Holding the old Within the New: in conversation with Laura Armstrong and Ella Tisdall of Sure Studio
Tucked into a Petrie Terrace laneway, Sure Studio is a new creative space founded by friends Laura Armstrong and Ella Tisdall. The space has quickly become a home for artists-in-residence to work on their practice, and for the broader artistic community to share their craft with the public through workshops and exhibitions. Dabblers are welcome to drop in and try new modes of art-making without judgement or expectation; a regular guided life drawing session hosted in Sure’s gallery space has become a quick hit. So far, Sure has held two pop-up markets, featuring work by the likes of Savannah Jarvis, Katalyst, Lawn Bowls, Claire Ritchie, Bugdumb, and Gumnut Designs. Their launch event (in May this year) was soundtracked by DJs Girls in Hats and Kim Stevenson, as well as the buzzing chatter of the at-capacity laneway, with many excited at the prospect of a new creative venture opening in the wake of the pandemic, rather than an old one shutting down. Laura and Ella spoke to us six months into the Sure Studio project, reflecting on building a business from the ground up and convening a community around it.
How did you two meet? What’s something that you admire in one another?
Laura: We went to school together, lived together for years, travelled together, and now we’re running a studio space together! We basically know each other back to front.
Ella: Laura has a deep running respect and awareness of the impact that her existence leaves on the world, and takes a path of slow, considerate action rather than convenience. She has a quiet power and doesn’t know how funny she can be.
Laura: Ella has a remarkable tenacity to get things done and she’s incredibly creative in so many ways.
Why did you decide to start the Studio? What role do you want it to play in the Brisbane/Meanjin art landscape?
E: I had just left a full-time job and after the weird stagnancy of lockdown, I was looking for a space to focus on some creative endeavours. The craving for connection that lockdown caused was a big push for the idea to become a reality.
L: After many years, I had given up my studio space at Bib’n’Brace during lockdown and was really missing working in a collective. Ella and I were both dreaming of a creative space to work and wanted to provide more studio and exhibition space for Brisbane artists.
The space is continuing to evolve, but it currently serves two functions: as a studio space for a group of artists-in-residence—including painters, illustrators, jewellers, and textile artists—and as a venue for workshops, exhibitions, pop-ups and events. The more creative spaces that emerge in Meanjin/Brisbane, the more culturally dynamic it becomes as a city.
What’s the history behind the building in which Sure Studio is based?
E: The building has had so many lives! It began as a pie factory called ‘O’Dinky-Di Pies.’ The section we are in was originally the stables for cartage horses. It’s been home to a mechanic, and more recently an architectural firm. It’s brilliant to work in and share a space that holds so much history.
L: The building has so much character, from its dramatic modernist curved wall to the historical raw brick of the laneway.
Have you picked up any useful lessons about creative business since you decided to open the space?
E: Love your friends! The people we have around us have been endlessly supportive and so generous when we have needed a hand. If you’re in a team, work with your strengths and maintain open dialogue. Find a way to pause, recognise, and reward the progress that has been made and the hard work it has taken.
L: Jewellery-making is a fairly solitary profession, but starting Sure Studio has shown me the power of collaboration. Creative businesses need to work together.
What kind of audience do you want to reach with Sure?
L: Sure Studio is a space for emerging artists and the local creative community. We looked at potential buildings all over Brisbane, and this space just ticked all the boxes. Petrie Terrace is located in the inner-city and we think it has a lot of potential for growth as a cultural area.
E: We wanted to create a space that offers creative practitioners a dedicated opportunity to strengthen and share their work. Our own interests span beyond our personal practices, so it was important that the studio would be open to all types of artists. It’s inspiring, learning about each of our resident artists’ practices and processes.
“Strong creative communities… generate innovation and new ways of thinking. They offer spaces for support and encouragement that let us all be a little more courageous in imagining what we are capable of.“
Why is creative community important to you?
E: Strong creative communities can better connect individuals and groups that can learn and benefit from each other. They generate innovation and new ways of thinking. They offer spaces for support and encouragement that let us all be a little more courageous in imagining what we are capable of.
Coming soon to Sure Studio: The next exhibition by artist and printmaker Cornelia Van Rijswijk, entitled Heaven_Likes_Screens / An exhibition of analogue photography and poetry from Italian artist Anna Laura Schiavi / Local Tienda, a holiday pop-up shop hosted in collaboration with one of their artists-in-residence. The pop-up will feature handmade clothing, ceramics, jewellery, delicatessen, and objects from local emerging designers and artisans.
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