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 28 January 2010

It seems that a week has slipped through my fingers, not through inactivity I hasten to add but because I have been locked in "writing mode" trying to get the article about Jim Malone "put to bed". I think that I suffered from what is known as "writers block", or in my words "stumped".
It was so important to me [and the gallery] that my mind just froze and I was unable to write a thing, or anything worthwhile.
Still after a week and four re-writes it is done and has been sent off to
Ceramic Review magazine.
The reaction there was better than expected, they did express surprise at the personal nature of the article but have put it on the pile to be published.
So it's a case of wait and see, but I am glad that it is now behind me and that I can concentrate on the many things that have gone on the "back burner" for a week.

A couple of interesting things have happened.
Firstly I have added another exhibition to what I thought was our full calendar, this will take place in April and is titled 'ALICE', the theme is the Mad Hatters tea party.
How it all came about will wait for another post, and who exactly [some confirmed] will be showing is still a little in the pipeline, mainly because I have tried something really different and approached a group of cinema prop makers and asked if they will be involved.
It had occurred to me that some of the best sculptures made end up on the "big screen" and not in galleries, and that there are some fantastic artists out there that we never know of.
So I made an approach and have had a good response, it would seem that the prop makers are frustrated that they are never recognized. What the outcome is all going to be like is any ones guess at the moment but I am pretty sure myself that with the other artists that I have approached it will all be very exciting.
I'm excited, and as I often say "it's my party" [and if it goes wrong "I will cry if I want to"].
I will tell more about this as it evolves.

One other very exciting thing has happened for me.
I imagine that most people know of the famous sculpture at the 'Eurostar Terminal' at St Pancras station. It is of the couple embracing, it is in bronze and stands 7 metres tall and is guaranteed to stop you in your tracks.
What a lot of people don't know is that it was made by a man named Paul Day.
Paul has made a number of very important sculptures that can be found in public places,
all of them incredible.
Including his incredible "Battle of Britain" monument at Westminster.
He is just so talented I could talk for hours about him, but suffice to say I am very moved by his art, as are many others
I have long thought about approaching him but have always stopped myself at the last second,
after all we are not a London or New York gallery [he sells at both] and I had assumed that he would tell me to "get lost", but I had underestimated the artist and the man.
I did find the courage to eventually approach him and was really surprised to find that he lives in Dijon, France.
Not only does he live there but when he answers the telephone you are treated to hear his voice speaking in "en Francais" and with a beautiful accent.
This was the pleasure that I had.
As I should have expected, like all great artists he was most gracious, kind and appreciative.
So cutting a long story very short, next week I shall be meeting Paul in England to collect some beautiful sculptures that he has for us.
What more can I say, my heart sings with pleasure.
I will let you know of the meeting when it happens, meanwhile here is a glimpse of the work that has moved me so much.

Thursday 21 January 2010

I really hate to leave it so long before writing especially when I had vowed that I would make an entry every day, but life has a way of taking you in different directions when you least expect it and that is what happened.
For a long while I have had planned a trip to Cumbria to visit, photograph and interview the potter Jim Malone. This is for an article that is to be published in May , which is fantastic as we have a long planned [3 years] exhibition of his work scheduled to open on the last day of that month.
The interview was to have taken place in December but because we were too busy I was unable to take the time away from the gallery so it was put off until the first week in January, then of course we had the snow and travel was out of the question,  so we agreed to wait for a break in the weather
Last Saturday things improved and I thought "I had better do it soon before it changes again",
and as these thoughts hovered around my mind Jim called.
" The roads are clear, can you come before it changes".
Hey! This was my hero speaking to me.
That was it, quick plans were made, Rebecca my beautiful daughter took over the reins at the gallery and I was off on adventures.

I stopped over night on route at 'The Green Dragon' in north Yorkshire, a pub made famous by the waterfall at the rear called 'Hardraw Falls'.
A naked Kevin Costner washed himself beneath it in the film
'Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves''.
Mark the owner became a friend a few years ago when he called in to buy one of my photographs [something that guaranty's friendship for life].
I will have to devote an entire entry to The Green Dragon very soon, it is unlike any other public house in the country and Mark an artist and collector has fantastic things planned for his newly  built gallery, we are planning something together for next year, but more of that at a later date.
I will say that the event "The Gathering" that he holds each year is one of the things that you MUST visit before you pass on from this world.

I digress a little bit.
Jim as many people will know is perhaps [in my opinion definitely] the best and most famous living potter in England, he has work in every major museum and the British Museum
even has interviews with him held in their archives.
He is a man whose work I have collected for the past 30 years and who has become something of a hero to me and many others
 so you can imagine how I must have felt going and staying with him for a while.

 There are just so many stories that I have to recount I don't know where to begin.
In fact I will wait until I have written the article about him before I decide what to tell you, and then I will pass on the pieces that could never be published.
However, it was so strange to be sitting drinking wine [nine bottles] with this most successful potter and hearing of his very humble beginnings.
Living in an remote old miners cottage at the Horseshoe Pass in the  mountains of Wales, a cottage that had only two rooms, unable to afford fuel, wrapped in blankets to keep warm and many times going without food, with a wife and young daughter.
All the time believing that one day his pots would sell and that he would provide for them.
Of course, this did happen but the periods of walking with a pram from door to door asking
"would you like to buy some pots", and the memories of the galleries that rejected his work is something that has stayed with him and made its mark on his character.
To call Jim determined would be "the Mother" of all understatements.
Failure is not a word he understands.

