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, 19 April 2011

After an exhausting few days we are all now recovering from the
'Maureen Minchin' exhibition.
In every respect it was unlike any other that we have held.
The quality and quantity of ceramics which arrived just a couple of days before the were a little overwhelming, not just the thought of having to price and catalogue the work but how to go about displaying such a varied and beautiful mixture.
There was literally "something for everyone", from beautiful egg cups to gigantic plates and dishes. It is almost impossible to understand how one person can produce such intricate work.
I know that she has a team of friends and helpers who work with her, but the decoration is all Maureen's.
Drawn with a needle.
Even a humble mug must have hours of work involved in its creation.
One person commented to me about one of her framed tiles
" that's almost like a miniature work of art".
I corrected him.
"No that is a work of art. If it was on paper many artists would be demanding very high sums for such a piece".
But it seems that all of the work and many, many extra hours demanded to create this picture on a piece of ceramic mean nothing when compared to "oil on canvas".
Funny old thing the art world isn't it.

The opening of this exhibition was a rare experience.
People were waiting outside for hours before the door was opened
There was something of a carnival atmosphere about it all, much of this was helped by Paul,
a neighbour, friend and owner of the nearby Hairdressing Salon.
He, like many is a great fan of Maureens work and was determined to purchase a number of pieces and he appreciated that friendship aside this would involve a long wait, so not only did he turn up with a garden chair to sit on , but he also brought several others for the people who waited with him until the opening.

Inside the gallery I was still panicking and rushing about trying to put the final touches to the show and I envied the strangers sitting outside in the sun laughing, drinking and becoming friends.
It was a very unusual day.

Once the door was opened at 12.00 Noon [on the stroke] bedlam was unleashed.
It was terrible, for once I had to work hard instead of socialising.
For the first time I understood how much Rebecca and Irene have to do while I talk and drink,
and talk.
This was hard work.
People were snatching up pots and holding onto them so that others couldn't buy them, some were demanding "Red Spots" so that they could reserve a piece before someone else spotted it.
It was madness , then suddenly,
it calmed,
people started to behave in a more normal manner.
The reason?
Because almost everything had sold.
"What a day", I thought as I poured myself a long overdue glass of wine.
I was wrong, it wasn't a day it was only 1.20 pm.
I couldn't believe it, so much had happened and so much had sold in such a short time.

At any exhibition that we hold it is impossible to predict the outcome or how many people will attend, all I can do is put every effort into each show and then wait.
So what makes Maureen so special and so sought after.

I think that it is to do with her integrity and the amount of work she puts into each piece she creates, but not just that. I think that in her work she shows a side of life and the countryside that we all long to see and experience.
For instance I had asked her "do you ever see any basking sharks"?
"Oh yes lots, and Minke whale, killer whale, lots of Dolphin and of course the Otters and Puffins all the time".
Her pots reflect her life and everything in it that is of importance to her.
They are a 3D representation of where she chooses to live.

I have tried in a simple way to illustrate with my pictures above where her inspirations come from and what makes her create what she does. I hope that they help give an insight into her beautiful world.
I think what sums her work up comes from her own words.
"To step outside my door and be able to walk in any direction is very important to me".

Maureen will show with us again one day but not until 2015.
" What, I will be dead by then", I told her.

"Don't be silly that's what you told me five years ago".
It seems like yesterday.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

A long time has past and a lot has happened since I last wrote, many things I have been tempted to write about but I have resisted that temptation because each time I was drawn back to one event, and that I decided it was best not to talk about.
As a good friend told me many years ago,
"if you can't say something nice about someone, then say nothing at all".
So I have chosen to say nothing at all, for a long time.
But for better or worse I am back, with more ramblings about my gallery life and the things and people connected with it.

Much has happened in what has not really been too long a time so I'm not sure where to start, so I will just stick with the most memorable events.
I think when I last wrote we were just about to open an exhibition featuring the paintings by
Lindsey Carr, well that has been and gone and is almost history apart from the fact that the last paintings that had sold have only just been sent off to California.
It was a strange event with almost all of the sales going to America, something that has never happened on this scale before.
So clearly she is someone to keep an eye on for the future, which I will, and it is with a feeling
of pride I think that we held her first "solo" exhibition, the next will be in California.
Maybe one day she will let us show her work again.

