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, 27 May 2010

My instincts were correct about things getting a bit hectic.
I don't really have [I definitely don't] time to be doing this post, I am so very much behind on all of the things that need to be done for this coming weekends exhibition.
It has been a very eventful few days, with many stories to tell about my adventures in Yorkshire
and the Lake District, but they will have to wait until next week.
At last I have the pots made by Jim Malone here in the gallery, and the past two days have been spent photographing them for the price list and web site.
How hard can it be to take a few snaps?
Very, especially when you want to do credit to the work you are featuring,
but "enough is enough" and I am taking no more.
Tomorrow will be spent clearing the gallery and setting up displays, putting in new lights and
plinths as well as giving the place a new coat of paint.
I just hope it's going to be a long day as I have just remembered many things that I haven't done, like ordering plant displays for outside.
Still, I suppose the only person who will notice will be me.

All this effort just for a few short days, then I will be back to worrying about our next exhibition, in fact I am already, and the one after that.
It gets hard to remember that whatever is happening of whatever pressures I am feeling I can't "take my eye off the ball", otherwise it will all fall apart.
Still, it's having all those "balls in the air" that make it fun [sometimes].

I haven't time to tell of events, but as I have been taking pictures of pots I think I had better
show you a few.
I don't expect everyone to like them as Jim Malone is a "potters potter".
Which means, if you have made a pot you wished you had made some of his, or at very least
recognise the skill that their production required.

I hope to do one last quick post before the opening, but, if I don't it wasn't because I don't want to.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

I thought that I had better do another post while I still have time as I think that time will be something that I will be very short of over the next week.
Already, I am starting to feel anxious at the thought of what has to be done in a short period. One day, perhaps we will have 'whatever art' we are showing well in advance and the build up to an exhibition can be done at a more leisurely pace.
One day pigs might fly.
The main problem for us is that we empty the gallery of other works so that whatever we are showing is seen without other distractions.
It's a strange thing that we look forward to an exhibition because we know the whole gallery
will look different, and that can be refreshing, but we find after a few days we can't wait to get back to the eclectic mixture of things that we display.
At the moment we are back to semi-normal after the ALICE exhibition.
Last night I found myself looking around and thought "I really like it like this".
I had intended to take a few pictures of different bits and pieces just to show the general
look of it all.
Glancing around at the moment I see a pair of Otters standing in the sand, complete with a fish that they must have caught . An Osprey which has just landed on a post, leaning clocks,
ceramic heads, bronze boats fighting against the surf, Minotaurs, pots, pictures of Herons,
Cottages, Hares, Women...................................

I have just remembered that this is not meant to be a stock list, maybe I will one day take some pictures, it will be a lot easier.

Very soon now all of the above[except the pictures] will be cleared to make space for the
ceramics of Jim Malone.
The prospect of this seemed even closer when today I was sent some photographs of his
Kiln firing which has just finished. When I last spoke with Jim the temperature inside the kiln
had dropped down to a mere 700 degrees centigrade.
It won't be cool enough for him to remove the bricks that form the door until Sunday.
So it's a case of "fingers crossed".

I would have liked to have been there for the firing as I remember from the days when I was a potter just how exciting [and stressful] this can be.
When the temperature is at its hottest the kiln is almost like a living beast, with its own strange language.
From the roar of the fire in the stoke holes to the almost silent whistle as the flame ejects some 10 feet into the air from the chimney, there is such an aura and majesty about the beast [kiln].
Any small crack, gap or hole glows white. It is almost impossible to imagine the heat contained behind those few inches of brick.
White Heat.
A heat so intense it is impossible to look at with the naked eye, a single flame that can be 20, 30, 40, 50 and more, feet in length, and all powered from pieces of wood.
There are smells to experience that only a potter knows, one of the strongest being the smell of
scorched leather. The smell from your gloves as they start to burn when you pull out a brick in a spy-hole to look at your 'cones'.
Cones, the little ceramic rods that tell the potter everything that is happening inside the kiln, not just the temperature but what effect this period of prolonged heat is doing to the glazes.
It is the closest you will ever come to being an Alchemist.
Indeed, perhaps you are, because this is very strange science that is happening.
Very expensive science, that kind of heat doesn't come without great cost,
and even greater skill.
One of the worlds greatest potters Shoji Hamada [now dead] was once asked by a
visitor to his pottery "How can you ask $800 for a pot that I have just watch you decorate in
12 seconds"?
"No", he replied. "That pot took 60 years and 12 seconds".
I think that reply tells us everything about the skill of the best potters.

