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Pets at Work: Olive at Sunny Bank Mills Studios


A few months ago I had the pleasure of meeting children's book illustrator Kate Pankhurst and her studio sidekick, Olive the Dalmation. While Kate draws, designs and brings stories to life, Olive gets a run of the whole top floor of Sunny Bank Mills. By chance I got to meet Kate and Olive and had an insight into their working day at the studio. And yes. A studio Dalmation really is as lovely as it sounds. 

Sunny Bank Mills is a converted space with a gallery, a few quirky food spots and a whole floor devoted to artist studios. I visited the studios, initially to meet up with Sunny Bank resident and pro knitter Jen Sharp, but on arrival, was greeted by Olive. She's a spotted guard dog, who spends most of her days in the studio, keeping everyone in check from the comfort of a plant adorned and pattern filled seating area. As soon as I arrive, I realise that Olive the Dalmation isn't just Kate's dog, she's the studio's dog.


The studio is open and calming and as I sit with Olive before photographing her, we are passed by the occasional Sunny Bank resident. Olive responds to every passer by. Even if it's just a little lift of her chin, she's aware of her domain and all of the people that she shares it with. She's smothered in cuddles and ear scratches. She's got it pretty good to be honest. 

While I'm there we sit together on the (her) couch, her eyes constantly transfixed on the door. It means I get some lovely shots of her side profile, looking very regal. Now and again she peers over to Kate, just to check that she's still there in her office. And when Kate goes for a coffee break, she's up, taking it as an excuse to get a quick walkies. On their journey, both Kate and Olive check in with other artists as they make their way past each studio space. I think this is lovely. Everyone is creatively bound and are on hand for creative advice or even a break and a bit of a natter. I think about how calming it must be to have a studio dog who you can take your breaks with. Always on hand for those much needed cuddles. 


My session with Olive ends with us playing catch, it's the perfect space for it. She shows me her smile as she waits for me to throw the ball. This dog is full of delightful little quirks. She's bursting with personality and creativity, just like her Sunnybank Mills family.  


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