Opinion | Making it work in the city | Christopher Saunders

ART HUB: Braddon Snape inside the Creator Incubator at Hamilton North.
ART HUB: Braddon Snape inside the Creator Incubator at Hamilton North.

Autumn! Fresh bright days. Crisp golden weather. A time to be busy and make things happen.

It’s refreshing then to see maker spaces springing up all over Newcastle. Makers, driven by a desire to have a space to create while supporting a community of like-minded artists, have initiated many of these. Property owners have played a significant role too, recognising the value of supporting creative initiatives.

Both groups deserve a bow for taking such positive steps for Newcastle. It ensures we retain these valuable creative enterprises.

Last week I attended the opening of the Creator Incubator in Hamilton North. This space has been set up by sculptor Braddon Snape in response to his need for a suitable workspace for his large sculptural works.

A shared understanding with the property owner enabled him to negotiate reduced rent to establish a co-working maker space for multiple artists. It is now home for 10 creatives working in visual arts sculpture, woodcut, graphic design and filmmaking with room for at least three more.

I also visited 481 Hunter Street, a building owned by screenwriter Vanessa Alexander and made available as a new maker space at a reduced rent. Artist Andrew Dennis and his partner Sarah are setting up this space.

Not only will it provide a studio and gallery for Andrew’s work but a good place for other makers to relocate their enterprises. It also has available a great meeting room and the potential for an amazing backyard garden.

Last year, The Cranky Chef, Mark Prince, approached me with the idea of including some creative makers in a warehouse space alongside his catering business and new café then under construction in Broadmeadow. A great idea has become a reality.

The building now also houses Beep Bicycle Bells, where bells are hand painted and packaged, and Urban Hum – headquarters for Newcastle’s host-a-hive and bee product business.

In late 2014 property owner Oliver Coakes spoke to me about establishing a co-working creative space at 754 Hunter St. This former tyre warehouse is now home for half a dozen creative enterprises working in a variety of exciting art forms.

For two and a half years Jonathan Everett and Sophia Emmet have managed the Soap Factory in Mayfield East bringing together a mix of artists. Jonathan makes fine furniture, shop fittings and other bespoke objects. Sophia is a glass blower and jewellery maker whose work involves among other things grinding and polishing coal. The Soap Factory welcomes noise and dust – understanding this is essential for this kind of creative work. There are currently eight other tenants producing a variety of beautiful 3D objects, sculpture and ceramics.

And just last week The Roost Creative signed a three-year lease on their space, ensuring they can continue to support numerous creative enterprises until 2020.

This is all good news for Newcastle, artists and property owners alike.

Retaining the creative heart of this city and making it work for everyone, is something to celebrate in all seasons.

Christopher Saunders is General Manager of Renew Newcastle