This is what I am looking forward to, the pleasure and the privilege of exhibiting one of the Worlds greatest potters.

I have words to that effect on the invitations that we sent out.
Jim Malone called me when he received his, "I never said I was one of the best potters".
"No you are right, it is from a quote. I said it".
This is what I believe, and for me once the worry and logistics are out of the way,
it will be my great pleasure to show this potters work.

Wow! Putting all that into words has made me feel nostalgic and very excited.

The pictures above I think you will understand are of the kiln firing, with the exception of one which shows the "Beast" when it was sleeping.
David Binch the owner of Oakwood Ceramics took the photographs.
He is an expert on ceramics and the only thing that surprises me about him is that he isn't a potter.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

At the moment it feels like the 'lull before the storm'.
I have heard from the potter Jim Malone that he has fired his kiln, and now it is in
"the lap of the Gods".
Our forthcoming exhibition that is, not to be confused with anything of real meaning.
Sometimes it is easy for me to take too seriously anything that we are doing here in the gallery.
It's only art, and though my life depends upon it I must remember not to get carried away.
What the Hell! I like to get carried away.
If you can't make a mountain out of a molehill then you must lack imagination, or be normal.
Anyway, invitations are in the post at last and now all I can do is wait.
Well that's not strictly true, because between now and the 30th I must wrap and box then store
[carefully] everything in the gallery, drive to the Lake District, stopping for the night at
'The Green Dragon'
in Yorkshire [I'm getting excited now], visit Jim to collect the pots for the exhibition, make a detour on the way home to the 'Withnail & I' film location cottage, photograph every pot,
put them on the web site [plus a couple on the blog], make new displays, set everything up.
Then sit back and get "plastered" at the opening on the Sunday.
Sounds good to me.
If it wasn't for the worry I would look forward to it.

So with one or two things on my mind it was lovely to have a surprise visit from the artists
Paul and Terry Rumsey.
Paul whose work I showed in an earlier post has been doing some etchings for me, I had all but forgotten about these with my own problems recently, so it was a very timely visit which lifted
my spirit and had me excited about things that really mattered in terms of having the gallery.
Sometimes it gets easy to lose your way and to remember what you are trying to achieve.

You might recall that Paul's work is a "little dark", which is also a" little" understatement.
I love it, his pictures tell stories, many stories, and most of then born from your own imagination.
He has given me his own descriptions and explanations but I enjoy putting my own interpretation on them, correct or not. I'm sure other people do the same.
In the 'Philosophers & Globe' picture, despite the seriousness I can imagine the man on the left
saying "yeah, whatever. Who wants another pint?
Now that is philosophy I can understand.
I don't mean to make light of his pictures, I love them and the thoughts they provoke.
I feel so lucky to have such a sought after talented artist come to us.
This weekend he is off to France for an exhibition of his work.
Which is a coincidence as next year [it had better be a long year] I ham hoping to exhibit his work with a Frenchman named Jean Fontaine.
Jean is someone I have been in contact with for a couple of years and it has been a case of waiting for the right time to show his work, I think that it will happen next year but at the
moment there are a few things in the "melting pot" so let's see what happens.

It was funny seeing Paul Rumsey today as looking at his work it suddenly reminded me of one of my all time favourite artists.
Robert Lenkiewicz.
Paul's work had a lot the emotion and strength and atmosphere seen in Robert's and I can't
offer higher praise than that.
It's strange that they even look slightly similar, although Paul has short hair where as Robert's was always long.
I do hope one day to get enough time to talk about Robert and his work, plus my one meeting with him.
As I say Paul's visit brightened my day so here are a few of his pictures.
The first is 'Ship of Fools' which I think has a certain Tolkien feel about it [figures in water].
The next is ' Philosophers & Globe', complete with my favourite drunk.
The next is called 'Reversible Head', this is two pictures, try looking at it with your head turned from side to side.
Ugly, beautiful, but very clever.
The next is a picture of a piece by Jean Fontaine.
Lastly, my hero. A self portrait of Robert Lenkiewicz.
Self portraits by him are fairly common as he tended to put himself in a lot of his work,
I have even seen his last unfinished painting, the only thing perfect and finished was his face.