So we have him, Englands greatest most collectible potter sitting at a table in his Cumbrian cottage drinking wine with me and saying
"I have thought of you many times over the years".
He recounts the day 30 years ago [yes I am that old] when I pushed through the crowds at his first London exhibition and told him that his work had given me so much pleasure and that I ate from a plate he had made every day and couldn't wait to finish my
 meal so that I could see the beauty of that plate.

I asked "could I shake his hand"?

Of course I have always remembered that day, [after all he was my hero] but it came as a shock some 27 years later when I approached him [along with every major gallery in the country] and asked "would you ever consider exhibiting with us"?
"Yes I will,
I remember we shook hands some time ago didn't we"?

I hadn't realised then how many galleries Jim turns down, but the day I asked he consented immediately, and all because I asked to shake his hand all those years ago.
Two nights ago he shocked me by saying that he had thought of that meeting so many times and had often wondered what had become of me,
"and then one day I found you again".
" I want to know you. Lets be friends", he said and put out his hand to shake mine.

The pictures are of the Yorkshire Dales as I left the "Green Dragon", some of Jim's drawings
of the pots he is making and then just a hint of a pot that will be in his exhibition.
If you can make the opening then I urge you to come, you will never again see a collection of pots like it, and you may be able to shake Jim's hand.
That may not be important, but it changed my life and this exhibition will be the fulfillment of a dream.

Tuesday 12 January 2010

After a period of inactivity a lot has happened in a short time and I find myself thinking "what shall I write about"? I'm a bit spoilt for choice but I did promise someone last night " I will write about this", so I suppose I had better.
Perhaps like many people many people including Johnny Depp [just a bit of name dropping in case he has decided to read this in between takes] one of my favourite films of all time is
' Withnail & I ', one of the best English films made, especially in the way that it shows English sense of humour.
Last year I had the opportunity to make a pilgrimage the main location ' Uncle Monty's Cottage in the Lake District, it had just been sold at auction and despite bidding from the likes of Kate Moss it had sold to a local publican who vowed to restore it to its "former glory", so that sad people like me could visit it and see it as it was at the time of filming.
Translated I think that means "if you have a pile of money you can rent it for a holiday".
I was keen to see it as it was before "restoration".
Like many people before me I got out the map and using clues from the film managed to find
the cottage. Well actually that's a bit of a "fib" as I gave up and stopped at a Pub in the early morning where a young man was sweeping outside and asked if he knew where it was.
" Blimey, my boss has just bought it " he said, and then told me which way to go.
The whole visit was an experience that I shan't forget and I will devote an entry to it one day.

Well this visit came back to my mind last night when I made another unforgettable journey.
I had to collect some new paintings from our favourite artist Jackie Morris who lives a days
journey away but with the bad [snow it was nice really] weather that we have had a journey to her was too far at this time, so she had arranged for a handsome young man to bring
them most of the way for me.
For a few days I had been really keen to collect them so with the snow receding I set off last night to collect them at a location near Oxfordshire.
The paintings that I collected were a real mixture, not only of subjects but also of sizes and it took sometime to load my small [Tardis like] car.
Eventually I was packed to the ceiling and ready to return home.
As I said goodbye to Jackie's young assistant I couldn't help asking "have you ever seen a film called Withnail & I, I heard that they shot some of it here"?
"Oh yes, the famous tea room scene".
"That's it, do you know where it is"?
"It's 500 yards down the road, if you want to see it I will take you there".
So slipping and sliding in the snow Robin [young man] and I made our way to what what I would describe as a village square, although that isn't what it is.
The snow covered square was illuminated by Victorian style lamps and with romance in my mind I found it easy to imagine the Lake District village square depicted in the film.
In the corner of the square was the 'Tea Rooms'.
Now the building is just a chemist but all I could see was "the" Tea Rooms.
We walked over to the building.
I looked through those famous windows and I caressed that old door, looking inside I couldn't see the racks of lotions, pills and perfume all I could see was Withnail sitting there.
I swear I heard [or maybe it was just an echo].

" We want the finest wines available to humanity".

What an experience it was for me, of course this will mean nothing to anyone unless you have seen the film, if you haven't you must.

So what a trip for me, a little piece of cinema history and some beautiful new paintings by
Jackie Morris.
Jackie had included some fantastic work including some of the original artworks from the
'Robin Hobb' book covers, it will take me some days to photograph them all but I will try to show them all over the next week or so.
Meanwhile here are just a couple that I have photographed.
One of them is the original painting of the drawing which I use as my journal heading.
The drawing was lovely but the painting is superb and no photograph of mine will ever do it justice and I am only showing a portion of it [one third as it is really large].
The picture that isn't Jackie's is my photograph of the Withnail cottage.

