The Warehouse opened in 2011 as a mixed discipline studio for painters, designers, illustrators, fashion designers, photographers, writers, jewellers, freelancers and experimental artists. Artists get their own workspace within the studio but we’re also about encouraging communal use of spaces and resources so we’re constantly finding new things to provide and developing our work areas.

“Creative Spaces has been a great resource for advertising - it's brought us painters, designers, illustrators, fashion designers, photographers, writers, jewellers, freelancers and experimental artists.” Alice Clayton

What's your background?

My partner and I both have backgrounds in writing and use the space to work on and discuss our projects. We set up the studio to make use of a beautiful space, and encourage creativity in Melbourne.

How was the space first identified and who was contacted to secure it?

For us the space actually came first. When we came across The Warehouse the owner was running his own business as a traditional framer, carving, moulding and finishing his frames by hand. I was really taken with his work and the space itself. He also dealt in French antiques and industrial décor so the place was full of weird and wonderful pieces and it was hard not to fall in love with everything. When he mentioned he would be retiring soon and looking for a tenant I thought of all the possible uses for the space. Artist’s studios seemed the most worthwhile, with relatively low startup costs.

What needed to be provided by you as hirer or user of the space?

We were lucky enough to make a connection with the owner before the property had a chance to go on the market but once we proved our interest everything was verified through a real estate agent. This meant providing the usual paperwork required for a commercial lease: an outline of our intentions, zoning checks, four months of payslips and bank statements, bonds, rent, public liability insurance and a three year signup.

What were the costs?

For our startup we set aside $20,000. At least $12,000 of this went on the boring essentials, i.e. the first month’s rent, a bond of 2 months rent (reduced from the usual 3 months required for commercial leases) plus rates, bills, connection costs, body corporate fees and insurance. After that we had a bit of money to play with for equipment and renovations. We were lucky to have a building that was well set up for our purposes, but even paint and light fittings cost money. I would estimate another $30,000 has since been spent on furnishings and subsidising the rent and overheads. We could have spent less on the furnishings but I’ve been insistent on choosing pieces that compliment the space.

Who helped you to fit it out?

Family and friends. You find yourself catching up with friends that have vans or know trades more often than usual. Ebay and the local auction houses were a great help, too.

What were/are the obstacles?

Just keeping the numbers up to cover the rent. The dynamic of supply and demand seems to have changed a lot in the short time we’ve been running. It feels like the market’s been a bit flooded in our area lately and covering our costs is now a challenge. Making the studio really stand out and then promoting that is a big focus at the moment.

What were/are the risks?

Mostly just the supply and demand thing. We also take safety really seriously so I have to constantly keep an eye on what’s being used and how.

Who is in the space currently?

In our team we have a number of creatives, including painters, photographers, graphic designers, writers, jewellers and stop motion animators. Some are inspired by modern Japanese art, some by New York fashion and others by astronomer, astrophysicist and cosmologist Carl Sagan.

Highlights from the space?

Watching the careers of our artists take off is a real highlight. A lot of the people we get here are straight out of school and it’s great to see that their skills and perseverance can earn them a place in the creative industries.

Best thing about running your own creative space?

Because The Warehouse is open to so many different practices, the variety of artistic techniques and attitudes I’m exposed to is continually enlightening and inspiring. Everyone who works here gets to enjoy that though.

What's next?

The first year was about setting up and getting the space functioning really well internally. For our second year the main focus is to get the studio interacting with the community. In real terms, this means developing projects that have a wider appeal than the dozen studio spaces we have to offer. We’ll be hosting exhibitions this year, with winter and Christmas group shows. Plus, drawing, painting, and stop motion animation classes will be starting in April. There’s also the secret project, but I’m not allowed to talk about that.

Would you like to join The Warehouse? Find out more