Monday, 17 May 2010

I still haven't got back to normal and all my time now seems to be spent installing software.
Every now and then my mind suddenly remember 'real' things that I should be doing,
like calling artists to make excuses for not visiting.
At the moment there is so much going on in the 'Art World', exhibitions, open studios, etc.
All of which I yearn to go to as I know that I am missing so much, but at the moment I must try and get myself up and running again after the loss of the computer.
I'm sure that the ramifications of the lost time will come back to haunt me, but at the moment it's just a case of re-assembling a jigsaw.
I have spent hours this afternoon trying to get my large format printer working again.
It is a wonderful machine which produces prints on watercolour paper which is fantastic for my photographs, but aside from this I have it calibrated to produce prints that match those printed in magazines, something that is essential when I am producing my own advertisements for
different publications. Until now everything that I supply to different magazines matches my own prints.

Something that is very important, especially when trying to portray art at its best,
in fact I must spend more time each month photographing different peoples creations,
and then trying to match them with a print than anything else I do.

Hhhhhmmmmmmmm! Maybe not, I can think of a lot of other things, like packing parcels, queuing at the post office, replying to people who liked something they found here at the weekend but now want to know "what the best price is for cash", or fending off people selling advertising on the telephone.

Today, in between all of the above I have had one serious problem.
Our 'Jim Malone' exhibition [which is ever present on my mind] which opens in less than two weeks had a serious setback.
The invitations were printed incorrectly.
Somehow out of the six pages page number five was printed twice.
In reality I don't suppose anyone other than Jim and myself would really care.
Indeed Jim was lovely about it when I called him to tell him that the box of invitations that were on there way to him were rubbish.
"Well that's not a real problem is it, as long as they have the date correct", he answered, in his calm gentle way.
I was grateful that this was his response and it made me feel better about things, but on top of my last week I didn't need this happening now.
However, the printers were fantastic and have re-printed everything and they sent a new batch
directly to Jim, mine will follow tomorrow.
So anyone waiting don't worry I haven't forgotten you.

It's amazing how little things can get on top off you and pull your spirit down.
I know the world isn't conspiring against me, it's just that sometimes it feels like it.
Or as Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols once said:
"just because your paranoid doesn't mean that they're not out to get you".
I don't think that this has any real relevance here, but it is one of my favourite quotes.

So, on a much nicer and lighter note I was thrilled to get a letter from the talented sculptor Lorell Lehman.
Lorell who lives in Australia has agreed to exhibit with us next year.
She describes her work as "dolls" but that is never how I would describe them.
They are your dreams brought to life, I really can't believe that her creations don't eat, drink and breath. They are just so life like.
We have lots of discussions and ideas to bounce around before the exhibition which is in October 2011 but I REALLY can't wait to see what she creates.
She has told me that she is keeping secret from everyone [she has an army of fans] what she is creating for the show so that it will be a surprise for everyone.
Whats that?
Well that's except from me, which shows that she doesn't know me well enough as secrets are meant to be passed on as far as I'm concerned.
But to fair to us both I will only show "peeks" [large ones] as the year progresses.

So with over a years notice I expect to see you all here, no excuses.

Above is the offending advertisement [before and after] and a couple of Lorell's incredible creations.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Well, I have stopped feeling sorry for myself now, although I still miss the pictures I lost.
It has been strange thinking "I know what will be good to show on the blog", only to realise that it no longer exists. This has given me another day of trying to catch up and re-doing simple things like price cards and leaflets.
I will get there eventually.

Today started 2 hours earlier than usual as the artist Rima Staines was passing through and wanted to collect something from me, so just for once I jumped [fell] out of bed early and arrived here in time to meet her.
She had driven all the way from Dartmoor where she now lives, so I asked about her long journey. It surprised me to learn that she was very nervous of driving, something I found strange as she had before settling in Devon spent a year living and driving around the country
in a converted 'horse box'.
She told me that she got lost and ended up driving through London.
"Oh no, I would hate that, I get really nervous there now", I told her.
Which is true, but also strange as I have spent most of my life working, driving to and around London. I suppose I have turned into a "country bumpkin".
Although the locals wouldn't agree, and often comment "your from London aren't you" with an air of suspicion.?
Leaving a great big question mark hanging.

