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.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

I'm usually in the gallery seven days a week,
which although I enjoy it does mean that I miss out on a lot of important things in life.
Little things like seeing sunsets or rainbows, the colour of the sky, the shape of the clouds,
the changing of light after a storm. All things I love.
Also I miss out on more important things, like having a relationship with my wife and children, spending time with them and my lovely dogs, and just being at home a little bit.
But, the gallery does seem all important and I am determined not to leave a "stone unturned"
when it comes to making a success of it.
So most of the time I really enjoy being here, but, just every now and again I wish I wasn't.

I never expect any visitor to purchase anything, I fully appreciate that these are uncertain times
and that the art we show is not cheap [although it is certainly an investment].
So I am used to people asking "can we just look".
Of course they can, the majority of the pleasure that I have comes from ordinary folk who just
take great enjoyment in what we show, the majority of them are a great pleasure and the questions they ask give me satisfaction as I am able to close my eyes and picture the artist, their studio, home, and many times the sources of their inspiration.
This is great fun and a great pleasure to pass on to interested people.
When they leave, usually with an apology for not purchasing it is not a problem,
they have enriched my day.
As an example a family visited this week. They were interested in and asked about many things.
They wanted to know the origins of the gallery, what I used to do, how I found artists,
and generally just what it was like to lead this strange life that holds no guaranteed pay packet.
I answered every question honestly but finished with a comment that I probably had only one
hour of real pleasure [enjoying the art] each day.
Before they left the father told me
" let me tell you that you have just given us our one hour of pleasure today".
How lovely and how rewarding.

Bu, it's not always like that, sometimes it's like today.

Many of the display area's in the gallery are "sand pits", which is good and bad.
They have to be combed to give patterns in the sand. When freshly combed and with sculptures or ceramics displayed upon them they look fantastic, and I am often told
"what a fantastic idea".
Unfortunately people like to play with sand, I don't mean children I mean 30 - 70 year olds.
Often to my great irritation I will find a name written in the display or a "July luvs Peter"
[I hope he loves her because I don't].
It takes me about 20 minutes to remove the exhibits, carefully smooth and comb the sand and then replace them, so that when a serious person comes in they are displayed at their best.

So today after having to do this three times [yes, there are a lot of brain dead people out there]
I was feeling less than happy.
This was followed by an obnoxious man asking for a large discount if he purchased two sculptures. Rather than ask him when he last asked this in a supermarket I gently explained
that everything was "priced to sell" and that almost everything was priced by the artists.

"Can we have them anyway"? His wife asked him.
"Do what you want, but don't ask my approval, if we don't get money off I don't want them".
He Replied [such a nice man].

I explained to Sir, that if he could make them, and make them cheaper that I would buy them from him.
Guess what?
They left.

I don't enjoy days like today, they leech all pleasure that comes from being here.
Still, the sun is shining so I am going to close [what! its not 9pm yet] and go home.
Tomorrow is another day and there a lot of lovely people in the world and the chances are at
least one of them will come in here.
In fact one did today but it is just a measure of how a few small unpleasant experiences can
outweigh the good when measured over the day.

Tomorrow I hope to have some exciting [for me] news that I will want to share, complete with pictures I hope.

Meanwhile one of today's better moments was taking the long overdue pictures shown above.
At the top is the shrine by Novie Trump, titled "Dreaming of Flight".
Both sides are shown, on the reverse there is an egg behind a glass window. I love it.
Next are a pair of "Boxing Hares" by the talented Nichola Theakston, we haven't had any of her work for about a year and it is lovely to be showing something new, exciting and fresh by her.
Last of all is a beautiful, strange sculpture by Helen Nottage.
"The beauty Within" is what I have named it, but I think that it also says a lot about us all.
The person within is revealed, something that not often happens.
Three [four but one is a pair] very different works that all excite me in their own different way,
all of them I love and feel very fortunate to be showing.


  1. John, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your not 'discounting' my work when people ask. I had a gallery in St Davids that sold my work once.One day they rang and said that they had a man who wanted to buy my red winged angel but he didn't want to pay the £1 700. So I said that that was fine, he didn't have to. He could buy something else. They sold it to him cheaper anyway.
    I put my heart and soul into my work and hope that when people buy a piece it is because they have fallen in love with it. I sell dreams, not second hand cars. I would never dream of going into a bookshop and asking for a discount. It makes me feel cheap and undervalued, like I am trying to 'trick' someone out of money that they don't want to spend. Like I am a con artist. I realise that for some people this is a game, but it is a game that I do not want to play.
    So, I just want to say thank you. I think people forget that the work is hand, heart and soul made, not mass produced and I love it when people have the respect for the maker not to ask for money off.
    Needless tosay I no longer work with the gallery who cheapened my work. And the Red Winged Angel? It is probably worth about £3000 now but I doubt that the charming person who bought it would even think to give me a share of the profit he made. Still, I hope she is happy with him and that he gets pleasure from looking at her. She has beautiful wings.

  2. I read this with great interest, and I commend you for having the committment to keep your gallery alive. One of the greatest pleasures in life is to find the hidden gems in "small" galleries. Places such as yours are essential for art to flourish. They are the places where art is not picked according to fashion, concept and banking; but where artists can showcase their work without fear of London centric censure.
    It pains me that people think work should be cheap, buy one get one free thinking! Art should be bought because it says something to you...and if that sometimes that means that it is out of the reach of my meagre pocket then so be it. I can still enjoy a piece in my head even if it is not on my wall.

    I wish you many more customers like the former and few of the latter and hope there are sales aplenty to keep you solvent.

  3. Thank you Charlotte
    Almost everything we show is out of reach to me also, but it's lovely to
    I always wanted this to be a place where you could discover things, I wanted people to feel that they had found something special that no other person had spotted or seen before.
    When the right people come in for a browse and I hear them say "look at this" or "look what I have just found" it gives me great pleasure.
    This was how I wanted it to be.
    Not haggling over a few pounds just to get a sale.

  4. Bless you. Would you mind very much if I gave your wife a great big virtual hug? Can't decide who I admire more -- the people like you who have the strength and courage and vision to live their dream, or the people like her who love and believe in the people like you. . .

  5. I'm with you, John. I just did a three-day craft fair in Chatham, on Cape Cod. Many lovely people there, but there are always those who think they can bargain with a maker, whether they need to or not. And I have, at times, given money off for multiple purchases. Four bowls, for example, at $20 apiece instead of $25. I'm the maker, I can do that if I think it will help me bring in $80 instead of having four unsold pots in the booth. In fact, I did just that at Chatham, for a woman who was clearly on the edge of not spending her hard-earned money. But I would expect any gallery owner who had my work on his or her shelves to stick by my prices. It's the right thing to do. Good for you.

  6. I'm sure that my wife would like a hug from anyone, I'm never home long enough to give her one.

    I know the feeling Hollis.
    A friend of mine with a small but successful gallery just says to me
    "forget the feelings if it just puts something in the till".
    But I hate the feeling that it leaves. Maker or gallery owner it's not pleasant.