If you were to poll the hot rod community to determine which auto trimmers they admire most, Shannon Walters of Interiors by Shannon would surely make the shortlist. We are honored to interview him for the fourth installment in our “10 Questions” series – where we pose 10 questions to a master, innovator or business leader in the field of auto upholstery who we believe our community of auto trimmers can learn from or be inspired by.
Based in Alexander City, Alabama, Shannon has dedicated the last 16 years to designing and building the highest quality hot rod interiors. His all-American, blue-collar work ethic combined with natural artistic abilities and an uncompromising devotion to perfection has earned him accolades the world over and the respect of his peers. Shannon Walters is – without a doubt – a leader in the auto upholstery industry. And though he’s too humble to admit it, a master of the craft. Read along, as he tells us about how he learned to upholster, where his inspiration comes from and what his plans are for the future.
1. How did you learn auto upholstery?
I attended Southern Union State College in Opelika, Alabama and received a degree in Upholstery. The classes where 90% furniture upholstery. I learned how to fit, sew and use a sewing machine. I knew I did not want to cover furniture for a living, but I had to start somehow. I was able to do three cars in the two years I attended upholstery school. After a day trip to M&M Hot Rod Interiors, I dove in and started teaching myself.
What aspect of the craft took you longest to master and how were you able to finally get it right?
I don’t consider myself a “master” at any of my work and try to improve along the way. There’s always room to learn and better myself in this trade. I do put a lot of work in my seats and feel I’m getting the hang of those. Each year I learn more about building seats, creating shapes with foam, and sewing new cover styles.
2. Since founding Interiors by Shannon in 1996, you’ve been extremely successful. What’s the best business advice that you’ve ever received? If you could share one piece of advice to current or aspiring auto trimmers, what would it be?
Try your best to stick to the part of upholstery you want to excel in. Whether it’s hot rods, boats, bikes or furniture upholstery. Also, create a Website or Facebook page showcasing your work. It is important to build relationships with people in the industry. Don’t forget to stay humble and treat everyone like you want to be treated.
3. You have a background in art – including pastels and oil paint. Do you find that your schooling and practice of more traditional forms of art has affected your style or approach to the craft of upholstery?
No doubt! It has helped me with flowing lines and the composition of my interior work. I think of a full custom hot rod interior as 3D art form. I am able to visualize the concept of the project in my head.
4. On your website, you state that it takes you about three months to finish each car interior that you do, and that you only work on one at a time. That’s just four interiors a year – but we assume folks are lining up to have you work on their cars. How do you choose which projects to take on and when?
Usually, the customer gives me a call at the beginning of their project. Sometimes, customers take years to build their dream car. Unfortunately at times life takes over and they have to pull off the project. This is when I will have a sudden opening if the next customer(s) are not ready. Generally, the ones that keep me posted on their project’s progress I can work with.
5. Do you prefer that your customers know exactly what they want, or do you like to have full creative control over the look and feel of the interiors you customize?
I prefer the customer to have some kind of direction of what they are looking for. The things I’m most concerned with are traditional, mild, wild, two-tone, four bucket seats, etc-¦ The interiors where I have full creative control are some of my favorites to date. I haven’t got in to the rendering side of custom interiors. I have had one customer bring me a rendering to complete their project.
6. Where do you find inspiration for your designs? And do you find it difficult to generate new ideas and keep things fresh?
Car photos, new and old. Whether taken at a large car show or found on the internet. At this point I’m close to 6,000 to look through. They are put in categories like muscle cars, 1955-1957 coupes, sedans, pickup trucks, tricks and OEM. I also go back and review my own interior work from time to time.
To finish reading “10 Questions for Master Trimmer Shannon Walters”, as well as to see photos of his work, visit The Hog Ring – the leading news blog and online community for auto upholstery professionals.