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.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

At last I am now getting back to normal [whatever that is] and my thoughts are returning to different things and art that has me excited.
The last few days have all been spent finishing pictures for the magazine article,
as a result other things have been neglected. I shouldn't complain though, I was told yesterday that the article is going to be five pages long and because of this another day was spent 
sorting out new photographs. At last it is behind me [I hope] and I can get back to 'real' work.
By real work I mean thing like spending hours on the telephone talking [to artists], writing emails [to artists] and searching web-sites for artists. Now, that's my kind of hard work.
"Phew! What a day I've had love", I almost find myself saying when I get home.
So, the better part of today has been spent
pushing the 'ALICE' exhibition a little further down the road
to becoming a reality.
I like these sort of exhibitions, one reason being that it is good to have a varied
selection of art and artists, and another because I find myself juggling
so many different balls in the air that it seems things
are getting out of control. It gives me a sense of "what will happen next", or who will
or won't become involved.
It gets very exciting and when the exhibition finally opens it all seems as 
fresh and unusual to me as to other people who come.

So, who has become involved today?
Well a lovely little Welsh potter 'Margaret Brampton' has agreed to make 
some of her unusual bowls.
These will be decorated with scenes from the book and will have lettering running
around the rims. Margaret does make beautiful pots,
they seem so 'old fashioned', they are beautifully illustrated earthenware
and are all meant to be used.
This is what brings the real pleasure from her work, the fact that you
know you are meant to use them and it is the constant handling
of them that makes you appreciate the work 
that goes into their creation.
Somehow, no matter how many times you have eaten from her bowls and dishes
you are able to find another piece of decoration, an animal, bird or insect
that seems to have been put there for your discovery.
Also, she is such a nice modest woman whenever
I talk with her she tells me how clever
another potter is, "you must look at his work" she will say.
Most of the time I prefer hers.

After having a little flush of excitement about Margaret's involvement
I then had a call from Louise Richardson.
I have mentioned Louise several times before and no doubt will many times in
the future.
Louise makes.................
well really I don't know what she makes or creates, because every time we have something
new from her it is totally different, different in style, design and the medium
used. She is just so clever, I could only describe her as a true artist.
Like Margaret she is also very modest and seems to take
pleasure in other peoples love of her work.
One day  [I tell myself] when I have some money I will buy something
of her work to keep, forever.
Until that day I just have the pleasure of looking at it each day
and telling customers "I will miss that" when they walk out with a piece.
Louise is on the way all ready, but soon she will be "very big", too big for us that is,
but then I think she is a person who doesn't forget, so perhaps she 
will still let us delight in having the odd [very odd] piece
of her work.
She is making 'I don't know what' for the ALICE exhibition, and if possible seems almost
as excited about it as I am.
she called to tell me to check out a web-site where there was a very unusual 
Alice in Wonderland photograph.
"You will love it", I was promised. She was right.
I was a man on a mission, half an hour later I was on the site of an incredible 
Russian photographer, Vladimir Clavijo-Telepnev.
I can only describe his photographs as phenomenal. I tell myself from time to time
that I'm not bad at taking pictures but now I realize how much I don't
understand and how much there is for me to learn.
Cutting a long story short I ended up writing to him asking if he would let us show
some of his pictures at the exhibition.
Well I think I did.
It is the first time I have had to fill in boxes which are in Russian,
if he ever gets the mail it is most likely the first time he 
has had to answer some idiot in English.
We will see what happens, I know I should hold out no hope but stranger things have happened. In fact in the gallery today I have a sculpture that comes from an artist who
lives in the mountain region in Kazakhstan.

I must show some of the unusual things we have one day.

That was the days second exciting episode.
The third was when I had a mail from 
Karen Fawcett.
Karen is the wildlife sculptor whose animals are on constant display in the gallery,
in fact anytime I think of an exhibition I wonder "could I include Karen"?
Usually I do.
She explained that she had a "stupid idea, but sometimes good comes from stupid", and
that she wanted to make the 'Cheshire Cat' from the story.
Made from clay, with bulging glass eyes and covered in fur [synthetic].
I was really excited.
I have seen some of the sculptures that she has done for museums, not only are they
incredible, but they appear totally real and life like, taking into account
that most of these creatures are extinct, that's some achievement.
So if in April you want to come and see the most real,
unreal grinning Cheshire Cat, then you will
find it on the table at the 
Tea Party.

