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.

Monday 17 October 2011

While other events have been taking place and occupying most of my attention
it has been business as usual behind the scenes here at the gallery.
Well, not really "as usual", because the past few weeks have seen the arrival of various different
pieces of work.
Some expected and eagerly awaited, some anticipated and some desired but with no expectation that they would ever come to us.
So despite the fact that I have other things to display I couldn't hold back any longer from showing a few pieces.
These are from a Sottish artist, a sculptor from Sussex and another from France.

I have long desired to show their work,
but apart from Melanie Bourget the French sculptor I had all but given up on the other two.

Guy Holder, the wildlife sculptor.
I remember contacting him very shortly after we first opened, I asked if I could show
some of his ceramic Owls.
It was a waste of time as he explained that he had just signed a one year contract to a gallery
in Cambridge, the terms of the contract forbid him to show with any other gallery
within East Anglia.
If you live outside England you will not understand that East Anglia is a very large area
which is made up from three counties, or states.
It is very large and for anyone to enter into such an arrangement they had to be
mad or desperate.
I have since spoken with other artists who had at some time signed with the same gallery,
they all say the same, "never again".

So with Guy I waited a frustrating year before I approached him again.
He was out of his contract but was now designing for companies who were manufacturing his work on a larger scale.
So he was still unable to let me have anything.
I think I remember trying on another couple of occasions but still with no luck.
But never say never.
I am often told that I should forget some people and "just move on",
but unfortunately that isn't my nature.
So a few weeks ago for the first time I met Guy "in the flesh" and told him that I had contacted him in the past..........................................
"Hang on, are you Imagine Gallery"? He asked
"I was about to contact you to ask would you take my new sculptures"?
Yes Please.
So, it goes to show that stubbornness and persistence do sometimes pay off.

I am showing only one piece by Guy at the moment as I want to photograph them all properly so that people will understand why I persisted.

Next, is Melanie Bourget the French sculptor.
I have loved and coveted her sculptures for a long time, and we have corresponded for a while,
so I knew that with her work it was just a case of when and not if.
She recently came to London so we met for the first time.
It was very entertaining trying to converse, with her minimal understanding of English
and with only my "school boy" French we struggled to have a complete conversation.
But with lots of smiling and pointing and picture drawing we came to an agreement eventually.
Unfortunately for me our first meeting coincided with two major exhibitions of her work
in France and then Canada, so my choice was limited slightly, but not that it mattered as I loved everything that she presented me with.
So here is the start of her work with us, next year I am hoping for an exhibition.
We will see.

Last, but by no means least.
These are the paintings of a woman from Scotland
who I have been pursuing for a couple of years.
Kate Leiper.
I had managed to get some limited edition prints from her a while ago
but I was still longing for a few original paintings.
One in particular.
At last week they arrived, including the one I had most desired.
A strange name for an equally strange painting.
"Mine at last", it was such a strange experience to hold it in my hands and be able to study it
properly, instead of just looking at photographs.
Of course I had to show it to the world, so into the window it went just before I left for home.
Next morning, within three minutes of opening it was sold.

I suppose that is what it is all about having a gallery, but sometimes, just sometimes,
it would be nice for things not to sell.
Well at least for a day, any longer and I would start to worry.

So here above are the objects of my desire.
Two of Kate's paintings, two of Melanie's ladies and just one of Guys
[fictitious Owls].

Saturday 15 October 2011

Trying to catch up on neglected jobs I haven't had a chance to show anything else that is being shown in the exhibition.
Why is it that the things that you want to do most always go to the bottom of the list?
I dunno, but it happens everyday.
So today having a brief break from chores I am taking the opportunity to put a few
new pieces on show.

At the exhibition opening Jackie Morris was taking photographs of everything on show,
[unlike me as I totally forgot until it was too late].
Some of her pictures she put on display on her Facebook,
as a result there has been a lot of interest in the work of one woman in particular.
Eleanor Bartleman.

Ellie is a very clever woman, plus a very kind person.
She drove all the way from Devon just to bring me two small sculptures,
she wanted to make sure that they arrived intact,
plus she says that she likes to see where her work will be shown.
This is pretty unusual but certainly very refreshing.
It is a pity that we hadn't discussed it before, as two nights before I drove 10 hours to
Devon and back to collect something else so we could have met up on route.
However, it was lovely to have her visit and to have the time to talk,
and even nicer to open her boxes after she left.
I wanted to wait until she had left because I knew that I would be delighted with what she had
created and I wanted to take my time and linger over each piece.
A little like you did as a child when you were down to the last few unopened presents at Christmas.
Both pieces are beautiful and one is very unusual.
It is a totally different take on 'Little Bo - Peep'.
It explains why maybe she lost her sheep.
The other is equally as beautiful and has a real presence about it.
' To Market, To Market, To Buy A Fat Pig '.
It is lovely but what makes it special is the angelic face and eyes of the young boy.
If he was real he would be in films.

So I thought I had better show them quick before Jackie takes any more credit
for discovering them and Ellie.
Although of course no one discovered her, as she was never lost.
But I am proud to have her here.