It was after Rima left and I drove to see my picture framer that I realised that maybe I was now more "country" than "city" in the way my life has changed.
As usual when I arrived at the 'framer's' house I parked the car on the grass in front of his gates. I must explain that he lives in one of the prettiest [most visited]
villages in the country.
I found him sitting in the garden enjoying the rare sunshine.
His garden is very overgrown with weeds but here and there amongst them are some lovely
old fashioned "cottage flowers. So of course for a while we talked gardens, flowers and when best to plant tomatoes and courgettes.
[I must confess here that all I ever do is talk about gardening, the reality of actually getting any done is left to Irene].
Having sorted out the garden, the weather and the state of the country we then decided upon my frames and I left to return to the gallery.
I jumped in the car and set off, but just as I started to move a police car drove very slowly past,
"what have I done" I thought as I saw one of the policemen shaking his head.
They carried on by, so I proceeded on my way and eventually turned onto the road.
"Police, what are they like"? I thought.
A little while later I realised that I had been driving along the pavement when they passed,
which made me think "I always do that'.
But where we live so do a lot of other people in the villages.
"What's the problem with that".
It made me think that maybe I ought to get out more and visit the city as I don't remember
them driving on the pavements in London.

Oh, the pleasures of running a rural gallery.
If only there were people I could be a rich man by now.
Maybe I am, but in other ways.

I thought today, " I must take some pictures otherwise I can't blog", then I remembered that I have emailed various things in the past, so here I am showing a few gallery 'cards' that I retrieved from an old mail to my printers.
They show different works that we have or have had in the gallery, there are nine in total and
the only problem with them is people ask can they have a full set.
I don't know how but I'm sure that I could capitalise on that.

Friday, 14 May 2010

A Day once dawned, and it was beautiful
A day once dawned from the ground
Then the night she fell
And the air was beautiful
The night she fell all around

So look see the days
The endless coloured ways
And go play the game that you learnt
From the morning.

This isn't the post that I had intended, plus it's also two days later than I had intended.
But as they say "the best laid plans".

After my last post I was determined to finish working on a picture that was started about two years ago, then to use it as a post and to tell you all about the taking of it.
It was to be a photograph that was my interpretation of the famous 'Lady of Shallot' painting.
The picture was to be created from 25 different photographs that I had taken two years ago,
The model in the picture was the young woman who featured in my last post.
I had put the picture on "hold" after spending a week working on it, putting the different elements together, I had recognized that it was going to be a mammoth task so I "put it aside for another day".
Last week I had a mail from the model [what patience she has].
"How is the picture going"?

I determined that I would finish the picture and make it the focus of this post.

I did finish the picture, and to me it was beautiful and perhaps the best that I have ever done.
Who knows?
No one will ever see it.
As I tried to save the finished picture [that had taken about 70 hours to finish] my computer
decided that" enough was enough", and died, along with that picture.

I was devastated, I had so wanted to show Sarah [the model] how all of her efforts had been
worthwhile [the boat sank, she nearly drowned, I lost my camera in the water, but it was fun].
The picture exists in my mind, and that is where it will stay.
After getting over the loss of that photograph I then realized that the majority of my last 5 years worth of photographs had also "gone forever".
In the scheme of things it isn't that important although I was sad at the loss.

The next day I purchased a new computer [ Apple Mac] and I have spent the last couple of days trying to get "myself working again".

I always play music on the computer, most of it stored, but of course I had lost that also.
I had to listen to something so I played a CD that my son Sam had given me.
"You will like this Dad, I think you will want to play it in the shop".
I had put it aside with the intention of listening "when I had time".
That had been a mistake.
I loved it at the first hearing, it was gentle and seemed like "old good music".
The CD was called 'Pink Moon' and was by Nick Drake.

"He's really good I thought", then did a google search about him.
He had died long ago.
If he had lived he would have been older than myself, as it was he was the age of Sam, my son.
He died a troubled young man who couldn't cope with life and suffered from great depression.
Anti-depressants, caused his death.