The pictures are by Vladimir with one exception,
the bottom one will be my own contribution
to the show.
Like I said,"I have a lot to learn".

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Good news, bad news.
Yesterday I had a definite confirmation from Ceramic Review magazine that they are publishing my article about the potter Jim Malone in their May/June issue.
This is fantastic news as our exhibition of Jim's pots starts on the last day in May.
Ceramic Review is a magazine with a worldwide circulation, and is certainly the most important magazine devoted to the art within the UK.
So, in theory this should really help to promote the exhibition.

The magazine had asked me if I would do the article as they knew that I had a special interest in Jim's work, but even so it was never a "done deal" as the editor [an author and potter himself] is notorious for being very scathing about work submitted.
Without a doubt my piece is very unusual and is not the sort of thing normally published in a collectors magazine where most writers swallow a dictionary before going to bed each night,
I think that I mentioned before that I agonized over the writing of the article.
It was so important to me I just couldn't write.
As a result it was a very personal piece about the man, not his techniques, clays, glazes etc,etc,
which would be the norm, I just wrote about my feelings for the work and the man.

A very good friend [and potter] who I asked to read the article told me " it is very you, very personal, interesting, but it will never be published".
This didn't surprise me as it wasn't written for potters, but for people with emotions.
So it was with great surprise that I received the news
"the editor loves it and it is going in the May issue".


I was really pleased as we are committing so much to this exhibition, in every aspect.
If after the opening the gallery closed I would have felt that
I had achieved 'one' thing in my life.
Just one big problem, the magazine wants lots of pictures to go with the article,
Although I had photographed lots of Jim's pots the pictures were taken outside his house
on a very cold winters day, late in the evening, with poor light.
As such they weren't really any good.
I called around a few people who I knew had some good professional photographs of his
pots, asking could I use the images [giving them full credit] for the article.

It was funny, almost like being back working in industry.
No, was the general reply [with lots of excuses].
Obviously, although I have my own doubts others think the exhibition may be a success.
So I have spent most of the last two days playing on 'photoshop',
creating backgrounds and trying to make my photographs
acceptable for a magazine to print.

With the results I'm just not sure,
"I can't see the wood for the trees", as they say.
So any comments from you people out there would be really appreciated, good and bad.
I'm a grown boy and I can handle bad news,
although I might sulk for an hour or two afterwards
[A week or two, more like. I can imagine Irene thinking].

Here are half of them, starting with the full page advertisement that I have taken
to go with the article.

Hhmmmmm!  I'm just thinking good thing Jim Malone doesn't have a computer. 

It has been so long since I wrote something I thought that I had better make it one of the "sooner rather than later" tasks of the day, otherwise time would trickle through my fingers and it would be late evening before I gave thought to it again.
At the moment the days seem to be wasted, each day is full [with not enough hours] but the jobs that are filling them is not very satisfying, but they are things that are very necessary to keep the place running. I would never have believed how much time has to be allocated to "admin", at times I feel that I am working in an office.
My ideal day is spent talking to, visiting, or searching for artists.
I often think that if we could turn back time we would never have ventured down this 'Gallery'
road, but at the end of a day that has been spent sourcing work I can think of no better thing to have done with my life.
Just imagine it, I sit surrounded by all these beautiful objects which for a short space in time belong to me. I can look at them, admire the skill of the creator, caress them and at times even talk to them. Yes, I am that mad.
So when days are spent doing the many tasks that I would rather ignore I must remind myself
that it is all for a reason.
So this morning finds me sitting in a lovely space surrounded by fantastic art and with a 
favourite album playing in the background, without anyone telling me what I have to do, and
yet I am feeling sorry for myself.
"get a life John".

Just as I finished writing that a courier walked came in with a delivery prints by 'Jo March'.
My day has changed, I love them and can't wait to get to the framer so that they can be on the walls by the weekend.