No sooner had that exhibition opened and my thoughts and worries were elsewhere.
Our next and greatly anticipated exhibition was just on the horizon.
Maureen Minchin, the potter has been booked with us for nearly 5 years.
It was an event that I thought would never come and I have been like a child waiting for Christmas with the anticipation of it all.
Well, it nearly upon us now with just over a week to go before the opening.
Because of different things that we have planned for the event it was decided that I would journey to Scotland to collect some of the finished work from her, the rest will follow.

I haven't been there since I was a young man. It is strange to think that as young people Irene and I visited every year and had planned to do so "for ever".
But somehow life has different plans and despite our very fond memories and many plans we have never managed to return, so for me this "enforced " visit was a little bit of a pilgrimage
back to our youth.
On this visit I had the company of Sam, our son who on my last visit was just a hoped for dream in our far distant future.
Isn't life strange?
Strange, but such a great pleasure to take him to the places that had held such meaning to us
when we were his age.
Bloody hell! Am I that old?
I am, and was reminded of it in the most lovely of ways when after many miles of travelling
we arrived at the home of Maureen Minchin.
A home and workshop hidden away in the remotest corner of West Scotland
[but I will tell much more of that later].
Standing in her living room I looked out of the window which gave a view over the sea to far distant islands with snow covered mountains. I stood mesmerised until suddenly
I saw lights flickering over the sea.
No it was a reflection in the window, I turned around and there was Maureen holding a birthday cake covered in lighted candles.
" Happy Birthday John".
Yes, it was my 60th birthday.
I should have felt ancient [indeed I am], but I felt young, alive and very happy.
How many people could be as lucky as I was to experience such a day in such a place with such
lovely people.
It seemed that everyone, Maureen, her friends and Sam tried to make this such a memorable day for me, and so it was.
I enjoyed and experienced so many good things I know I will never have time to recall them all.
It was a good day, indeed it was a good trip and I had lots of fun.
I was on a journey with my best mate, who just happens to be my son.

So without going into our many adventures, and there were many, I will just recall a few special moments.
Of course we visited Loch Ness [many times] and on our last evening stood drinking a pint of cider by the loch side as the light faded to blackness, but it never became totally dark as the surrounding mountains were covered in snow and they reflected on the water even when it became too late to see where we had left the car.

On one day we had the most amazing drive through the mountains of Glen Shiel, the snow was falling heavily but the road was still clear, it was like driving through a giant film set of 'Lord of the Rings'. Past Lochs, mountains and rivers in what felt such an isolated environment, it was beautiful but believe it or not there were almost no places to stop and take photographs.
The memories will have to stay as photographs of the camera in my mind [have you got one of those, they are brilliant but you can't share the images].
Emerging from the massive Glen we arrived at our destination, the home of "Connor MacCleod" [The Highlander],
Eilean Donan Castle, perhaps the most photographed castle in the world.
But for all the countless times pictures of it are shown on television, films and in magazines it is still a magnificent spectacle and one that everyone should try to see at least once.

From there we made a special pilgrimage to the last home of the famous author Gavin Maxwell, the man who wrote 'Ring of Bright Water' [one of my favourite books].
It wasn't really his home, not the one made famous in the novels, but it was his last home and
the one he wished to die in.
But life had other cruel plans and he died in hospital, but I feel that part of him is still there on this little island that was his home and it was a pleasure to witness what his eyes had looked out upon and it was easy to see why he had chosen to live, and wanted to die there.

From there onto the Isle of Skye and....................................too many different things.

So after some exciting days, we unfortunately had to make the long drive home
[with a car full of ceramics, yes I remembered to collect them]
past the beautiful highlands down to the equally beautiful but very different Lake District,
[now that's a story by itself, but perhaps for another day]
through heavy mist across the northern dales of Yorkshire then slowly back home in the late night to the gentle countryside of Suffolk.
It was good to be home but it had been such fun on our little winter adventure.

Having got that out of the way I will come back to show you the fruits of, and the reason for the journey. The pottery of Maureen Minchin.

The pictures are of the beach which is a 100 yards from Maureens home and which looks out to many islands. Sam, getting fed up with me asking for another moody picture.
The beautiful Glen Shiel taken from the car window.
The "Highlanders" home, Eilean Donan Castle, and lastly the beautiful home of Gavin Maxwell.