Meet George O’Leary – a founder member of Shaboutique who makes – in his own words – sculpture, furniture and lighting treasures salvaged from other peoples trash.
He makes things from rusty metal, discarded wood and any number of objects that to most people’s eyes would be rubbish fit only for the recycling plant – or worse, landfill. But where we see rubbish – George sees potential for beauty and usefulness.
He believes his original and innovative craft rather found him rather than him finding a craft. The products he makes generally come from a moment of inspiration then he thinks his way back through the process.
His work is also massively influenced by Shabitat and the amount of weird and wonderful items that he sees everyday.
He says quite honestly:-
About five years ago I was going through a tough time personally and needed an outlet for my creativity, and if I’m honest something to distract me. Shabitat provided this as well as a workshop and like minded individuals. The key skills needed have grown with me, with a lot of help from expert colleagues, Mark Pyrah has been the oracle to all of my queries. I am a classic learn by doing kind of guy.
Before he worked for Shabitat he studied for a degree in visual culture at Brighton University. George explains that is basically history of art and design mixed with sociology. He has to say it was undertaken with no real career path in mind but feels it was useful if only that it taught him more of what he didn’t want to do than what he did.
Other than that he undertook a random collection of jobs, including the Dolphin Derby on Brighton Pier and in other arcades – Halcyon days!
So now George has an obsession with collecting what he sees as beautiful things such as rusty metal, distressed wood, vintage furniture and fittings – with the vision that one day it will be useful. On a daily basis he picks up things from the street. He recalls:-
For over a month I carried a rusty vintage furniture fitting because I enjoyed the shape of it. I love the thought process, how does this bit of rusty metal fit wit that rusty bit of metal?
He would, in fact, like an extra 8 hours in everyday to give him the time to make all of the ideas knocking around his brain, and the chance to finish some of the many unfinished projects.
George has not alwyas been in Brighton. He grew up in Irchester, Northamptonshire. It was University that brought him to Brighton. He hadn’t really planned on coming or even to go to the University really but he visited with a friend when he was 18 and completely fell for the place. He loves its free thinking, loose morals, availability of tat and of course, the beach.
Shaboutique is an idea that George and another group of people has talked about for about ten years. The vision was to open a space to sell select pieces of furniture and display the work of local makers who focus on using waste materials. It is a chance for these artists to pool their ideas, skills and products in an area that is one the rise.
Now it is open Geroge is passionate about the success of the business. He would love the place to evolve and see other artists get involved. He has input and a place to show the things that he makes but allows the space given to other people the chance for it to flourish.
What Are Your Favourite Designs?
Most of my favourite designs have been given away as gifts. My sisters wedding gift was a particular favourite, a surreal work combining a Victorian gas lamp fitting and an old car horn. It baffled some family members but I loved it and I think she did too. My other favourite design was a heron produced in inspired evening in the workshop. A painfully simple design; Bike cogs, spokes from a bike wheel and a rusty old trowel. An hour scratching the beard and an hour to execute. Inspired memorable gift, done.
And George’s greatest influencer he replies:-
In my average working week at Shabitat I meet hundreds of people and visit hundreds of buildings, all of these relationships last for about ten minutes but I believe that all play their part in shaping the way I am.
Seriously, who do I need to talk to about these extra hours in the day?