Another woman who comes from the same part of the country
[well actually Cornwall but that's close]
is the very clever Jane Ryan.
Jane makes toys, wooden toys for adults.
Actually they are toys for all ages , but I somehow think that the story they tell and with the verses written upon them they are perhaps enjoyed more by "big children".
They all work and are meant to be played with and the three that arrived for the exhibition
were certainly played with at the exhibition opening.
They look very simple but the workings are very complex and very well conceived and crafted.
Regardless of anything else the old wooden plinths that they stand on are a thing of beauty,
I have an image in my mind of Jane spending hours on the beach each day searching for
driftwood, maybe not but it is hard to imagine that they came from anywhere else.
Plus I like the romantic image in my mind.

The piece above is 'March Winds April Showers',
as the handle is turned the woman waters the flowers which then grow.
Very clever.
Her version of 'Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star' sold at the opening but we do still have
'Lavenders Blue Lavenders Green'...........Love Machine.
With a title like that you just know that it is different.

The spoon on the stand is yet another creation from the multi talented Karen.
Simple and beautiful, is the best way to describe it.
With the title it explains itself.
"A Swarm of Bees In June Is Worth A Silver Spoon".
Although the spoon might be antique silver the Bees are cast from Pewter.
Karen created them from clay
"holding them with a toothpick, as they were drying too fast in my fingers".
Then when they had been fired she cast them individually, each individual Bee is beautiful and highly detailed and I couldn't help but ask "wouldn't it have been easier to have cast from life"?
She told me "no", because all of the real detail would be lost and the only way she could show detail was by exaggerating everything.
I have since found this is true as I have seen various insects including Bees that have been cast from life and they all appear fuzzy and blurred.

What she will make next is any ones guess but I just know that the best of Karen's work is still to come and I know that she will go onto great things.
It is not if, just when.

Monday 10 October 2011

Although I intend to I never get to write anything before an exhibition as it seems
that the last weeks and days disappear in a blur.
A blur of travel and worry.
Travel, because some of the promised work still isn't finished and it means that it wouldn't be
here for the opening unless collected at the last minute.
Worry, because I am never sure if everything will be here and also because you never know
how the opening will go, and the most important priority is that I don't want
to let the artist or artists down.

So as usual thirty minutes before the door was opened I was cleaning, arranging, printing prices, panicking and getting in a sweat.
It's the same every time and I suppose it always will be, as I think that even with another day or even a week I would still find more to do and even more to worry about.
But at last the door was opened to waiting people and the exhibition was underway.

People were viewing, Jackie Morris the illustrator was signing her new book
and I was enjoying a glass of wine.
Well, to tell the truth I wasn't enjoying it I was just drinking it because there was the rest of the day to get through and still much to worry about.
There wasn't really, but I think I just enjoy worrying.

I had been looking forward to the arrival of many of the pieces of art that were being shown
and it was a real pleasure to see everything set out and to be able to enjoy the things that I
had only known from photographs.
It is strange that although I wish for everything to sell at an exhibition a part of me wants nothing to go, so that I can have the continued pleasure of looking at things. In theory I should have that pleasure for at least a couple of weeks but we have always had a policy that if people have made long journeys to come here then we would allow them to take their purchase with them.
Fortunately many people are from a thirty mile radius but many do undertake journey's of
many hours to be arrive here.
The result of this is that some of the exhibits that I would like myself and others to enjoy vanish sooner rather than later.
So it is some of the "disappeared" that I will show first.

The very first sale [apart from many of Jackie's books] was for a most unusual sculpture,
made by a very unusual person.
The artist is a lovely lady named Lorell Lehman, who unfortunately for me lives in Australia.
Unfortunately, because I would love to show much more of her work,
but I think that the distance will make it too hard.
Everything she makes is innocent and beautiful, a little like the creator.
Although, perhaps her Goblins and other such creatures aren't so innocent.

Whatever, Lorell's contribution to the exhibition was a inspired by her
favourite childhood nursery rhyme.
"A Pobble".
In fact "the" Pobble.
'The Pobble Who Has No Toes', written by Edward Lear.

I confess I had never heard of this, and when receiving photographs prior to the arrival I wasn't sure what to think.
Then I read the Rhyme/Poem, and instantly I fell in love with him.
The story is so silly, old fashioned, innocent and full of nonsense, it is impossible not to love it,
or the sculpture that it inspired.
In fact this sculpture shows Pobble before he lost his toes, but! Protecting his nose, because.

"it's perfectly known that a Pobble's toes
Are safe,-----provided he minds his nose."

It was a piece of sculpture that only comes along "once in a long while".
I was sorry to see him go, but happy to know that he is now living with two of the nicest
customers we have known. So I think he will be happy and cared for.
The pictures above show him about to embark on his swim across the Bristol Channel.
His bell is of course to warn ships away, but I'm sure you realised that anyway.

The other picture shows a totally different sort of work.
It was made by my best friend Karen, and again it is total nonsense but in an instant tells
what the exhibition was all about.
"Four & Twenty Blackbirds", who wouldn't recognise that?
Although I did hear someone looking through the window the evening before the opening
telling people that there were only 21 Blackbirds.
Maybe he was the village idiot [like every village/town we do have one or maybe two].