Now where was I with all the "things I've got to do" business?
Oh Yes! I have spent the last week designing invitations and advertisements a forthcoming event, it is something that I don't enjoy but afterwards seems worthwhile and I can never remember why I was annoyed at having to do them.
The main project has been the invitation for our next exhibition which opens in just over a week. Test prints came from the printer, I corrected them, they printed again, I was happy, so off we went.
Now with them all in the post I am on to the next design project, but before I launch that on the unsuspecting public I will show you the new invitations.
They are for an exhibition that has been planned for a year. It was intended to be a solo exhibition by the wildlife sculptor Brendan Hesmondhalgh.
Brendan is known of and exhibited throughout the UK, he makes wonderful stylised animals
and birds, much of his work is now made for public display so there is less being available through galleries. He has only one fault, he can't produce enough sculpture, so it was this in mind that I offered him a solo exhibition a year ago.
I was hoping that the prestige of a 'one man show' might push him into letting us have a large share of his yearly output.
Whatever the reasons he agreed, although I think that he may now be regretting it, as with only a week to go he is still sculpting new work for us.
I have no idea what we will be displaying at the opening but I do know that it will be very unusual and unique.
As I mentioned it had intended to be a "one man exhibition" but in December one of our regular customers came in with a Christmas card for us.
I opened it after she left, it was a beautiful hand printed limited edition print.
I called to thank her and to ask who the artist was, of course it was her, Gay Stacpoole.
I asked if she had others and had she exhibited before.
She did have and she hadn't.
So as we had nothing new for the walls for the exhibition it became a two person event.
I am really looking forward to it as they are both such nice "grounded" artists.
So, if you haven't received an invitation in the post here is "your" personal invitation.
Beneath it is one of the Jo March pictures that has brightened my day.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

This morning I decided that I was allocating too much time concentrating on future events and not spending enough time thinking about the daily needs of the gallery, so I came in with a determination that today "I'm going to sort that out".
That lasted for about ten minutes before I found myself pursuing the 'ALICE' exhibition again.
This was instigated by a call from a prop maker who has been involved with the 'Dr Who' television series.
He intends to make a life size 'Mad Hatter'.
That was it, I was off again searching for different artists and getting confirmations from people
who had expressed an interest in being involved.
It was late afternoon and about 15 conversations later before I managed to start thinking about "normal " things again.
The one thing that I decided that I must do was to get some prints done of my photographs to 
go in the gallery browser. 
We founded the gallery with the intent of selling my photography, or to be precise Irene decided that we should do it because she was intent that I should pursue a dream rather than spend my life working for others.
She has helped me fulfill that dream but at great expense to our personal fortunes and life.
However, here we are and although my own personal ego has now been "quenched" in respect that people like my photographs and are willing to pay for them, I now find so much more contentment in selling the art of others and can get very excited about it as I can find no fault with it, whereas my own pictures  embarrass me, but people buy them and for this I feel moved.
At the time of taking them I was totally concentrated and very involved and it is only with time I have been able to "let go" and forget about them.
It is because of this that I have only this week noticed I have forgotten too much and that we have very few in the browser so I determined that I wouldn't leave today until I had done a few new prints.

Here are a few of what I have produced this evening, I would have done more but there are three beautiful dogs waiting to be walked by torchlight.


Wednesday, 10 February 2010

The last few days have been spent preparing advertisements and getting invitations to the printers for our coming exhibitions. Things always have to be prepared so far in advance I tend not to take it seriously until I get a call from a magazine saying "if we don't have it by tomorrow you've lost the space".
Something which tends to focus my thoughts a little.
Well, today the printer delivered a box full of invitations for our coming exhibition so it made me feel that I was a little in front, as a result I decided to stop work on the design for an advert that I have been struggling on [they want it next week but the exhibition isn't until June] and get on with something more enjoyable.
I decided that I would spend the day "hunting" for artists/sculptors for our 'ALICE' exhibition.
I was spurred on to do this by a letter that I received this morning,
it was from a Bulgarian artist called 
'Iassen Ghiuselev'.
He is responsible for the fantastic illustrations used in a 2004 publication of
Alice in Wonderland
The book has become something of a cult and second hand copies are selling for up to £300.
What is unique about this book is that all of the illustrations are from one
painting. The original is very large and is painted on a wooden panel, the different scenes
all merge together, the pages of the book are made from different segments of the painting.
It really is a work of great beauty.
He has more recently produced another painting which is of
Alice Through the Looking Glass,
which will be published this year, along with a beautiful calendar.

