Workshop cooperatives such as Pop & Scott and &Company allow emerging furniture designers, craftspeople and the general public the space and equipment to give flight to their fantasies.
Located in the backstreets of Melbourne’s Northcote is one of the most inviting workspaces around. With handcrafted wooden doors and walls, and a potbelly stove, the 400 square metre warehouse is home to Pop & Scott, a cooperative workshop housing three artists’ studios, woodworking facilities and a darkroom.
Just a little over six months ago, the space was an old car body workshop-cum-squat full of rats and graffiti; its transformation tells of the tenacity of founders Poppy Lane, a florist by trade, and Scott Gibson, who is completing a plumbing apprenticeship. For years, the pair and their friends spent their weekends on creative projects. “We all had this problem of never being able to finish. We’d be working in our backyards setting things up, and then we’d get rained on,” says Gibson.
When he heard Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport was clearing the woodworking equipment out of one of its sheds, he bought the lot, and after finding the Northcote space, he and Lane and their friends gave it a speedy overhaul. Artist Dane Lovett soon moved in, as did photographer Lisa Sorgini and eight subletting woodworkers. The space and equipment are accessible to anyone who wants to pay to use them, which turns out to be both hobbyists and small business owners. “We’re coming across people we’ve never heard of who are doing amazing things,” says Lane.
Pop & Scott now runs floristry classes, with plans to add woodworking. Once a kiln is up and running, ceramics will follow. People who have used the space include a guitar maker in need of the more specialised tools, a guy who built a whole bar for a restaurant and even a set builder who constructed a complete fake bathroom. “We are trying to create a comfortable space where everyone is here to help. A lot of us are self-taught anyway, so we’re open to people just coming in and having a go,” says Lane
Pop & Scott is part of a trend of co-ops making their workshops and equipment accessible to learners and practitioners. Another is &company, which set up a collective workshop space in the inner-city Sydney suburb of The Rocks with the support of The Rocks Pop-up Project, an initiative that makes temporarily vacant buildings available to creatives for short-term use. Access is via membership, with different access passes available for bookings of an hour, a day, or up to 10 days.
Since 2009, &company has collaborated with local designers on a range of products, but when it came to prototyping and securing small-scale manufacturing contracts, its director Anna Lise De Lorenzo hit a wall. “You couldn’t just pay to access space and designers can’t necessarily afford to buy their own equipment or invest in a huge production run,” she says. Hence the decision to launch a collective workspace. “We want it to be transparent. It is not about who you know; there are no special favours. You pay, you follow the rules, if you don’t know how to do something, there is always somebody to help. It’s not an intimidating environment and I think a lot of workshops can be.”
The studio now runs a series of classes in ceramics, jewellery and woodworking. What started out as a ‘power tools for girls’ course has now been made non-gender specific due to a strong interest from men in learning the basic skills. “I think there’s a generation of guys whose parents don’t necessarily have a back shed. Our new course is just for total novices – people who want to do it but don’t know where to begin,” says De Lorenzo.
When the lease came up in October 2012, &company embarked on a crowd-funding campaign to raise $20,000 for a permanent workshop. That worked, so De Lorenzo is now searching fora space. “To get that positive affirmation has been like rocket fuel for us. So many online spaces come together and share work and knowledge, but to have a physical space, a space for a creative community – there is real value in that.”
This story was first published in Vogue Living March 2013. Download a PDF of the original story. For more information, visit popandscott.com and andcompany.com.au.