Fancy yourself as a bit of an artist? Or does the sight of a paint brush strike fear into your heart? Then fear not as a Brisbane business knows how to bring out your inner Picasso or Whiteley.
It began as a hobby that led to a business for Brisbane resident Hillary and her husband, B.J. Wall, the creators of Australia’s first paint and sip studio. They opened Cork & Chroma at South Brisbane two years ago to give people a creative place to meet friends, drink some wine and try their hand at painting on a canvas.
“I started painting my first year at Uni, in my dorm room. I was having a little bit of a hard time adjusting to life changing, and I picked up some paints and canvases from the art supply store as a new hobby,” Hillary says.
“I had no idea what to do with any of it, but I started experimenting and painting in swirly circles, becoming acquainted with the paint.
“Occasionally my girlfriends and I would paint in our university apartment. We’d set up on the floor, wearing old t-shirts and glasses of red wine in hand. We’d splash paint around and it was a bit more abstract, but I think that’s where the spark of painting and sipping began for me.”
When a hobby becomes an occupation:
A few years later Hillary saw a photo of a former school friend holding up a canvas that she had painted at a studio. Then it all came together.
“It was so exciting because the combination of wine and creativity sounded like the perfect night out to me. I planned and designed Cork & Chroma the way I felt it should be, without having officially painted and sipped anywhere myself,” says Hillary.
“I’m glad I did it that way, because what we ended up with is a more than an ‘art class’, but a creative experience where you can feel you are among friends, and that you are welcome in the studio.
The studio at Montague Street houses up to 34 painters from beginners to experienced artists, coming together to create whether it is just for fun or to celebrate.
“I see many paintings that are done by first time guests who have completely surprised themselves with what they could paint,” Hillary says.
The positiveness of creativity:
Hillary recalls initially they expected Cork & Chroma to just be a fun night out for everyone, but she was surprised at the profoundly positive impact painting and creativity had on people.
“Some people walk into our studio and the first thing they will announce is that they are not creative. So we try to show guests that everyone is creative.
“Most of our guests have never picked up a paintbrush before and it’s a challenge to try something new as an adult, especially when we’re not sure if you will be good at it,” she says.
“But the terrific combo of having your friends with you, sharing a bottle of wine, and the relaxed, friendly atmosphere lets creativity loose and something wonderful happens on their canvas.”
Most memorable moment:
Hillary’s most memorable class was when a proposal took place amidst the painting.
“A lovely guy planned his girlfriend’s engagement day, which we helped play a part in! His family all came for a Sunday afternoon paint session, and the couple left a little early while the rest of the family stayed behind. We had helped him paint canvases that read “Will you marry me?” which he used to help pop the big question. It was sweet and touching to be a part of such a beautiful moment in their life,” she says.
“Our team sometimes jokes that we are actually ‘professional celebrators’, because we get the chance to be a part of the best times of people’s lives: anniversaries, birthdays, hen’s parties, engagements, team bonding.”
What comes next:
Celebrating their fifth wedding anniversary this year, the two American-imports hope to get their Australian citizenship next year.
“We love what we do, and feel pretty lucky that we get to collaborate and celebrate together with our guests each night.”
If you feel you could produce some of your best work in a relaxed state with a glass of wine and some good friends, check out Cork & Chroma – here.