Monday 4 January 2010

A strange thing happened this morning, I arrived at the gallery and for the first time that I can remember there were no cars parked outside. This doesn't mean that there are always customers outside waiting for me it's just that Long Melford has no parking restrictions so and cars are often left for hours while tourists visit the different sites of interest, as a result it is often hard to find a parking space especially on a nice day and unheard of to be able see the gallery clearly.
I decided that I would take advantage of this event and took some pictures of the gallery from outside, then having started and with the morning being so nice I wandered around the village to get take photographs, something I have often intended to do but never find the time for.
As is often the case I would imagine that the average day-tripper has more pictures of the area
than I will ever get around to taking.
So, I decided that I would give you a glimpse of the scenes that I see and take for granted everyday, there are many places of interest that I haven't included, such as the Alpaca Farm that I stop at each day to collect eggs [where the chickens wander around amongst the herd of Alpaca's who protect them from predators], the famous Bull Inn, the Church [the size of a cathedral], the incredible Elizabethan 'Kentwell Hall', and of course the six 'pubs', perhaps on another nice day I may photograph some of these [not just the pubs].
As the photographs show the village is very long [in fact a mile] hence the name Long Melford and it was once very famous for its antique shops, there used to be 30 of them, in fact many years ago it was the setting for the famous TV series 'Lovejoy', now most of the antique shops have turned into galleries [including ours] but the man who many claim to be the inspiration for the Lovejoy character is still here, running one of the remaining shops.
In fact he once suggested to me that we should merge, and show our art displayed on and amongst his antiques, we never followed through with the idea but who knows "maybe one day".
The pictures show [apart from the gallery] the National Trust owned Melford Hall, a view of the famous green as you approach the village and the start of the street as you enter the village proper.
I say "famous green" because it was made famous by John Lennon who danced with Yoko upon it [and made a video of the event] just after the Beatles had split up.
They stayed in the Bull Inn which is about 50 metres from us, and who knows maybe even came into the gallery to look at antiques [I'm the only antique here now].
I didn't know any of this until one winter evening about 2 years ago.
I was here late with the lights on working on the computer when a couple banged on the window and waived to me. I opened the door to see what they wanted.
They "had to see inside" they said because of the 'John Lennon' connection. I didn't know what they were talking about and asked them to explain.
They were travelling through but had stopped to call in at The Bull to see if they could look at the guest book. They new of and had seen the Lennon video and wanted to find out if he had
"signed in" like any normal guest.
He had, they were really excited and photographed the book, then on leaving they spotted the gallery which at that time just had IMAGINE above the door [I added gallery at a later date].
They "just knew" that there must be a connection and wanted to know if we had named it in honour of the man, I was sorry to disappoint them but was pleased to here about the dancing on the green.
I have never looked at it in the same way ever since, however I don't suppose they danced on such a cold day or as early as the scene in my photograph.
Can you Imagine.

Sunday 3 January 2010

A New Year

The New Year has started and I can't help wondering what it will have in store for us.
I often look around at the different work and artists that we have here and find myself thinking
"this time last year I didn't know they existed, now not only do I have their art but they are an important part of my life".
Or I may think " how wonderful it is to have this new friend ", someone who a few months or a year before had just been an anonymous artist whose work I admired.
For better or worse I can't help but marvel at the way life works and the roads it leads us down.

So it was with the artist Lindsey Carr.
Now I can't even remember how I stumbled across her or what was the first picture of hers that I
looked at, which is a really strange feeling as now I couldn't imagine the gallery being complete
without a piece of her work on display.
Not that I take that for granted as I feel that Lindsey is one of the people who will suddenly
become very big [in the art world] and will be showing in far greater places than ours, she is currently exhibiting in America where she is greatly admired, in fact some of the paintings of hers that we have sold have gone abroad and I think it will be a case of her becoming an artist
who in the future UK galleries will be trying to lure back 'home' to exhibit.
It was with these thoughts in mind that I have asked Lindsey to exhibit with us early next year,
which seems strange because I haven't yet finalized this years exhibition programme, but I just have a feeling that if I hadn't asked her  [a few months ago] then I may never get another chance.

What can I tell you about Lindsey?
She has a very large following and I would imagine that most people know more than I do, but I
do know that she is someone who doesn't talk about herself too much, or give much away in terms of her personal life, I have a feeling that she doesn't think that she is interesting enough.
Far from it she is fascinating, just trying to understand what motivates her and where her ideas come from is enough to occupy many hours.
So, I will tell you what she tells everyone.
"She is an artist who lives and works in Scotland." That's it, she tells very little else.
But from my own observations I will add that she is very intelligent, has a great sense of humour, and has a mind that is full of so many ideas that she has trouble finding time to bring them all to fruition, although that may change now as she has altered her life in order to spend more time creating.
She paints on wood, usually reclaimed  [why make life easy] and frames her work in old clock cases.
Oh, and she has a boyfriend, a cat, and lives in a cottage that looks out over the sea.

So now you all know as much as I do.
Here is a sample of her art.
The last picture is a sample of her work that we have used for gallery information cards.