Welcome to the Gallery

Imagine is set in the Suffolk village of Long Melford.
This is an attempt to record the daily trials, tribulation and pleasure of running an art gallery.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Christmas Posters

This isn't what I want to write about, as I have much more interesting people to talk about and
whose art I want to show, but I have these pictures to hand so it is easier to mention what I have been doing today.
Our Christmas opening is this weekend, like all exhibitions that we have there seems to be masses to do and no time to do it, this probably has something to do with the fact that I am very
disorganised and tend to get excited about many things at once and don't have time to calm down long enough to look "under my nose" and see what must be done next.
So, our invitations have gone out, advertisements printed, new work is here with more is on its way, there are journeys to undertake, displays to arrange, etc,etc, and still I haven't done a poster.
Something that Irene pointed out to me last night, of course I argued that we had time and that I was "on the case", but in truth it had been forgotten so this afternoon I tried out a few designs and made a print of each.
I find it very hard as we show such a variety of work and it is almost impossible to have a poster or invitation that will appeal to everyone.
I suppose in truth, myself I tend to want to go towards a "corny" old fashioned look, as for me that is what Christmas is all about, nostalgia, or maybe that's just an age thing.

But going for this look then wipes out the relevance of all the fantastic very contemporary work that we have and are receiving for the Christmas show and as a result I would probably lose a lot of customers who are after something modern and very different, so I have decided on about six different
posters starting with the three I have done today.
I like them all in different ways, the first features the incredible "fantasy" dress created by Louise Richardson [one of the nicest, most down to Earth and successful artists we show], it is a little like "Cinderella meets the Angel" and is truly beautiful, I just wish that a photograph did it justice.
The second picture is of an engraving by a very clever man who died in 1971, Meyer Eberhardt.
I love his work and we always try to have at least one of his pictures on display, the one in the poster is a favourite of mine.
Another favourite is the picture in the last poster, why you might ask?
Because it's one of mine.
I don't like showing my photographs as it feels like it is all about ego, and I honestly think as far as photography goes I lost mine long ago [only with photography that is] but as this one is so "Christmas'y" I thought "why not"?
It was taken in the village of Lavenham earlier this year and reminds me of Christmas as a child, or at least in the childhood of my imagination.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

The last week has been one long blur of driving and collecting work from different artists.
It is such a shame that I had so many to visit and so little time to spend with each one, because visiting the artists at their homes, seeing their studio's and getting a small insight into their world is just about the only "perk" that I have found in this job.
I visited many people and time permitting I will get around to them all, but to start with I will mention the person who instigated the my mini-tour of England, that person is Jackie Morris.
Many people have asked where the image of the Hare at the top of the 'blog site' comes from,
well it is a slightly altered version of an original drawing by Jackie which we were lucky enough to have and then sell a few months ago.
I say lucky because Jackie has allowed us to be the only gallery that has some of her original pencil drawings on show.
As many people know Jackie is a very well known illustrator and author, and has more books to her credit than I can think to remember. Her latest 'Starlight Sailor' was published only last week [and if anyone wants a signed copy including a unique drawing with the signature, then give me a call].
Although many people don't know her name they would instantly recognize the work if they have been inside a bookshop in the last few years, as she creates the covers for the books of many
famous writers.
Well my visit to Jackie came about as she had told me "you are only getting more drawings if you come and collect them".
So I did.
It was a little bit of a literary journey as on the way I was able to visit the home and "writing shed" of my all time literary hero, Dylan Thomas.
Having visited his home, shed and grave almost 40 years ago with my girlfriend [now wife and mother to my children] I wasn't able to pass nearby without having another visit.
Sometimes things are better left as memories and this was maybe one of them.
Much as I loved seeing his home and the scenes and pub that he looked at and visited daily it was a little sad to see the village 'Laugharne' [or Milkwood as it became immortalized] changing and becoming part of the modern world, a little of the magic had vanished forever.
I will at some point [I promise] show a few of the pictures that I took of the places that hadn't changed and where a little of Milkwood lives on.

Above are paintings by Jackie and a picture of her. The very strange thing is, as I mentioned to her "you write very much like Dylan Thomas".
"It must be the Welsh air", she replied.
Maybe, who knows?
The last picture shows the inside of Dylan's "shed", complete with his last beer bottle.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Mike Pestell

