was given all his tools, and set them up in a shed of my own. It was a place where I would go to get lost in ‘making’. I would dream up designs, then go create them. Seeing them come to life was amazing, and as a kid very liberating.
This background, coupled with my inquisitive nature means that I always have to know how something works – I am forever interested in the design of functional, utalitarian things. When I became an international pilot for QANTAS at 25, I was suddenly exposed to an entire world of design (pun intended). Having the globe as inspiration, and a jet to access it all has only strengthened my interest and passion in the design space.
I have always loved music, and am often transported to another time and place when I hear a certain song. Entire periods of my life can be characterized by particular albums – my late 20’s were Hot Fuss by The Killers, and Sex on Fire by Kings Of Leon, for example.
One of my favorite things on earth is to get lost in a new city, listening to music …just walking around for hours, in and out of coffee shops, down lanes, talking to strangers. But it struck me that I never remembered to take my charging cable – so my phone would always run flat before I was finished exploring. Even worse, stuffing my earphones into my pockets would always produce a horrible mess, and I found I was taking endless amounts of time untangling these things, when all I wanted to do was be in the moment and enjoy wherever I was.
So I guess I had a ‘there must be a better way’ moment, and begun experimenting. My creative process is incredibly authentic, in that it’s not forced – if I don’t like a design then I can’t workshop it. But when I do resonate with something, it becomes part of me, and I can’t stop thinking about it. I know I am ready to put the pen down and bring the tools out when I can see the design in my head in 3 dimensions, I can turn it around, up and down and inside out, and look at it from every angle – that’s when I know I’ve got something. The Cord Roll was born like this.
The Cord Roll is an innovative and stylish solution to keeping cords, cables and other necessities at bay. How do you approach design, and is it a reflection of your life and style?
I am an idealist in many ways. I am inspired by the cities I visit, the world around me - and the everyday things that should be better. Lazy, thoughtless design frustrates the hell out of me. When I interact with products and processes that are harder and less intuitive than they need to be, my mind starts to wander and dream up ways to get from A to B faster, with a more pleasant experience, culminating in a better result.
Born from my training as a pilot, my design thinking is focused on simplicity and logic. As pilots, we are taught to simplify things as much as we can in order to give ourselves the brain capacity to deal with an emergency should it occur.
So my approach to design absolutely reflects my life, my experiences, both good and bad. It has to be part of you – this breeds simplicity, authenticity and purity. Often when something is over-engineered, it’s hard to use, or it has multiple points of failure. Over-engineering is as result of design that doesn’t come from the heart. Too many band-aids applied to make up for the lack of end to end design.
Further, my approach to design has been heavily influenced by my Grandfather Albert. He taught me principles, rather than methods. He taught to me to think outside the box - to challenge myself to ask “how”, rather than to accept the way things were. He changed my thinking from “it can’t” to “what if it could”.
One day we needed a certain type of hinge to make a cupboard open and shut a certain way. A trip to the local hardware store and nothing – the hinge didn’t exist. I thought we were beaten, that it couldn’t be done. But in the time taken to drink a hot of cup of tea, the shade of a fern, some paper blown clear of sawdust and a thick carpenters pencil, we had a new hinge drawn up … and made that afternoon. And Nana had a place to put her broom – in an impossible spot that would never have made sense if not for the hinge. He loved her so much, I remember so clearly the delight in his face as he opened and shut the little cupboard in front of Nanna at the end of that day. To have changed her ‘everyday’ in such a small but impactful manner gave him his reason for being.
I knew then the power of the small things, the minutia that people often overlook – that when done right can have such a huge impact. Everyone always says ‘it’s the little things in life.....”
From your website to Instagram, there is such a cohesion in the AWA brand image and message. How do you manage marketing, customer service and all the other responsibilities of a start-up business?
Great question. The answer is passion, and authenticity. Passion gives me the energy to ‘do all the things’ – when you really care about something (or someone), there is nothing you wouldn’t do, nothing is too hard, energy flows. The cohesion you see/feel when interacting with the brand is the Authenticity that is a natural byproduct of working within the realm of your passion. It’s honest, because it comes from a central place. It’s not fragmented by multiple desires, it’s aligned.
The AWA Instagram page is a wanderluster’s dream, where you’ll see snaps of beautiful places, from Paris to New York. What are the most memorable places that you’ve been to, and why?
All the destinations are all incredible for their own reason – both in terms of the cities themselves, and the routes we fly to get there … seeing the Antarctic icebergs on the African route, breakfast over the mountains of Afghanistan on the London Route, the Philippine islands on the way to Hong Kong, and the deep, frozen south coast of South America is unlike anything you can imagine.
I often answer this question by saying “If QANTAS made me pick one single destination to fly to for the rest of my career, it would be London. I love the familiarity of London, but mostly the fact that within 3 hours you can either be in Morocco drinking peppermint tea, or experiencing the freezing depths of St Petersburg in Russia”.
AWA has received positive reception, and had successful debuts at The Finders Keepers markets last year. What’s next for Shane Thompson and AWA in 2018?
The best advice that was given to me when starting the brand was:
Rule #1 is focus
Rule #2 is focus
Rule #3 is focus
The most exciting thing in the world for me is a shiny new product idea. Getting lost in the possibilities of a new design is intoxicating for me. Whats the most succinct way to describe what it does? What other problems can it solve easily? How will I package it? I can go down these roads for hours on end. This is a long winded way of saying the next 12 months is mostly about behind the scenes stuff – building the foundation of the brand and the business. Hiring staff, systemizing things that need systemizing, building the foundations of the house. The plan is to run another Kickstarter in the second half of 2018 … but I just have to decide which product is going to be the fruit of that …
The Life Style Edit