On The Brink Studios


In the last of our series of local creative features we speak to Elle Brotherhood; photographer and regular Beaumont Organic collaborator, about her Stockport studio On The Brink.
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Mirabelle Blue
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Hello Elle, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Can you start by telling us a bit about the vision and ethos of your studios? 
On The Brink Studio is a collaborative creative space in Stockport, mainly, but not exclusively, a wood shop run by my partner Gareth Batowski and the photography studio run by myself.
We came up with the idea of a joint studio whilst travelling in California and seeing the types of co-working spaces that are common over there.
We've always loved the idea of using the space as a place for people to gather over a shared creative interest, which lead to pre-COVID workshops and various events including Draw Clubs, Open Studios and Supper Clubs.

Alongside commercial work we work with mainly natural materials left over from previous jobs to create new beautifully made products.

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What was your background before launching your business? Is it an area you already had experience in, or something completely new and unknown?
I've been a photographer for about 16 years now, but I also like to be creative in any way I can be, and work with various materials including making jewellery, sewing and painting.
Gareth has been developing his woodwork for the same amount of time and he's also a great chef so this regularly features in studio life.
We met on a photography course at Manchester Metropolitan, many moons ago.
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Xena Rust
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Did you have a specific business plan in place when you started off, or have you found things have developed more organically?
We didn’t have a specific plan, but we discussed the general direct we would like to take the business. At the beginning we thought things would grow very quickly, but we’ve realised that developing in new directions takes time and patience and naturally happens at a slower pace.
We always wanted more people in the studio and now we have our artist-in-residence Aidan Donovan in the wood shop, and a regular shooter in the photo studio, Hannah from Evolve Vintage.
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What is your favourite part of running your own business? And what is the biggest challenge?

I love the sense of pride in knowing that we have built this studio from scratch. When we arrived at the space it needed so much work, but when I see the whole space being used now; the machines in the wood shop running, music playing, everyone creating; those are the best moments for me.

The biggest challenge has being developing the infrastructure for the business to run. We can come up with ideas for projects no problem, but it’s the work behind the scenes to make sure the building and everything in it runs correctly that takes all the time!

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How important are the values of sustainability and slow living in the way you run your business?

We always had an idea of using up materials from previous jobs to minimise waste across all areas of work in the studio. Leather left over from making stools can be used to make pencil cases to sell through our online shop and in local stores, like Trove in Levenshulme. The props we need are either made out of wood, collected on walks, or sourced from local independent shops and makers. The nature of the materials we use lend themselves to the idea of slow living.

With the product photography side of things I will gather mainly natural materials and look at structure and form when using props to make a composition for products to be showcased.

The idea of slow living is also important to us. As a studio we will sit down for lunch and eat together when we can and talk about our projects. We have a 2 year old. He came about as we grew the studio and so the whole idea was to create a better work life balance. At the moment I work 2 full days in the studio and spend the other days with our boy, but if I need to, he can come to the studio and if I have a bit of work to do, Gareth or Aidan will hang out with him, which is great because he gets to see what they’re up to.

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Blanche Jumper
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How do you try to reflect these values of sustainability and slow living in your personal life? 

I’ve begun to think a lot more about the clothes I wear. I’ve stopped buying from large clothing companies that will have a lot of waste left over from having large seasonal runs. I’ll either save or buy second hand.

I’m from the countryside, I grew up in the middle of nowhere, so life was full of the ideas of slow living and I’m really in my happy place when I’m wandering in a forest and seeing all it has to offer.

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Talk us through your normal day to day. Do you have a regular routine, or is there a lot of variety depending on what you’re working on?

The days are always so different. I can either be doing photoshoots, making products and props or working on the digital side of the business. I absolutely love the variety, it suits how my brain works.

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How has your business been affected by the pandemic? Have you had to adjust your strategy and have there been any unexpected challenges or positives to draw from your experience?

Before the pandemic we would host regular workshops and events in the studio. We’ve had some great ones in the past, turning the wood shop into a Ramen joint for an evening with Gareth cooking alongside Lorcan Kan. People could make their own noodles and then their own chopsticks too. We were also hosting regular freelancer meet ups and Life Drawing evenings with Rebecca England. Our events were gathering momentum up until COVID, and now we are unsure what to do with that side of the business. We are looking at fitting out the yard for outdoor workshops, but for this we will need some funding.

However, the positive side of the pandemic for us has been the support we’ve received. People buying our products and engaging with all we are doing. During the first lockdown we created DIY kits made from what we had in the studio. They were made with the idea of keeping people creative and their hands busy during lockdown. We delivered them all over the city and posted all over the world! We're just so thankful for our customers and everyone that supports us. It feels like there's a really positive creative community out there and that's been an exciting development.

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Can you tell us anything about your plans for the future of the brand?

We are always adapting. Even before the pandemic. What we do depends on who comes into the studio, who we meet along the way, how we can work together. My next plan is to look at getting our yard kitted out for outdoor workshops when it starts to get a bit warmer. It’s a great space but needs some investing in. I’d love it to become a greener space where we can offer community groups and other creatives the chance to come and hang out in the warmer months.

We really enjoying making an environment, whether it’s in the studio or outside, where people feel comfortable and hopefully leave with some creative inspiration.

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Nell Marie
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You can find out more about On The Brink Studio and browse their products online at:

www.onthebrink.studio

Elle is pictured wearing pieces from our AW20 collection:

Mirabelle Dress in Navy

Xena Dress in Rust

Blanche Jumper in Moss

Nell-Marie Dress in Brown


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