Tuesday we followed the signs towards Redruth, where we had an appointment at Krowji with boardshaper James Otter. Krowji is “...Cornwall’s biggest creative cluster, providing studios, workspaces, offices, The Melting Pot Café, meeting rooms and other facilities for a wide range of creative businesses at the Old Grammar School buildings in Redruth” (http://www.krowji.org.uk). Krowji as a site is owned by Cornwall Arts Centre Trust Ltd (ACT) - a charity and limited company. Krowji means “workshop” in Cornish and as a location the Krowji is providing separate space facilities to individual companies or organizations, in total over 100 creative practitioners.
One of these is the Otter Surfboards (http://www.ottersurfboards.co.uk) owned by craftsman, designer and surfer, James Otter. His space is a board-shapery, where the shaping of wooden surf boards primarily is done with locally produced cedar wood. The main object of the business for James is the workshops, where he tutors surfers to build and shape their own boards. Of course, we fell in love with the concept already before we entered the Otter space: The idea of combining board shaping and sustainability must be the ideal birth of a board for any environmentally conscious and ideological surfer. Wooden boards not only materializes the history of surfing back to ancient Polynesia, they also symbolize the lifelong relation between a surfer and his board. With a wooden board you can choose to learn to surf your board in all conditions instead of zapping through different shapes to match the challenges of the waves. That is, at least, how James perceives it, and I like the idea.
Entering the light, wood smelling space of Otter, we stepped directly into what for us as a couple would be the dream work place: A craftsman’s workshop combined with a little exhibition entrance and an office with personal props and a dog resting underneath the table. James himself primarily chose the Krowji as his space provider because the organization allows residents to rent their space with only one month notice, which is exactly why small start ups like Otter Surfboards can afford being there: they do not have to sign a long term rental agreement.
The Krowji as a co-working space is enormous, and ACT is an organization, that might support more agents than you could ever find within the creative sector in a low population density municipality like Thisted. But it is interesting that the cluster community serves both as an upstart facilitator and space provider for its members. By combining the two, the ACT is actually supplying the Krowji with residents - who do not have to attach themselves to the place for a prolonged period.
Additionally, the wide spectra of business types is a quite unique example in our co-working research. On one hand, James’ shapery does not belong to the group, we usually consider to be within the cultural sector or to the typical target group businesses of a co-working space. But there is a charm in combining the creative professions working with ideas with the crafts working with materials. Otter Surfboards is a brilliant example in which a craftsmanship is guided by the work of shaping an idea, and as metioned above: Imagine the combination of a carpenter’s workshop and a writers office. I like it.