With restrictions easing and life slowly returning to normal we caught up with our mates from Open Studio who are located in beautiful Coffs Harbour NSW to find out where their journey started and where they're at today. Open Studio is a big supporter of the Australian graff scene and were one of the first retailers to show us support as a new brand, stocking our tee's and paint bags when we were just getting started.
1. So first of all, Where did it all start & what year did Open Studio open?
Open Studio was established on Gumbaynggirr land in Coffs Harbour NSW, back in 2008. Initially I wasn't planning on becoming a retailer but people started dropping in to the studio and asking if they could buy paint as I always kept plenty in stock for commissions on short deadlines. Since then we have expanded product lines and evolved organically to market demand.
2. I've seen you putting on weekly graff workshops, how is all that going?
The workshops are a great entry point into a creative path for a lot of young kids in the region who don't feel like playing footy on Saturday mornings. We get a lot of writers dropping through to stock up, so it is also a great opportunity for the kids to get some feedback and meet some of the names they see on the streets. It's a relaxed, safe environment where you can take your time and be creative. It's great to be able to offer a space for young graff heads to connect which can be difficult in a regional setting. It's a lot different to growing up in the city, so its great when they get that spark of motivation and return the next week with a stack of outlines to share with their new mates...
3. Are you mainly focussed on selling paint or do you specialise in other products too?
We also stock artist operated initiatives, such as zines, jewellery, prints, graff mags, art supplies and t-shirts from BSP! We like to support the artists that support us, so we have exhibition space where we only take a 10% commission to help keep pricing accessible to a younger market.
4. How is the graff scene in Coffs Harbour, are there many legal walls and people painting there?
It's a great spot to paint! We have a small local scene that keeps evolving over the years. Young local writers eventually move to the city and then the next gen comes through, so its a bit of a revolving door sometimes. There are quite a few Coffs expats out in the world doing their thing in the major cities. We also have established writers and recognised kings from the Australian scene passing through sporadically and doing their thing so thats always a great motivator for the locals. There is also the backpacker factor. International writers that are travelling through while on holiday, bugging out at the amount of quality on the streets here in Coffs Harbour, so they find the shop and we hook them up on a wall.
5. Graffiti can get some bad press and often the local graff store can cop a bit of heat, have you had any unexpected visits or problems from the media or the authorities?
We just counteract their recycled small minded negative shit with positivity. We have invigorated the sleepy community of Coffs with our art and inspired others to get out there and live their lives to the fullest. What other cultural pastime unites people from across all sub-sectors of the community like graffiti? I can be painting a wall with a 14 year old refugee kid, a university lecturer, and a strong Gumbaynggirr woman and attract a crowd made up of elderly couples, a 20 something hairdresser, a tradie eating a meat pie, a crossdressing vegan weightlifter, a boomer with a cracking investment portfolio and a crackhead. Graffiti's broad appeal can connect humans across all boundaries set up to keep us in our allocated social demographic cages and fighting over crumbs. That's why the real criminals in suits hate us... Every now and then some dipshit goes and thrashes the shops, bombs a church or tags Nanna's Nissan and I get a thousand fbook notifications from neighbourhood super sleuths but thats about it. Most new jacks go nuts with Aussie Exports for a week or 2 before they realise their shit is wack and move on to become a laptop dj or something...
6. Can you share a story of something unusual, crazy or funny that’s happened in your shop?
We have had some great times over the years. We have had smoking possums, moshing telletubbies, b grade undercovers and plenty of crazies off the street so its hard to pick just one. At one party, I walked in from the fire out the back and the singer from the band was hanging upside down from the rafters. I just turned around and walked out. We've had super cops trying to raid us while painting the side wall of our own business. Skaters dropping into a mini ramp off the roof. There was also that time my awesome neighbour asked if we had a party on the weekend, then returned the Ouzo bottle that had smashed through his window after being launched by a stripper during a bux party...
7. We’re living in some crazy times right now and as a store owner I’m sure you have been hugely affected. What changes have you had to make to keep the doors open and continue to service the graffiti community?
As it is primarily a studio space, I have been fortunate to have enough private commissions to work on at the studio while things slowed down for the retail side of the business. The die hards still came through and placed orders which we would pick with gloves and then finalised transactions at the front door. We canned the workshops for 7 weeks and have just started back up now that kids are back at school. Now that the door has re-opened our customers are required to use hand sanitizer before picking their paint.
8. What can people do to support you during these uncertain times?
Swing by and grab a magazine to inspire your nephew, buy a shirt for your besty or commission a painting to give to your mum. Buy your paint from the shop that has always been there when you run out of your Ultramarine outline. Shopping with small businesses is imperative atm if we want to be able to enjoy the conveniences we have been taking for granted. Shopping centres will survive the economic nightmare we are in but your favourite restaurant wont...