Full time practicing artist Gabrielle McGrath opened her studio to the public around this time last year.
We caught up with Gabrielle to see how having a commercial space under the Renew Australia model is working for her, and what the pros and cons are to running her art practice as a business.
It’s coming up to twelve months since you opened RedPeg Eco Studio in a Renew the Valley space in Bega. Had you already been thinking about venturing out into the big scary world a commercial rental before the Renew Australia program came to Bega?
“I hadn’t given it a thought until the opportunity arose. I was happily working away full time in my home studio, making work to send off to other galleries and outlets throughout Australia and also trying to establish an online platform for selling my work.”
Apart from the Renew rent-free advantage, how else has the program helped your business and have you had any difficulties within the project requirements?
“Well of course the rent free is a great advantage when starting out. It has given me time to gauge the public’s reception of my business and time to be able to get stuck in and really do what I love without the worry of covering the rent. It has also opened my work up to a whole new audience.
I haven’t had any difficulties within the project requirements and was so grateful when my shop window was broken that I was under the umbrella of the ‘Renew’ insurance policy.”
List 5 pros and 5 cons of having your studio open to the public…
Direct contact with client.
A whole new audience.
People being able to just walk in off the street.
Showcasing my work in the one space.
Being able to work directly with the client to make them personalised work.
Being on show.
But really they are not that big a deal.
I don’t think I can come up with five!
Being a creative being, do you sometimes shut the doors to the public to give yourself uninterrupted creative development time?
“RedPeg Eco Studio is shut to the public on weekends and Mondays. But you can usually find me inside tinkering away.
It is nice to have those times to get things done uninterrupted and to work on some of the noisy stuff.”
Have you found yourself developing new styles of work based on specific demands from the local market?
“As a result of direct customer contact and custom specific orders I have come up with new designs and ways of making through experimentation of client specifications. It is a curiosity when working on a custom order, because without the customers input, I wouldn’t of thought of doing it that way, or like that. Direct interaction has defiantly led to some wonderful surprises, which in turn have lead to new developments in my work.”
In terms of business growth, has been open to the public exceeded your expectations?
“Totally! Initially I was a little worried about working in front of people, but the funny thing is; now I really can’t see myself working any other way. I love being able to engage directly with the client and love the intimacy that comes with it. In a small community like this, I’m so lucky to have a regular client base and the word of mouth from supportive patrons is the best advertising I can get. The fact that women enjoy and want to wear my jewellery is the biggest gratification.”
Operating a business in a small regional town can be tough. Do you think by having a retail space you have broadened awareness of your business both locally and further afield?
‘I think it has broadened awareness locally for sure. The whole experience of RedPeg is that the client is aware the pieces are handcrafted right there in front of them. Effectively when entering you are standing in the middle of the workshop. The experience of knowing the piece is handcrafted and visually being able to discern that provides a link between wearer and artisan that isn’t present in the glitzy showrooms of other jewellery shops. Working with ethically sourced materials and eco friendly studio practices the public can make a conscious choice to support that and I think it does make them more aware of the whole ‘mass produced’ versus the ‘handcrafted’.’
What advice would you offer other artists contemplating moving to a commercial space?
Go for it!
From my experience the community is supportive of local creativity.
Its hard work for creative people to dedicate themselves to set hours and to be ‘watched’ while they work, but the feedback and satisfaction is well worth it, in my experience.
Redpeg Eco Studio: Shop 3/104 carp street.
The Renew Australia project is a national social enterprise designed to catalyse community renewal, economic development, the arts and creative industries across Australia. It works with communities and property owners to take otherwise empty shops, offices, commercial and public buildings and make them available to incubate short term use by artists, creative projects and community initiatives.
For Renew Australia opportunities in the South East region contact: