It started in a American university dorm and so far has left its coloured hand print in three of Australia’s most vibrant capitals.
Brisbane’s Hillary Wall continues to amaze herself and others with how she has been able to transform a dream from way back into a thriving business halfway across the globe.
Hillary is the inspiration behind Cork & Chroma paint and sip studios in Brisbane, Sydney and soon-to-be Melbourne which provide a relaxed way for people to socialise, share a drink and learn to paint with a smile.
And it all goes back to Hillary and her girlfriends doing what girls love to do when not studying at uni…..hanging out, sipping wine and, in their case, splashing some paint around.
“Early on in uni, I found some art supplies and ended up painting big blended brush strokes in circles in my dorm room for fun,” said Hillary.
“It made me feel relaxed and was a wonderful way to relieve stress.
“One night my girlfriends and I were having wine at home and started painting splashes of abstract color and shapes, and we had such a good time.
“Over the next few years we would have these occasional wine and paint nights at home, and when I came across a studio that was combining painting with wine in the states, it seemed like such a natural and fun combination.”
Next stop, Brisbane, where Hillary arrived with her paint and sip dream.
“It was what I can only describe as a ‘lightning bolt moment’ when I realised I needed to bring this idea to Brisbane,” she said.
She decided to figure out a way to make it happen, and curated the Cork & Chroma experience the way that she felt it should be, and what she wished had existed when she first started painting.
A bit daunted by the process of mixing business with art, Hillary nevertheless threw herself into bringing her vision to life.
“It’s similar to painting – you start with a blank canvas and have an idea of how you’d like it to look, but in order to enjoy painting you have to be open to the unexpected brush strokes that will inevitably end up on the canvas,” she said.
“Sometimes those are the bits that inform the whole rest of the piece and make it most interesting.”
Hillary said a Cork & Chroma night out with friends and family was about having fun and being creative.
“We believe in an environment where your creativity is free to make itself at home, and a place where everyone is included,” she said.
“Our studios are somewhere you can relax with family and friends, celebrate, or linger on a date – a place where you can savour a wine and play with paint. We know that creativity and fun go hand in hand. And we think that the more fun you’re having, the more creative you’ll allow yourself to be.”
A paint and sip evening is simple. Guests take their own favourite bottle of wine along to the studio where they will find everything else they need for a fun and feel good painting session.
They will be taught some of the basic techniques of painting with acrylics on canvas.
In between sips of wine, great tunes and lots of laughter, one of Cork & Chroma’s artists will take guests through the whole process step by step. By the end of the night, even the self-proclaimed ‘non creative’ guests will have created a unique artwork to take home!
Hillary believes creativity is accessible to everyone, “but we don’t always know how to get the ball rolling or where to start”.
“I talk to a lot of guests who say things like ‘I’d love to paint, I just don’t have any ideas of what to paint’, or ‘I’m just not a creative type of person’. But the truth is, as humans, we are inherently creative beings.”
“I think an easy way to start introducing creativity in your life is simply putting something on paper. Taking any old ‘mark making tool’ and either scribbling while you’re on the phone, or doodling while you wait for the bus, or sketching your cup of coffee, is a good place to start. Creativity is like physical exercise, when you start doing it every day you create a hunger for it.”
It was Hillary’s passion and drive for her business that inspired her husband B.J. to quit his job as an I.T. consultant and partner her at the studios.
“It was a natural progression. We’d always talked about owning a small business together one day, and when Hillary opened Cork & Chroma we were amazed at how it took off, ” said B.J.
Apart from having fun, Hillary finds that women come out of the sessions with more confidence.
“I think that the only reason women (and men) lack creative confidence is only because of lack of experience and lack of the space to give it a go,” she said.
Part of what we do is create a space and a structure for our guests to feel free and have fun. And when they’re feeling free and having fun, that’s when personal creativity can flow uninhibited!”
Last year Cork & Chroma introduced sessions called Clay Play to its calendar, and working with air dry clay, sculpting little friends and creatures. “One of our favourite projects so far has been the gnomes; you can make a million of them and never have the same little personality appear twice! It’s been great fun to use our hands in a new way.”
Cork & Chroma locations:
BRISBANE – 44 Montague Road, South Brisbane QLD 4101, Ph: 0402 718 253
SYDNEY – 55 Holt Street Surry Hills NSW 2010, Ph: 0413 742 855
MELBOURNE (opening late September)