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The business of transferring creativity

by Dave Stewart

Christopher Gillis, Craig DauphineeWhat happens when you bring a chef and a former musical theatre performer/producer together? In the case of Christopher Gillis and Chef Craig Dauphinee, you get a creative collaboration called The Ottoman Empire, a Charlottetown-based business that started as an interior design and decorating company. A fascinating side effect of this two-man operation has been the way in which the creativity they apply to one type of project has translated seamlessly into other types of work, such as catering, for clients. In essence, they seem to have mastered a type of creative process transfer.

Officially launched at the beginning of 2012, The Ottoman Empire has seen its scope of service grow in response to client demand. The throughline here is the faith that clients have in the duo to deliver aesthetics regardless of format. It’s the same faith that led Christopher and Craig to start their Charlottetown-based business in the first place. After renovating and decorating their first home together, people began to take note of the personal project, as did media such as East Coast Living Magazine and local newspapers.

Says Christopher. “The thinking seemed to be that if these guys can do this to their own house, then they must be able to do it to ours as well. People started approaching us to pay us money to do the work, and we thought that if people are willing to do this and there’s a demand and a market, then we’re willing to commit ourselves to it.”

By translating their creative ability in one area to others, the duo has added project management, sourcing, catering, staging for real estate and photography to their rapidly expanding list of services. As anyone who is actively involved in the arts will note, creativity in one form can often translate well into another. At the very least, the skills and creative process you use in one medium can strongly influence how you create in another.

Dauphinee says, “I grew up in an atmosphere of collections. My family is big into vintage and collecting antiques. My grandmother, whom I was very close with, was the type of person who was constantly changing her house, constantly changing furniture, constantly changing a room, constantly reinventing a colour scheme, and it came very naturally to her, very pragmatically. There was never any deeper understanding of creating this type of room because of the architectural features, or as the result of a strategic colour scheme; she did it because she really liked blue or because she thought it was time the furniture got moved. That’s the upbringing I had, this constant contemplation of space and how it worked and making sure that you enjoyed the space that you’re in.”

As for the ability to shift creativity from a primary medium to others, Dauphinee gets that a song can teach a filmmaker about the creative process the same way a painting can inform a weaver’s work. “Creativity is essentially a process. Once you understand that, you can apply your creative talents into all areas of your life.”

“Any and every business requires a degree of creativity,” adds Christopher. “The challenge is to marry the creativity with good management.”

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