Shared work spaces and studios are not a new concept – however they seem to be experiencing a bit of a renaissance Down Under at the moment and Melbourne, with her relentless renovation of old buildings is becoming a hotspot. As someone who works only in the company of a singular obese cat, the idea of the shared work space definitely piqued my interest and on spending a couple of hours at The Windsor Workshop…well lets just say that my own company will now never be enough.
The Windsor Workshop took shape under the guidance of the super motivated Hankinson sisters. Born and bred Melbourne girls they have both forged very different but equally impressive creative careers. Bree managed to combine her graphic design skills with her passion for youth work and spent 4 years in Guatamala teaching creative and technology skills to disadvantaged children. In 2010 she returned home to start a family, took up the reins of her successful graphic design biz and began to pull her sister in on projects.
Sarah Hankinson is one of the most prolific and well known of the incredibly talented pack of Australian fashion illustrators. Like many young creatives she struggled to walk that line between the security of a full time job and the dream of being a successful freelancer. In 2008, after a few years of developing her professional portfolio and growing a following of her personal work online she struck out on her own and landed in her first shared work space.
The networking opportunities of working shoulder to shoulder with other creatives proved incredibly valuable to Sarah. So in 2011 she decided she wanted to build on the concept and set up a studio reflecting her own needs and those of her creative friends all crying out for a space. With the help of Bree they spent months checking out property both in and north of the city but realised that there was actually a demand not being met on the south side so they refocused their hunt closer to their own neighbourhoods of St Kilda and Elwood.
The Windsor Workshop, as it exists now is a beautiful space hovering above vibrant Chapel Street. When the girls finally found it in 2012, it existed only as a pre renovation shell. So with some patience and clever planning they set about transforming it into their dream space then filling with up to 10 creatives at a time. Currently it houses a journalist, artists, jewellery designer, graphic designers, a photographer, web developer and the HQ for an online store.
During my visit I was immediately struck by the balance of productivity and the casual friendly conversation that wafted over computer screens. Although, my presence would definitely have been an interruption to the norm, I got the impression that there is an easiness between everyone and most definitely a supportive environment where questions are freely asked and advice is given.
As someone who has always relished working alone, I suddenly realised the advantage of this type of collaborative space. Being freelance or the sole owner of a small creative business, there is a lingering pressure to be constantly achieving with the realisation that if you don’t make this thing work – no one will! On a day by day basis there are so many issues/questions and even victories that a singular person can’t be expected to know how to deal with each and every one. So it makes complete and utter sense to be surrounded by others that share your challenges but know LOTS about stuff that you don’t.
To be honest?….I almost sighed with relief. And I want a desk here.
Current Windsor Workshop roll call:
- Sarah Hankinson: Illustrator + Santiago Sunbird
- Bree Hankinson: Santiago Sunbird
- Lucy Glade- Wright: graphic designer + Hunting for George
- Kimberly Gillan: journalist
- Rebecca Tilley : Quella Collection
- Cathy Sison: graphic designer + illustrator
- Kate Rijs: illustrator + painter
- Anita Kalavetta: graphic designer and lecturer at Swinburne University
- Anthony Licuria: photographer + man about town
- Damian Marken: web developer
WHAT I LEARNT FROM THE WINDSOR WORKSHOP:
It’s true – there is safety in numbers….there is also creativity, inspiration, a shoulder to cry on and communal wine.
Shared workspace is the way of the future for the solo small creative business.