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Case Study

Dodgy Paper

There’s enough paper on planet earth already.

Dodgy Paper make fresh pulp from old paper, giving it new life and creating a canvas to stay creative on. Roger Wilkie, an artist and maker, joined the Docklands Art Collective project to create a retail shop, factory and showroom space to produce his unique handmade paper.

The aim of the Docklands Art Collective project was to bring business to into vacant spaces on Wharf Street. The District Docklands (formerly Harbour Town), which co-funded the project with Development Victoria, underwent significant redevelopment over three years to boost the overall shopping and leisure experience for visitors.

Roger previously had a closed studio and online business. ‘We create fresh paper from waste, scraps and unwanted paper. This retail space provided the opportunity to sell paper in addition to providing a gallery space to host exhibitions and workshops, and collaborate with other artists,’ says Roger.

‘Participation in the program helped me to realise that I really wanted to run this sustainable practice for the long term. It helped me grow not just as a business but as a creative as well. The opportunity to take up rent-free space helped my project through retail exposure, which attracted a new audience and increased sales. It was heaps of fun having my own space, allowing me to make more paper, host exhibitions, collaborate and meet other artist.’

‘We were in the program for 12-14 months. An initial challenge was sharing our space with another creative practice that didn’t suit my business. However, I then developed my own space which provided a natural fit and more opportunities with other artists and creative practices. We also work with a lot of university students projects.’

During the Renew project, Dodgy Paper also collaborated with Loose Print (another participant), providing paper for their artwork and cross-promoting their newly developed, world’s first 100% recycled artist ink product, Lousy Ink. These initiatives prompt artists to consider the ethics and sustainability of their materials.

Following the completion of the Renew Australia managed Docklands Art Collective project, Dodgy Paper leased a new space in inner Melbourne. ‘We are still in operation and have continued to collaborate and develop with other artists and creatives.’

Renew Australia’s curation of the overall project created a vibrant destination in The District Docklands. ‘Our management of tenants ensured spaces were open and activated,’ says Angela Simons, General Manager of Renew Australia. ‘It supported a collaborative environment and provided the mechanism to attract visitors that had previously overlooked the precinct through open nights, exhibitions, workshops and events.’

‘Having the opportunity to function as a retail space, factory and showroom as part of the Docklands Art Collective has allowed Dodgy Paper to grow and has opened many creative doors to inspire and spark the imagination of visitors and followers.’ Roger Wilkie, Dodgy Paper.

5 Questions with Roger from Dodgy Paper

How did the Renew Docklands Art Collective program help you?

Participating in the Docklands Art Collective program helped me in lots of ways. It was my first experience with retail. It provided the opportunity to push my product – a creative product – into a new setting and try it out. Renting a shop is very expensive to a new business. The Renew program pushed me one hundred percent to take every opportunity that came my way because there wasn’t as much financial risk. Collaboration is at the heart of Dodgy Paper and I collaborated with everyone I could in the program. It then opened the networks with other artists, who I have collaborated with too. I started running workshops when I moved into the Docklands space which was a real positive as I didn’t have room previously. I’ve continued this in my new space as it provides another income stream to support business and cover overheads. Having space also allowed me to make custom batches of paper for people – having the shop ligitimised the process.

What’s the greatest challenge in turning a creative practice into a business?

‘The business was established before we entered the program but it was purely online in terms of sales. Having a shopfront ligitimised the business. That was the real change. It led to greater discovery through people coming through the door (which I particularly note as I’m now in a space without foot traffic.) In Docklands, people were always pleasantly surprised when they discovered Dodgy Paper.

How do you balance work-life balance while running your own business?

Having the shop in Docklands with regular opening hours gave me better structure to run the business as a business. It really taught me structure.

Where to now?

We opened a new space in mid-2019. The current location has around 15 artists so we are continuing to collaborate. The more people I get to work with the better it becomes. Wherever I am with Dodgy Paper in terms of location, there will be new people to meet and work with.

Would you recommend participation in future Renew Australia projects?

Renew projects provide an awesome opportunity. It’s up to the participant to make as much of it as they can but there was an incredible support network there. Further enrichment of the Renew program with business mentoring and grant writing would be good for the business development of these small creative businesses. It was the best opportunity to trial all parts of what I thought the business could be – and having the physical space to make it all it could be. It also brought a new energy, new ideas and opportunities in a new space and location.

The Docklands Art Collective was co-funded by The District Docklands and Development Victoria.