Just over a year ago Ellie-May Michael embarked on a journey which would soon become one of the most satisfying and great decisions she had made in her life: she purchased the in.cube8r gallery in Fitzroy, Victoria – an institution celebrating all things handmade and creative which had been on her radar for many years.
Ellie-May shared her story with us in the latest issue of Junkies:
Prior to being boss-lady of in.cube8r I worked in Sydney for a charity fundraising organisation, solving problems, coming up with marketing campaigns and working on constantly improving supporter experience. I did that for 10 years and had no more room to grow. I wanted to work for myself, and I wanted to do it in Melbourne. Fitzroy had always been special to me – I visited all the time. To be able to work and live in the area was a bit of a dream of mine.
I have always loved working, but I never yearned to do anything specific. I just knew I wanted to do something which helped people achieve their dreams. That is why running in.cube8r is so perfect for me. The 100+ artists I represent every month can come to me to talk through their ideas and get honest feedback and advice from someone who deals directly with their (and other artists’) customers. I have found that many creative types lack certain qualities or experience that enable them to stand out from the crowd, so being able to be that person for them is truly delightful!
Over the last year I have had the pleasure of dealing with some spectacular people, ranging from eight-year-old Summer, who sold friendship bracelets to raise money for Parkinson’s Disease, to artists who regularly have their work featured in galleries all over the world. I couldn’t possibly have a favourite, as each artist we represent is different in some way from the others and stands out on their own merit.
It is funny for me to be running a craft organisation, since I am hopeless when it comes to crafting myself! I have always loved the arts but tend to invest my leisure time in taking care of plants: there is something wonderful about watching things grow and morph into more spectacular versions of themselves. My love of plants is representative of my love for what I do, because I also get to witness artists grow and change over time, as seen through changes in their ranges and the very personal interactions that take place when they come in to take care of their cubes. Sometimes they produce this amazing flower which is so unexpected; it just fills my heart with joy to see them bursting with excitement when they witness how much they have grown.
Our customers love seeing this too, often commenting that they have been collecting pieces by certain artists for several years now and that they enjoy being part of their creative process. They also enjoy popping in once a month to check out who is new and what they are offering, allowing them to keep those items in mind for gifts they might need. Everyone who shops here knows that when they purchase something they are helping to feed a local artist; it’s a lovely thing to be part of!
I have found that representing artists is not unlike representing charities: it is all about the good feelings that people get when they support a person or group who are doing something amazing. There is a sense of wellbeing we get when we help another person, and as we become more and more a digital world, these connections can be harder to come by. Our space provides consumers a place to see handmade products in real-life, hear stories about their creators and to bring little packages of joy from the emporium into a friend’s or family member’s life. It is so much more real than any experience we can get from shopping online.
We have so many lovely regulars who come to us for every gift they buy because they know that 100% of what they are paying goes directly into that artist’s pocket. And I am constantly working on ways to grow this audience for the benefit of our artists. Over the last year we drastically increased our online presence with a strong focus on Instagram, which helps us reach out and tap new lovely people on the shoulder and blow their minds with the creativity between our pink walls.
If you wander into the gallery on a weekday you will often find me spread out on our green oceanic floor taking pictures from weird angles trying to hide from the shadows and show off the products in a fun and interesting way! Our exhibitions and workshops are also bringing heaps of new and wonderful people to us, which is great because they can be actively engaged in the space and can experience it in a way that doesn’t happen with conventional shopping.
This July, in.cube8r turns 10 years old, which really goes to show that public support for artists is good and strong in Melbourne, and growing all the time. We are currently brainstorming ideas on how to celebrate the big day and look forward to having a great party with all of our artists, old and new!
Want your own little in.cube8r? Franchises now available!
Dresses by Jezenya
Crown by Lyrebird
Moose by Anne Warren
Cups by Winter Ceramics
Spoons and Forks by EATcreations