Written by

Andrew Millar


February 11, 2007

Laurie owned a very old house.

When he purchased the rambling old pile it was divided into apartments. The ground floor and upper floor were separate dwellings.

Sometime after he moved in, the tenant downstairs, a sensitive artisan, served notice he was moving out.

His reason for leaving? His ability to work had stalled. He couldn’t concentrate. He had the potter’s equivalent of ‘writer’s block’. His creativity had dried up like bisque in the sun. And for his sanity and bank balance’s sake he was moving on.

“It’s because of the ghost. It’s just too damn friendly.”

It turned out the ghost of the original owner’s nanny had never left the rooms she worked in – the downstairs rooms. She continued to ‘mother’ long after the kids had grown up, lived full and fruitful lives and joined her in the afterlife… a long time ago judging by the age of the house.

So, it appears, a studio can be too comfortable… too relaxed… too conducive to an easy life…

Perhaps it is because the act of creativity is so damn difficult (like passing a kidney stone) that creatives tend to look for the easy way out. It’s part of the body’s natural tendency to avoid the pain. And if there is someone there to comfort and cuddle us, we’ll readily accept their soothing salve.

The truth is , artists need a little prickle. They need something to force them through the pain barrier. They need a challenging, driving force to shift complacency.

Some carry that fire within.

Others need deadlines.

They need someone to set the standard and remind them of when that standard is not met.

When we set up Black Sheep in a beautiful first floor space in the café quarter of Adelaide, we of course set out to build an environment where people would be happy to work, feel comfortable and ‘at home’.

The challenge for us is keeping up the ‘prickle’.

People have the ability to expand to fill the space they are given. I’m talking about physical and more particularly, emotional space.

That’s the fine line the Creative Director must tread. To nurture, not mother. To cultivate, not carry.

And occasionally, perhaps be the poltergeist and throw a few assumed ideas out the window.

Andrew Millar