It has been very unsettling day
Since opening the gallery I tend to think in terms of "past life" and "real life", although I have many good memories of my past life 
[working at Saatchi & Saatchi] I also have many bad ones, most of daily life seemed to be taken up with politics, worrying about
who was "stabbing you in the back" in order to climb another rung up the ladder, with not enough time spent on the actual work we were there to produce, and it was the production of the work that I found the most rewarding and enjoyable.
So with this my "new life" I have found it strange to be involved in another world with totally different people.
Now most of the time I deal with people who have a different set of values and I often think with a sense of amazement "these are my new work mates".
Instead of playing "cut and thrust" with life's political non achievers I am dealing with artists, sculptors, potters, jewellers, photographers, etc,etc, the list goes on, but one very important person in my life has been the picture framer.
That man was Mike Pestell.
More than anyone he was the person who marked the difference between the old life and the new.
He was a funny old bugger, although not that old, he worked from home in a large shed at the bottom of his garden.
What work that shed produced [or the man in it], all of his work came with a guarantee and the quality was second to none.
He always found time for everyone, and was the champion of many an artist.
I used to speak with him most days of the week, and would put the telephone down after a chat and think "this is my new life", just worrying about how a certain picture would look and how soon I could collect it.
I am told by many people that I am a "miserable sod" who rarely smiles and never laughs, but on many dark late winter evenings in
Mike's studio I would smile, and on occasion even laughed with him as he recounted stories about the different artists he worked with.
As you must have guessed Mike has died. Not passed away, he died after suffering a long and unexplained illness.
All through his illness he would urge me to bring him work, even though in my heart I knew he wasn't well enough to frame it
but he was convinced that he could still give me a better result than anyone else I might choose to use.
He tried with all his might to promote and champion me, and I know he was secretly proud of some of my photographs that he framed, he never told me but others did.
On one of the last occasions that we met he asked me to photograph "his" Church Windows. The idea was to sell the pictures to raise funds for the Church.
Today he was buried there, I was unable to attend the funeral and although sad that I wasn't there I know he will forgive me.
You helped change my life Mike, thank you.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Things are starting to get more exciting and hectic as the year draws towards its close,
the pressure is now on to get as much new and original work on display before Christmas.
I have many artists to tell you about and many to visit, but I will "try" to mention them as their work arrives or as I visit them.
Recently I have been having correspondence with an incredible sculptor who I had never heard of until a week or so ago, her name is
Eve Shepherd.
What I can't understand is that I hadn't found her before as her sculpture fits in so well with what we are all about. As it turns out she found us.
I can imagine her thoughts were very much "why haven't they been in contact with me?"
Had I known of her existence I would have been, I am searching all the time for people whose work I think will fit in with us, but they can be hard to find and at times it can be a little bit intimidating approaching
certain artists as their thoughts are only of London galleries.
Eve approached us and I am delighted to say that sometime before Christmas the first of her work shall arrive here. At the moment she is still sculpting it, which makes it even more exciting as we will be exhibiting work unseen before, so I thought that it might be interesting to show you pictures of her "work in progress", which can then be compared with the finished pieces that I will photograph when they arrive.
I will point out that the picture at the top is a finished piece, it's titled 'Alone'.

Monday, 2 November 2009

One of the biggest worries of having a gallery is trying to keep fresh work on show all the time.
Finding new artists is one of the greatest pleasures of doing what we do, but having found those artists, especially the good ones it then becomes a pressure to ensure that you can replace their work when it sells and also to keep the gallery in a state of flux, so that the
regular visitors will feel that they can always find something new.
As it approaches Christmas that can start to get even harder, as for many galleries this is their best selling period so they book as many artists as they can under the "umbrella" of Christmas Exhibition. I suppose we may be a little guilty of that, but mostly for us December is just a big excuse to indulge ourselves and show a larger mixture of the work by our favourite artists without the worry of it being a major event or themed exhibition. In truth this time of the year can be a little bit more fun for us and a little less pressure.
So the last week or so has had me traveling around the country collecting different work, and spending even more time [if that is possible] talking to artists giving them a "wish" list of things that we would love to show during the run up to Christmas.
So here are a few pictures of new work as it starts to arrive.
We do have much more work but these are the latest to be unpacked, the others I will include as I get around to photographing them, many of the artists will be familiar but for us that is what the Christmas exhibition is all about.
We have got art coming from some very new [to us] artists but I will show them separately as their work arrives.
The work shown above is all ceramic, which isn't strange as we are first and foremost a ceramic gallery, but for a lot of people this is a surprise because they had never realised that ceramics comes in so many different shapes and guises.
The first piece is one of Ross Emerson's unusual clocks. I don't know where his mind is but it is definitely in the same place as mine. They are all about fantasy, imagination and are so very childlike in the most delightful way, they make you feel young just by looking at them.
There are never two the same and it is a constant source of wonder "where can he go from here?" There is no second guessing his imagination and there seems to be no end to the varied paths it follows.
The second picture is of a plate by a woman who I consider to be one of the country's best potters, Maureen Minchin. She lives in a very remote corner of Scotland and seems to be virtually unknown in ceramic circles yet her following is World wide and the demand for her work far outreaches the supply. I would be content like many galleries to stock nothing but Maureen's pots, but that would never happen.
It often makes me smile when I visit one prestigious ceramic event or another to come across many named potters who are supposedly successful knowing that they have never heard of the
Maureen, but that is what she would expect. She is the most humble, talented and generous
potter I have ever been lucky enough to deal with, she is totally unaware of her incredible ability and truly thinks of herself as "just a potter" which is is in such contrast to so many others. Her pots are modestly priced [considering the amount of work involved] and she doesn't have aspirations above living the life of a potter in the Leach/Cardew tradition, and like them she employs as many local people [there aren't many where she lives] as she
can at the pottery. She is following tradition and wants to pass on her skills to benefit others.
I can't think of many potters doing that today.
The plate shown is a very modest piece and I know she would be embarrassed for me to boast about her and show something that wasn't her very,very best.
For me every piece is her best and I think many could learn by her example.

Lastly, but not least, is a very beautiful "Don Quixote" or 'A hard Days Night" as he calls it by Paul Priest. I met he and his partner Gaynor yesterday and I was encouraged to take whatever I liked. I loved everything but in the end followed my heart and left with the 'Knight' [and other pieces], there really is something about it that touches the soul.
I love it.