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Inside an Inspiring Australian Creative Workshop of Craftsmen & Makers

Inside an Inspiring Australian Creative Workshop of Craftsmen & Makers

By Callum Preston

I imagine that most creative people who build things with their hands have had that daydream where they contemplate what their dream studio setup would be. A place for collaboration, while still having enough space to separate and get really stuck into your work. Areas of open plan building space, along with separated work areas for dirty and noisy machines and tools. A few years ago, I heard of an old friend who was working on a space that sounded a lot like this. Over time, I had visited the space and even had other friends working out of there, yet never got the full run down of how it happened.

Now, three years on, the space is a hub of awesome people producing great work. As I’ve gotten older, I have a new found appreciation for people making things with their hands - The Pop & Scott workshop is a very inspiring view in that direction.

The space was founded by its namesakes, Poppy and Scott, around 3 years ago when they took over the lease on a crusty rave den that had evolved inside the walls of a long since closed down auto shop. Not only have they have turned that space into a highly functional, visually pleasing area, but an incubator of sorts for all types of creatives with a family vibe and a warm, welcoming atmosphere. It’s like some kind of awesomely creative cult that somehow recruited talented craftspeople, florists, painters, woodworkers, old skateboarders, and just downright lovely people, and had them all work together.

I have known Scotty for a number of years, I was introduced to him through a generation of skateboarders above me around a decade ago. He is, in my opinion, a very Australian storyteller type of guy, which was perfect since he was available to give me a tour and rundown of the space as it sits today. While Poppy was getting orders out the door, their young daughter, Frida, napped on a couch surrounded by brightly painted pots and furniture that her parents have created and turned into a successful business.

Some examples of Pop & Scott furniture and pots created on site.

CALLUM: When and how did this workspace come to be?
SCOTT: Originally, Poppy and I were making furniture for ourselves, for our own home, because we couldn’t find anything that we liked or that was suitable. We were doing this at home. I was a plumber, Poppy was a florist, [and] we were just making the stuff that we wanted.

I had been doing a lot of plumbing work at the airport for a few of years, I would always see all the old machinery and tools from the now closed down, in-house woodwork shop, which existed out there and did all the building at the airport since 1970 when it opened - cabinet making, furniture, walls, all kinds of construction, all done by hand, probably by blokes with cigarettes and big mustaches. They had shut the shop down years ago, outsourced the work, and put it all the old gear in storage. By chance, they were having to move out of that storage while I was around. I called the guy running the show and bought it all off them (for a really good price). We had to store it all for a while, while we hunted for a space, with the end goal being somewhere we could set it all up and have it be open for friends and like-minded makers to come and use the tools and space; start and grow their business.

Amazing 1960’s wood work tools from the long defunct airport workshop.


Was it always a plan for it to be a space with so many people working in it?
We had 3 or 4 friends who were also starting out making furniture, so combining the tools and all using one space made sense. This space just came up at the right time. A painter called Dane Lovvit needed a studio, so we built an area for him, then Bruce from Anchor ceramics needed one, so we built another. We decided to just build a bunch of areas, and the “everyone is welcome” kind of vibe meant that people came and they filled these spaces; it grew very quickly. But it is, for sure, a certain type of person the works in this space, we all click very well. We have had the space almost three years now.

What was in this building before you?
Originally, years earlier, it was a Motor Mechanic, but when we took it over it had, for a long time, been a rave/party house/squat type thing with 5 or 6 people living here. It was really disgusting - rat’s nests in the kitchen, old mattresses stacked up out the front. It’s weird because it’s kind of a little island in the middle of a suburban street, it’s an industrial building but tucked away amongst all family homes. It’s close to the city and a bunch of other stuff. It’s perfect for what we need.

Here we see the inner working of the brain of Andy Murphy (Aka Salvador Gnarly), one of my favourite Melbourne illustrators. Check his stuff here

How did the painted pots thing come about?
Poppy had been a florist for, like, 16 years when we came in here. Since she was a kid back in Perth with her mum, they would always paint pots, and she started doing some in here and they just blew up and went crazy. Now, we have a beautiful crew of 5 to 6 artists that work with us painting pots to fulfill orders for stores all around Australia, as well as some overseas. Again, the style of these things started from us just wanting to make the kind of stuff we wanted in our home, but it seems to have really clicked with people.