Well as I have said many a time, "the greater the artist the nicer the person".
Iassen is giving us the original painting from Alice
to show in the exhibition.
Also he is supplying a large signed print from the second novel,
the original is being used for the book launch otherwise he told me that could also have had that. I explain just how excited I am about this.
The painting that I so admire and have looked at in books and online
will be here in our gallery, where I will be able to look at it and marvel at  it on a daily basis.
All I can say is "WOW".

My day didn't bring me any new 'Alice' sculptors but it has produced a couple of good
leads that I will pursue tomorrow [before I go back to the advert].
Another good thing that came from the searching is that I "stumbled" upon the work of an
artist named 'David Inshaw'.
Some of you may remember or know of the television series last year by David Dimbleby
called 'A Portrait of Britain'.
It showed the history of English art, the locations and the history of the artists who produced
it, every famous English artist was represented, but only two living artists were,
David Inshaw
was one of them. Yes, you've guessed it!
We will be having some of his work in the near future, if I wasn't already excited then
that would have made my day.

The First picture is 'Alice Through the Looking Glass', plus some details.
A detail from 'Alice' and two of Inshaws paintings.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

I did say that I would mention another journey in the last post and so I will, although I am tempted to let it be one of my many "fibs" and just write about today instead as my head is still
buzzing from things that have happened, but that had better wait, if I don't promise to tell you about it then I won't feel guilty if next time I talk about something else that has fascinated me.
But, I will say today was good and very interesting.
Still, back in time to last week.
A lovely lady who lives in Shropshire had been in touch to tell me that she was interested in a
painting by Jackie Morris, it was of two Hares and was titled 'Dancing to the New Moon',
I mentioned to her that we also had the original concept drawing of the painting.
She decided that she must have both, which made a lot of sense to me as I always love to see the "work behind the scenes", so to speak, plus for a collector it would add value to the painting.
I hasten to add here that I don't have a lot of time for people who purchase just as an investment, I feel that buying what you love is a much better thing to do that way you just can't lose, if your piece of art becomes more valuable then that is a bonus and if it doesn't then it doesn't matter because you purchased it because you loved it, and that's all that matters.

[Mind you we do have some good investment pieces, give us a call and ask to speak to the shallow money grabbing owner, that's me].

Anyway, the lady asked would I put the paintings aside but because I had a trip to Shropshire planned I told her that I would deliver them.
As a result she asked could I bring another picture by Jackie that she had been "yearning" for, just so she "could have a peek at it".
The painting was the
'Music Box Bear'.

A few days later after a long drive I delivered the paintings and, of course, she had to have them all. I just wished that I had taken more, "I was on a roll", the lovely lady would have taken everything that I could have crammed in the car. I will remember that next time, so if you ever order one piece of art and I turn up with ten, then please forgive me.

Shropshire apart from being one of my favourite counties is also the home of the potter Mark Griffiths and sculptor Rachel Ricketts.
They live about 20 miles apart and as I had intended to visit Rachel to collect some new pieces from her I thought I might as well make the detour to say "hello" to Mark.
As I have mentioned in the past, Mark is not only a very talented potter but also a lovely man.
Knowing this I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised [but I was] to find that when I arrived at his workshop he is now sharing it with the very well known potter Philip Rogers.
Phil, who for reasons of his own has left his home and workshop in Wales and for some time now has been desperate to find a studio where he could practice his craft and earn a living again. I have since been told that other potters who he had considered friends had turned him away, perhaps they felt that they would be overshadowed by his reputation. Who knows?
However, Mark typically had taken him in and they now share the workshop, sitting side by side throwing their own distinctive pots, it will be interesting to see where the relationship leads them.
For me it did make the visit a special treat as I had the chance to observe their different ways of working, I suppose I shouldn't say too much more at the moment as it is
"early days" for them both.
So, after some refreshment and a quick tour of Mark's fantastic garden I left to see Rachel.

She lives in a town called 'Kington', which as far as I'm concerned should be re-named 
'The Town that Time Forgot'.
I have visited a couple of times and I still can't get over the feeling of nostalgia that it gives me,
it seems so "old fashioned" that at times I expect to see my Mum & Dad [long dead] walking along pushing a pram with me in it as a baby.
It really is very beautiful, there is even a 'Cobblers' with shoes hanging from the ceiling by their laces, now when did you last see that?
Rachel has told me that it is because the area is so poor, there is little work available and no development going on at all. It is a shame for the residents but a visual feast if you are a visitor.
My only regret is that it was getting too late to take photographs.
But I will return, I must, I want more of Rachel's amazing sculptures.
Her variety of work is enormous, as is the materials with which she works.
As usual she was very generous with me, she is so nice natured I'm sure that she would have let me take everything.
Thinking of it, she might as well have as I didn't leave her with much.
Thank you Rachel.

