The Paper Mill is a multidisciplinary inclusive environment to encourage, facilitate, educate and nurture arts practice. The Paper Mill exhibits emerging artists who are inspired by the medium of paper in creative practice.

Works shown in The Paper Mill gallery range from photography, video, sculpture, installation, sound and performance to painting drawing and printmaking, with the brief of paper being more conceptual than a physical restraint to practice.

The Paper Mill workshop area has held workshops on printing, drawing, weaving, zine making, typography, book binding, illustration and also hosts a regular Sketch Club night every month.

The Paper Mill residency space has hosted over 12 artists and artist groups during our fourteen months, with artists creating work in front of large display windows, encouraging the public to interact with the creative process.

“The space is a combination of gallery, residency and workshop space with a zine library. It is essentially an office space, with low ceilings and UV lighting, but it works quite nicely as an alternative gallery/ creative space – it’s a bit quirky.” Sian McIntyre, Co-Director

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

The space was first identified via a callout from The City of Sydney for Expressions of Interest in the then vacant premises on Ash Street. After completing the EOI we met with the City of Sydney and embarked on the lengthy process of securing the space, including DA, OH&S requirements, business lodgement and registration and legal representation.

What was required to secure the space?

We were required to provide a certain amount of public programs, meet all City of Sydney’s requirements, register as an association and register the business with the Department of Fair Trading, complete fire and safety checks on the space and also seek legal advice and assistance in signing the lease. We also had to commit to paying a subsidised rent for the space.

What were the costs?

Set up costs (lawyers, registration and insurance) furnishing, stocking and promoting the space were the primary expenses. Fundraising and borrowing meant that we were not overly out of pocket.

What were the resources available to you?

We relied heavily on the advice and support of colleagues who had started or worked in ARI’s. We also tapped into the networks of family and friends to find accountants, lawyers, architects and builders who were able to help. City of Sydney also provided support and mentoring throughout.

Who helped you to fit it out?

Fit out was minimal. We did most things ourselves. We wanted to get the space up and running as soon as we could, so many of the additions happened over time. Much of the furniture and fittings were found on eBay, Greys online or on the side of the road, with friends and family helping to pick up and deliver. As our lease was extended at The Paper Mill we were able to do more permanent additions, building lighting systems, cable covers, zine shelves and storage facilities.

What were/are the obstacles?

We had little to no experience in running a business, and still struggle with finances and book keeping. At the beginning we didn’t have a lot of confidence in what we were doing, and often undervalued the work that we did and the space that we were providing. We overcommitted for the first 6 months with too many shows and too high expectations with what we could achieve.

As we realised that we would be staying on in the space we were able to create a more sustainable business model, and introduce new systems, extra Directors and volunteers to the team. As our confidence built we were able to put a value on the service that we were providing and were encouraged by the respect and support that built in the community as a result.

What were/are the risks?

The biggest risk for us was burn out. We didn’t have a huge financial investment in the space, but the hours of time that we invested in the set up and running of The Paper Mill would have added up to hundreds and thousands of dollars. Our creative work suffered as a result and there were times when we felt like it was all too much. I think we managed to hang in there because we would re group and re evaluate and try to find solutions for our problems. We were/ are all learning together, so when something didn’t work, we were able to come together and change it. The benefits have far outweighed the risks for us.