Forget the hustle and bustle of inner-city cafes and the chaos of each rushed cappuccino. Take a breath, clear your chakras and your schedule, and enter the doors of The Quill, a creative space and restaurant-café nestled in the South West of WA where bushland, boutique teas and books characterise a new kind of destination for creatives.
Sit. Relish the sounds of birdsong, the bleats of goats, and the pitter-patter of tiny footsteps that weave around labyrinths of Australian bush natives. Tables and counters spill over with delicious tarts, muffins and cups of tea that clink with the sound of outstanding service. This is The Quill: a space that welds together wonder and inspiration from crossword-puzzling, crotchet-loving locals and international artists, writers, and creatives alike.
Upstairs, the old-style reading room is home to a wall-to-wall library of books. In this Gatsby-esque scene, an artist perches on a plush chair, whipping up magic on canvas. Day gives way to twilight, and the last lingering customers can’t help but peek at the finished piece. Outside, fairy lights hang in trees and melted candles stand with a drunken tilt, ready to ooze new tears of waxen joy as a night of outdoor music begins.
Described as a creative outlet and restaurant-café, The Quill is a place of community, inspiration and collaboration – bringing together all forms of art, music, events, workshops, pottery, food, gardening and everything in between. With all the charm and wonder of Alice in Wonderland, this one-of-a-kind Australian bush experience is seasoned with a sparkling twist of English culture.
“Plus a dash of magic,” adds owner Jo Tyrrell-Bishop, who lives on the property with her husband, Taz, and their two young sons, plus a farm of chickens, ducks and goats.
An artist herself, Jo says The Quill was a quest to bring together other creatives to work, connect, and nourish. “I wanted this to be a space to journal, to sketch, and to meet other like-minded people,” she says. “But it’s also about nourishment and sustainability. Our healthy, hearty meals are made with locally sourced, seasonal ingredients – much of which comes from our garden or community. All our food waste goes to our chickens, which then give us eggs.”
The Quill’s success lies in its homely feel, from its many private nooks, crannies, and wide-open spaces. It emulates the feeling of something between an old Victorian house and a spiritual shala, with long festive tables, chandeliers, greenery, and the fantastical magic of books and trinkets that line the shelves, ready to be enjoyed by all.
These wholesome roots could surely be attributed to Jo’s upbringing in West Sussex, UK. “People often forget that the word ‘pub’ is a contraction of ‘Public House’”, Jo says. “A pub on a rainy Sunday in England was a warm, comfortable space where you’d invite everyone from your granny to your best mate and dog for a hearty lunch, and you’d stay for hours – reading, telling stories, and dreaming.”
“We’ve had some incredible visitors to The Quill,” Jo says. “Children’s book illustrator Michael Speechley asked if he could do some illustrations while he was here. We left him upstairs in the book room, and he spent the entire day drawing. We brought him meals and teas, people came and went, watching him work, and at the end of the day we were honoured to see his finished piece.”
Not only the tempting lure of solo artists, writers, and friends-who-lunch, The Quill is also a meeting space for businesses, mothers’ groups, clothing labels and environmental teams. “We’re constantly witnessing creatives in ceremony, using their power and voices for good,” Jo says.
Studies in positive psychology suggest that entering a creative ‘flow state’, where one is fully immersed in an activity that inspires focus, is a form of therapy. Other experts maintain that creativity is essential to our purpose and evolution as humans. Adam Grant, author of Originals: How Non-conformists Change the World, affirms that creativity exists in all of us; whether we harness these gifts or not is another matter. “The drive to succeed and the accompanying fear of failure have held back some of the greatest creators and change agents in history,” Grant says.
Grant, researcher of the science of what motivates people, describes the irony of Michelangelo’s initial disinterest in painting the Sistine Chapel. His problem? He didn’t think he was talented enough for the job; he considered himself a sculptor, not a painter. “He found the task so overwhelming that he fled to Florence,” Grant says. “Two years would pass before he began work on the project, at the pope’s insistence.”
“If a handful of people hadn’t been cajoled to take action, the civil rights movement could still be a dream, the Sistine Chapel might be bare, we might still believe the sun revolves around the Earth,” Grant says.
This is why creative spaces like The Quill are sagacious reminders to our super-stressed species how to tap back in to our flow state, alongside a boom in redesigned classrooms and workplaces around the world.
Sharna Pinkney, events manager of The Quill, says she’s seen firsthand how applying regular creativity has improved, well, everything in her life. A confessed ex ‘creative-phobe’, she admits that she never really knew how creative she was. “But now I’m doing pottery classes, art classes, learning music… It’s opened a new part of my world!”
“At The Quill, we want people to feel this expansion,” Sharna says. “We want our events to make a positive impact on our community, whether it’s social classes to make pottery, environmental events, International Women’s Day celebrations, or creative writing workshops.
“Our music events are especially magical,” she says. “They not only look magical; they feel it. Musicians not only share their music and their stories, but also their spirit – with people who are present to truly witness them.”
The sacred marriage between creativity and spirituality is nothing new. In fact, it was the ancient Romans who first believed that all people have a guiding spirit within. From the Latin verb gignere, which means to give birth, Roman culture named this spirit ‘genius’. This nugget of ancient wisdom underpins Jo’s entire concept of The Quill. “As artists, we channel an inner spirit,” she says. “The Roman belief was that it’s not the person that is responsible for the creativity that flows. There’s something within.
“When Michael Speechley came to the space, he didn’t need anything from us – except the freedom to flow, to be nourished, to be with others, to allow the flow of his inner genius. Creativity isn’t just for fine artists, it’s also for people who do nothing but design woolly sheep, but just need somewhere to feel inspired.”
All this begs the question: when was the last time you got creative? Go forth, and frolic in the founding of your inner genius. Whether you’re painting a masterpiece, reading a book, or connecting dots on a page, go on: stretch your creative wings. It’s all about recognising your spirit and surrendering.
Bask in your creative spirit, delight in a nourishing meal, and soak up a community class at The Quill in Vasse, WA, located between Busselton and Dunsborough. Find them on thequill-wa.com.au
Words by Rose Mascaro