As usual the pictures explain themselves, but in case you don't recognize him from his many books, the potter is Phil Rogers not Mark.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

It has been another week of travelling, not that I mind that at all as it is the closest I ever come to a holiday plus sitting in the car for hours always gives me plenty of time to think through the many things that are worrying me and to come up with a solution to them.
Maybe I need to drive more.
I talk about one of the journeys in the next post as I know that it will be of interest to Jackie Morris fans and to any potters that admire Phil Rogers. But that's for next time.
The trip that I have just made was to collect the sculptures that Paul Day had brought over from France for us. He was only in the UK for two days and had a very full itinerary so we arranged to meet at a very famous art foundry, 'Morris Singer'. 
The chances are that at some time in your life you have stood and admired their work without knowing it, they are maybe the country's leading founder and they produce many large scale pieces for public display, when I say large I mean BIG, when I was there they were casting a bronze wing for a bird, the wing was 30 feet in length.
I'm getting ahead of myself a little, and I think the foundry itself would fill one post.
So, Paul and I were meeting there because he had told me that he had a few "bits" to collect
and as it is only an hour from us it made sense.

A couple of years ago Paul was the subject of a television documentary titled
"A Day to Remember"
The film records the making of "The Battle of Britain" memorial which is now situated upon the embankment at Westminster, it shows everything from the initial sketches to the unveiling by Prince Charles. Having learned of this film I approached the production company and purchased a few DVDs of the program, the idea being that I would get Paul to sign them and give one with every purchase of his work.
The evening before meeting him I decided that I should watch it myself.
I'm so glad that I did.
Although I understood that Paul was a very well known sculptor I had no idea of just how famous and incredibly talented he is, all I can say is if you get a chance to get hold of a copy then do so. Irene and I sat mesmerised by the video and when it finished she asked
"how on earth did you persuade him to let us have sculpture".
"I dunno."

The next morning I arrived at the foundry with just a "slight feeling" of excitement, but also I was worried about the impression that I would make upon him as I was now very aware just how famous he is [ the Guardian newspaper describes him as "world renowned"].
As I approached the foundry I saw that outside there were three "workmen" struggling with a 
very large sculpture, one of the workmen was Paul and the sculpture was the original of
"The Kiss"
the giant sculpture at the 'Eurostar Terminal' in London.
As I slowed Paul waived and came over to greet me. I recognised him but he certainly didn't
know what I looked like. Maybe he was just waiting for a handsome, dignified slightly older chap to arrive. If he was he was disappointed, although I suppose the older bit might have fitted.
From the moment that we shook hands he was attentive, charming and so very gracious, it was as if I was the only gallery owner who had ever shown interest in his art.
He and the other two men were in the process of cutting up the large sculpture so that it would fit inside his van, he was taking it back to France where he would re-build it for a major exhibition of his work.
I told him to ignore me and to finish what he was doing.
He did, but all the time checking that I was not bored or cold and assuring me that they wouldn't take long.
How could I be bored? I was witnessing a little part of English history.

Eventually, the sculpture was in pieces, his van packed and then I was his only focus of attention.
We talked, far too long, he had an appointment in London in two hours time but he gave no sense of being under pressure or annoyed as he told me about himself and his work.
Although I wanted to prolong the meeting I knew he must have been worrying  about his meeting, so we parted.
He, for London and then home to France and me, back to the gallery with some pieces of National treasure in the car.
I returned with four sculptures, one being a limited edition piece [25] which was from the centre of the "Battle of Britain', titled SCRAMBLE.
On the film that I had watched the evening before he had explained that it gave him a strange feeling that to know long after he had "gone" people and his great grandchildren would visit 
London and would be able to view his work.
It has a place in English history, and importantly for me a place in Imagine Gallery.
How lucky am I?

The pictures explain themselves, with the exception of the sculpture detail photograph which is a piece from the 'Frieze' that is the base of 'The Kiss' sculpture.
It is also in my gallery window.