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.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

So much of the time running a gallery is spent doing the many things that are of no interest to me, no matter how important they are.
Things like accounts, advertising, writing letters, ordering packaging,
etc,etc,etc., the list seems endless.
I don't suppose that it is any different for people who run shops of any kind.
But at times I do wonder how I got into this situation, at times it feels like working in an office, and I am really not an office sort of person.
After all I should be talking to artists, or at the very least talking about them and their work.
So it has been good to be distracted for a few days working on the logistics of a future exhibition.
'Maureen Minchin'
That's the name of the exhibition and the artist, or more to the point the potter.
No! That's incorrect, she is an artist potter.
And it is strange to think that Suffolk's most famous potter lives in Scotland.

Many years ago in a different lifetime I was a potter and I couldn't imagine a day when I wouldn't be making or dreaming about pots.
But life and politics had different plans for me and the time came when I hated pottery and everything connected with it and it was only through Irene's urging that I kept my old wheels
and a kiln or two, plus my box of tools.
Then one day [as they say] I saw in a gallery window a pot that I fell in love with,
and purchased.
[But that is a tale for another day or a tale for later this year].

I understood that I could like pots again if I put history behind me.
So, I did come to admire pots and potters again [not politics] and started to take pleasure from
seeing good pots by good potters, but I was never tempted to purchase again.
I felt that I had seen it all before.
Then one day I found a pot that was unlike any I had ever seen before,
this was by Maureen Minchin.
It wasn't like anything I had ever liked or collected, but I loved it and had to have it.
I couldn't afford it but I loved it.
I have it at home now, because Irene and the kids bought it for my Christmas present.

That's how my love affair of Maureen's work started, and the day we decided to open the gallery she was the first person I contacted.
But she couldn't let me have any pots at that time, as she was very ill plus her own life had taken different directions.
But we kept in touch and eventually she brought me some.
We have had many over the years since, but never a complete exhibition.

It is strange to think that she is probably the best known and most collected potter in East Anglia but she lives in a very remote spot on the west coast of Scotland.
I suppose it's not that hard to understand, as she used to be a Suffolk potter until the day she followed her heart and dreams and moved to the Highlands
[taking her Gypsy caravan with her].

Now she lives in a spot so remote it takes half a day to get to the town.
She is as remote as remote can be.
The view from her small cottage is across the Atlantic, interrupted only by the mountains on
the Islands of Rhum, Eigg and Skye.
It is a location you would dream of living at [well I do].
But as she told me one winter evening "you wouldn't want to live here today, there is a gale from the sea and the roof is moving".
But I still dream of it.

Living in such a remote spot has done nothing to diminish interest in her work, in fact it has increased. She is now as popular in Scotland as she was in East Anglia.
I spoke recently to a gallery owner in Inverness, the morning after the private view of Maureen's last exhibition.
"It was incredible, just like a 'Harrods' sale opening, and the telephone didn't stop with people far away trying to purchase".
I believe her, I have experienced how popular her pottery is, on the occasions that we have been lucky enough to have any, most of it goes to America.

So this April we have our first solo exhibition of Maureen's pots.
We have waited nearly five years for this show, and I just know that the wait will be worthwhile.
Maureen being a true professional has been supplying me with material well in advance.
She understands the amount of work we have to do and does everything to make life that little bit easier. After all it's not easy to promote an artist that sends you nothing before the event,
but it has happened.
Our discussions and the pictures that she has sent have only increased my excitement.

I will come back to talk about her more as the date draws closer I'm sure as we are very committed to this show and are producing a booklet to go with it, plus I will be travelling North to see her and collect pots early in March, so I think for a while I will have nothing on my mind but her and her work.
That's not a bad thing.

Above is a picture of her scenery and daily view [makes me want to cry]. A jug, showing the different sides. A jug that she is working on, drawing through the thin covering of slip to reveal the red clay, then another jug and a dish to match.
These we sent to America some time ago.


  1. I can see why her pottery is so popular -- and what a view. Think about hiring someone to do your books -- even if only part time. If I was a bookkeeper thinking of retirement, a part time job in your gallery would be just the thing. That would free you to concentrate on the things you do best and love most. I'd apply for the job myself in a New York minute, if it wasn't for the commute involved. . .

  2. Brilliant stuff, John. Really lovely.

  3. I'm sure that you could sort out some cheap flights WOL, and you would get back home at least once a month.

    what's good is that she is such a nice person without a hint of an ego.
    I see her as someone who is really trying to carry on the Leach/Cardew tradition, not in the style of her work but with what she does.
    She moved to this remote location, established the pottery and then started to provide employment for the people who live in this desolate spot.
    Years ago she told me that this had been one of her ambitions.
    She tries [and succeeds] to make lovely pots that orinary people can afford. It is not by her design that she is now appearing at auctions
    and selling at high prices, it just happened to her.
    I just hope that some of the money they fetch filters its way back to her.

  4. I am really looking forward to coming to this exhibition John.Her work is definately inspirational.

  5. Hi John, I'm finally getting to savour the last two posts. Both wonderful artists...Just having re-stocked my dealer in Boston with what I think is my best work yet, and hoping for some sales,. I also just started a relationship with another gallery in New Jersey, in November, nothing yet on either end... aand feeling a bit of the recession blues, for sure. However, there is also much abundance with a grant to build a new studio for creating and teaching. So, though things are tight, I'm glad to hear the advice of just getting to it! One must trust, that is all, and work, for, ultimately, the work always gets you somewhere.