Studio South, located in the heart of Swanage, is aiming to create a hub for artists to draw or paint while relaxing and eating cake.
The arty café on Station Road, opened by Sophie Walker and Ben Braybrooke, not only offers food and drink but also sells art books and materials and offers a printing service.
Inside the Studio South café
Sophie is an artist who studied architecture and interior design at Bournemouth Arts University. Her partner Ben is a wedding photographer. They took over the premises in January 2022 and did most of the work themselves.
“I wanted to create an atmosphere where people could come and do drawing or painting in the café but also where they could get art materials.
“I’m aiming for that creative atmosphere you have at an art school but with a French twist and all very laid back.”
Art work on display from Sophie’s father Paul Walker (left) and Sophie
“Time out to reset”
Sophie was working for the shop, Purbeck Living in Wareham as manager and head interior designer, but it closed at the start of the first lockdown. It was this that spurred her on to look for a change.
“I did other jobs, but I took quite a bit of time out to reset.
“I did things like some decorating for my mother – it was ‘wallpaper with patterns’, so that took a lot of time! And I was doing sketching and floor plans for this place to get it just the way I wanted it.”
Inside there is a shop area with books and art materials
“Went a bit pear shaped”
Ben previously worked at Bournemouth Airport and was furloughed, but he had already decided he would be ‘happier doing my own thing’.
“I started doing wedding photography just before Covid and then it all went a bit pear shaped.”
Ben Braybrooke is a wedding photographer
“Really good feedback”
He had just five bookings in 2020, but that increased to 40 in 2021 and this year he has 70 throughout Dorset, Hampshire, Wiltshire, Somerset and even West Sussex, with as many as three a week in summer.
He is also able to offer a professional printing service from the back of the café.
“We have had really good feedback from people. They love the cake and coffee and the relaxing atmosphere.”
Studio South on Station Road in Swanage
The couple who currently live in Ferndown are hoping to move to Swanage to be nearer the business.
When she’s not painting or running the café, Sophie is a girl guide leader and is district commissioner for Wareham and Wool.
Guide leader Sophie with her mother Clare Walker
As far as her art is concerned, Sophie specialises in acrylics, but also works in charcoal and watercolours, and likes to paint buildings, flowers and everyday things. Her father is an artist too.
One of the aims of Studio South will be to display artwork, not necessarily for sale but if it’s a work that someone is really proud of, and these will be changed monthly. The shop will also be selling gifts, wrapping paper and cards.
Previously the café was a popular shoe shop