I sat here late at night with the lights off, feeling low, thinking of the pictures I had lost, but enjoying this beautiful music.
Of course it had me thinking about life, the post I would have done, the best laid plans, and of course my son. Without a doubt I was feeling low and had tears in my eyes.
Then, a knock at the door.
It was Sam, "hi Dad I've come to see your new computer".
Some things are meant to be.

I had no pictures for a post so I looked through those I had saved to CD and found this old one.
After years of not seeing it I found it "nice".
It suited my mood and I felt fitted the words of Nick Drake's last song.

Monday, 10 May 2010

A little while ago I mentioned how I disliked the use of blogs to promote "ME".
So, ever the hypocrite here I go.
I didn't intend for it to be a "ME" post but I was starting to get very annoyed with myself for not 'posting' enough. What had been intended as a daily record of events had slowly turned into a weekly 'sum-up'.
Yesterday I decided that I must at least do three postings a week otherwise I might as well give up. With that thought in my mind I knew what today's would be about as it was an easy one.
Most of the trouble is having time to take photographs, as a blog is no good without them, so today's wasn't going to be too much of a problem.
I may have mentioned a long time ago that the gallery was originally intended to be a showplace for my photographs.
This was back in the days before I discovered a whole world of exciting art "out there".
Today as I look around the walls out of the 30 pieces of art on display only one picture is by me, and that is something that I feel very comfortable with. My own work I see nothing but faults with and it annoys me to look at it, but other peoples art I love and can not fault, and nothing gives me greater pleasure than having something new, exciting and different on the walls.
However, I have been showing my photographs with a very well known picture library for a long time. This means that they are shown to a very wide market worldwide. 
Occasionally one of the pictures gets used for a book or CD cover, which is something that still gives me a little bit of a "buzz", especially when the picture was important to me.

People often think that if something is published that it must mean "loads-a-money".
If only. The reality is that companies trade on ego's.
Ego, well that's my middle name, or it is when it comes to my pictures, so in the past I have been more than happy to accept whatever was offered [which isn't much].

I have had some fantastic times taking the most unusual of photographs, even one involving a 
poor girl laying in a stream in October, that, and another equally strange but fun photo-shoot I promise I will tell you about later this week.

See, I'm really getting into the swing of this "look at me thing".
Which is one reason that it bothers me to mention my pictures, but two things have happened in a couple of days which has them on my mind.
Firstly, one of the UK's most renowned 'fine art' picture library's contacted me to ask would I consider placing more of my work with them, secondly, a young woman who has been a model for me in the past [one of the story's I will mention] got in touch after two years asking about doing more photographs with her.
As a result, I have placed a lot of my work with a new library and I am busy trying to work out locations and ideas for new pictures with the young woman.
The new photographs will take a long time to come to fruition but the excitement of having a project of my own outside the worries of the gallery is something to look forward to.
So, today has been one of "digging" out old pictures to look at [and feed my enthusiasm], and sending lots of pictures off to a new home.
Maybe in time you might get to see them in a book shop or supermarket, in fact my wife once called me to say "I'm in the supermarket and I have a book in my hands with one of your pictures on the cover".
Wow! Fame at last, mind you I only received £60 for it, but what's that compared to an inflated ego?

So just in case you don't stumble across one of my pictures here are a few.
The first two featuring Sarah the model who has been in contact and who you will be hearing more about soon.
The others are just pictures that I like.
Well, that was an easy post, having pictures ready to show, maybe there is something to be said for this self promotion thing after all.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

This week I have started to feel that running a gallery is almost like working in an office, and that is something that I would have hated to do.
So why have I got myself into this situation, where so little time seems to be devoted to the things and people that I want to be involved with?
I suppose that it is inevitable really, the more time that I become involved with some artists, the more I have  wanted  to tell the world about them [and us] and as a result more time is spent making telephone calls and writing to people in the hope that I can convince them that this artist or artists 'really' are worthy of a little of their time.
This week has been totally devoted to promoting and designing invitations for this months
'JIM MALONE  2010 Exhibition'.
I would never have before understood that exhibiting a life long hero can be a terrible thing. You tend to put these artists on such a high pedestal in your imagination that whatever you try to do to represent them and their art it will forever fall
short of what you feel that you owe them.
In reality I owe Jim Malone nothing at all. Nothing that is if you can discount years of pleasure that his work has given me. Every day I fill one of his mugs with coffee, enjoy the drink, then for a few moments look at the small mug that I have drunk from and think.
"I love this mug".
One day I know it will get broken, sad as I will be it won't matter when compared with the pleasure that it has given me for the past 30 years.
So here I am thinking "what an awful week",
a week spent writing about someone I have admired for a life time.