Has the space been the incubator for people’s creative projects to flourish into businesses like your original vision?
Most of all, the thing about the space that gets us stoked is seeing people do what they love. The entire place runs on good vibes, and when people are doing work, they are proud of it; is infectious, motivating, and inspiring. The different people in the space have come from all over, some were friends we already knew, but everyone in here has become friends. For example, Chris, who has Second Chance Tables - his girlfriend heard about the space on the Internet. He originally just rented some workbench space in here [and] had a full time job, but was making furniture on the side in their driveway at home and would have to pack up if it rained. Now, he has another guy working with him and has been working full time building high-quality, Australian-made furniture out of here; it’s awesome and exactly the idea behind the space. Where we are (inner city), most people live in apartments, no one has a shed, or, sometimes, the money to set up all the tools to do these kind of things. Giving people the access to this type of space means people can learn and grow and, really, can eventually run their whole business out of here.

And your own furniture design and building as grown into a business too, where is that at now?
We have a decent size range of stuff that we make under the POP & SCOTT banner. We do outdoor furniture stuff, as well as inside stuff like dining tables, beds, bedside tables, stools, swings, and then we do a lot of custom stuff for peoples’ homes. We did a big vinyl record holder/window seat combo thing for someone recently. Our main thing with furniture is we like to use recycled as much as we can, and we do, but we machine the timber down and strip it back to be beautiful new timber again. So less of that “rustic” feel and more polished. Recycled Australian hardwood is our focus, which we source from all kinds of direction. For example, an old house is being demolished just down the street from the workshop, I happened to be walking by, went and spoke to the demo crew, and purchased all of the timber floorboards from the 3 bedroom house. This stuff is 80 or 90 year old Australian hardwood that has been sitting there, which we will machine and use to make a whole bunch of stuff from.

I love searching for timber and finding old pieces here and there to repurpose. When we first set up this place, I had just done a plumbing job on an old mansion where we ripped up a kitchen floor to replace a bunch of stuff. The other guys were gonna cut it all up for firewood, but I saved it all and used it for furniture. I did a bit of research on the house, that flooring was laid in 1843. In its time, that building had been a hospital for returning soldiers from WW1, it had been a home for girls, the government own it for a period - think of all of the people that would have walked over those floors. With growing time, that yellow gum timber is probably 250 years old. Finding out these stories is something I really love about it, you don’t always know the story, but it’s great when we do find these little treasures.

The studio stash of vintage timber.

The size of the space has grown while you have been here. Tell me how.
We had the front warehouse for about a year and a half when the back warehouse, which was a clothing manufacturer, moved out and it came up for lease. So we took it and knocked a hole through the wall to expand out, which meant we could build more studios including a steel work and welding room, and have two furniture makers - Camille, who has Carpenters Daughter [and] Louis, who makes guitars. And we are just now building out a retail space, which we will be opening soon for everyone in the studio to have their work on sale. We have had “open studio” days before, but [with] pretty casual garage sale vibe. Where as this retail space is going to be a whole new arm to the business, and, most importantly, a place to showcase everyones work from here. We have built out the sideway entry to the workspace with these three huge planters, which will have mature gumtrees in them. Poppy, being a florist, means that we can nurture the gardens and entryway to feel really great. Last year we had a giant sunflower guarded with hundreds of huge sunflowers. Now, it’s just been redone with all Australian native plants and grasses - it’s all just part of the feel of the space. This place really was a bit of a dump before we got it, and I feel like what we have done has made it a good addition to the neighborhood and, really, a nice place to come to work.

The studio has a lot of couples working together, or, at least, in shared space but on their own projects. Quite a few young families, how does that work?
A lot of people in the space have kids, including Poppy and myself. Our daughter, Frida, is just over a year old, she’s at the workshop with us every day. That was a bit of a focus for us, we wanted to be able to have that time with her while she’s young. There is always lots of kids around, Bianca and Andy have Imogen, Vince has his three daughters, [and] they are all workshop kids getting exposed to all of this creative stuff going on. They might all grow up and be accountants, you never know, but, for sure, the kids in the space are totally hands on. Sometimes, they will be painting pots with the crew. Today, two of the kids were just painting the floor and each other; they love it. It’s also a very dog friendly space, always lots of dogs around here.

Above: Beautiful patterns on linen soon to become extensions to the range of creations from The Vallentine Project

What’s in the future of the Pop & Scott workshop?
We are really happy with the space we have and what it has become, there is always plans and ideas for more space or whatever. But, for now, we are really stoked with where we are at. We realized that in starting out, oftentimes businesses change, focuses change, ideas you didn’t even realize were something become a huge turning point, [and] we love that. You just never know who’s going to walk through the door, start doing some work, and just change the direction of the whole space; it’s an adventure like that.

The amazing backboard made by Leah who runs PONO designs out of the space.

Beautiful concrete hanging shelves by Steve Clark DEN HOLM.

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Find Pop and Scott on Instagram @popandscott.

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