Now it's not seeming like a bad week at all, but it has been a week of "administration".
That's something that when we opened I had never understood or realized would be inevitable, so for me it has been a week of frustration.
I have so wanted to talk and get excited by different artists that I have felt trapped.
Until last night, when I had arranged to collect some new work from the artist Jackie Morris.
Jackie lives about six hours away in a beautiful remote location that she often describes on her own blog. In my imagination  I often think of it as "heaven is only six hours away".
Of course it isn't, as I have slowly come to understand that every artist has a life full of troubles and worries the same as we all have, the only difference is theirs occur at their homes and not
there workplace.
Whoops! I got that totally wrong, their workplace is their home, so it is worst.
In the past people like me who had employment, no matter how bad, were able to walk away at the end of the week and return to their sanctuary, "home", and for a while sanity, peace of mind, comfort and relaxation charged up those batteries ready for Monday morning.
What if everyday was Monday morning?
Realities of producing work and surviving are a constant thought with no guaranteed
pay cheque at the end of each month.
Worrying, to say the least.
Along with artists this is where I now find myself.
Somewhere between "heaven and hell", so why should I moan about a week spent doing administration? It is all for a good reason, for myself and artist alike.
It's just that I prefer dreaming talking and getting excited about art, not writing about it.

So, back to the collection of Jackie's art.
I had arranged to meet a friend of hers at a beautiful pub about an hours drive away from the gallery. Her friend, Robin had collected the pictures from her, saving me another 5 hours driving [plus 6 back] so I was very grateful for the reduced journey.
I left the gallery early, something that bothered me as there is always so much there to occupy my time, and no day ever seems long enough.
However, I found myself at the meeting place almost an hour early,
"an hour of wasted time"
Were my initial thoughts and I started to think of the things that I should have been getting on with.
Half a pint of cider later I started to realize that there were no more
important things to do than what I was doing then,
waiting for some beautiful art.
The evening turned into one of pleasure, Robin the courier was such a nice "gentle" man, and
full of so many different stories about Jackie and her current work it wasn't long before I became excited, just hearing about what she was doing and planning.
We talked briefly of her planned exhibition with us later this year, then, of course as the conversation involved the Gallery I bored poor Robin with the tales of "my awful week".
Time flew by [I find it does that when I'm talking]
When I  eventually paused for breath he said "shall we do the exchange" [which caused a few glances, "drug deal going down"] it made me stop and think.
"What a lucky person am I"?
Outside a remote thatched country pub, loading my car up with beautiful art on a tranquil
early summer evening.
Tell me, "how many people are that fortunate"?

So today I have had everything in a different state of complexion in my mind and suddenly a week of designing, then re-designing invitations doesn't seem so bad at all.
It has also been a day of putting out new art, changing the appearance of the gallery and
notifying customers about new work that has arrived.
Apart from the Jackie Morris new pictures , that started selling ten minutes after going on display [to a really nice family] I had some sculptures from a young woman named
Helen Nottage, plus some new pieces from Karen.

Two of Karen's pieces I have photographed and am showing here because they have both disappeared to different American buyers and I want to have a record of them as they were here for such a short time, so short in fact that I couldn't even pretend that they were mine, which is something that I tend to do after a day or so,
after all the shop is my own personal collection.
Just for a while.

Helen's work is of a totally different nature, it is viewed by some people as "disturbing".
To me it is, "disturbingly beautiful".
She came to us two years ago as a young student, shy, nervous and unsure, now to my great pleasure her work is featuring in an auction at 'Bonhams' later this year.
"Bugger", that's another artist through my fingers.
Or maybe not.

Above we have a quick 'snap' of one of Jackie's new pictures [taken through the window], Karen's sculptures and then of course Helen's lovely work.