I am so pleased that Karen created this piece for us as I know that she is under a lot of pressure
and has a baby due soon, so she didn't need me calling saying
"our exhibition is nearly on us".
But typically she managed to make us some special pieces just in time.
She told me that it had been on her mind that "I can't let John down", and I was very moved
by this statement from someone who certainly doesn't need extra pressure at this time.

She also created a VERY unusual clock.
"Hickory, Dickory, Dock...................."
That I didn't have a chance to photograph and never will, as it left with Jackie Morris
who had been undecided about different treasures but eventually left with this unique object,
complete with Mice running up and down and with an Owl perched waiting to catch them.

It is these sort of innocent pieces that made the whole exhibition fun, along with the presence
of the incredible Jackie Morris, who without any complaint talked and signed for hours on end.
She was so nice she didn't even complain about my grumpy nature.
Stress doesn't tend to bring out the best in me.

Thank you to everyone, it was a very enjoyable and light hearted start to an exhibition.

Saturday 1 October 2011

Lots of new things to show and I can't believe that I haven't been displaying them here,
but I have come to understand that I don't enjoy writing and showing things when I feel down.
Unfortunately there has been one prolonged ongoing incident that has been really annoying me and I find it amazing that one bad feeling undermines all of the good things that happen.
But such is life.
I won't mention the subject of of my recent cause for disappointment at the moment as it would detract from what I will write about, and that is not fair for others.
But I will just say the problem was caused by bureaucracy and small minded
"jobsworth" people.

Because of the long lapse I am really behind in talking about current and future events,
one of which is almost upon us.
Anyone who has read things that I have written before will know that we always have on
display some of the original paintings by the Artist, Author, Illustrator
Jackie Morris.
Next week sees the publication of her 28th book [well I think it's 28].
She not only writes and illustrates her own award winning books but also produces the covers of books for many famous authors.
In fact it was only after we started showing her art that I realised that much of it I was familiar with without ever having known that she was the creator.
In fact anyone who has been into a bookshop in the past ten years will probably recognise her art as it is featured on the covers of so many "best selling" books.

So next Saturday we are going to do something that we have never done before,
we are holding a book launch.
Well actually it's not just a book launch it is also an exhibition.
Jackie's new book is an illustrated collection of children's nursery rhymes, so it was decided
[probably by me]
that we would hold an exhibition based upon the theme of "Nursery Rhymes"
to accompany the launch and book signing.
Book signing?
Well that will be something different again because Jackie being the unusual person that she is
doesn't "just" sign her books, she always draws a unique sketch in the front of each book
which makes each unique and collectible in its own way.
So it's Jackie, signing and drawing plus a very unusual exhibition.

I admit that this event is bringing more than its fair share of stress
[referred to at start of post]
and is going to be "close to the wire", as I kept thinking of different people that I would like to participate, as a result there have been lots of late calls made and there is still work being
created by different people.
I know it will all come together at the last minute but at the moment the next week looks like it will disappear in a flurry of trips around the country.
In fact while I am writing this I have just thought of another sculptor who I think would
be interested, but of course it's far too late to contact her, isn't it.
No, yes, no, "oh, don't be stupid John of course it is".
Right that does it, as soon as I have finished this I will call her, after all she must know by now that I'm mad, and would expect nothing less.
Mad and excited by beautiful things, that's me.

Beautiful things?
The new book by Jackie Morris is titled 'The Cat and the Fiddle' but this was a last minute change by the editor as for a long time the book was to be named
'A Rhyme in Time'.
Indeed Jackie had painted the front cover and it was this that became the inspiration
for the exhibition.
The cover was to show her painting of a "magical clock", a clock depicting many famous characters, animals and creatures from nursery rhymes.
I fell in love with the painting of the clock as soon as Jackie sent me an image.
"If only it was a real clock", were my thoughts.
Now it is.
An old friend from childhood who is now an incredibly talented jeweller was persuaded to create the clock as a real working timepiece.
Jonathan Mayle.
I know that Jon understood exactly the amount of work that he was committing to, but for some reason he agreed to "have a go".
Have a go, in Jon's language means "you will get the best clock you can imagine",
and we have done.
In fact it became a collaboration with his artist/sculptor wife Jan, as it was she that undertook to paint the brass figures to replicate the original painting.

Of course the book editor decided to disrupt all of our plans and two weeks before the book
went off to the printers "she" fell in love with another painting and decided that this would be the cover, and guess what?
The title didn't fit the painting so she changed that also.
So the clock painting became the "end plates" for the publication.

I admit that it was a long time before I had the courage to call Jonathan and tell him the news.
Still why should he mind? He had only been working on the clock for two months.
It says a lot for his nature that he took it in his stride, there were no ego problems here.
He continued working on it and finally with the additions of Jan's painting it was finished.

The painting brought to life.
A real working clock, created from copper, brass, silver and gold and including precious stones.
It is now in a case hanging in the gallery and it looks beautiful.
Next week the original painting will hang alongside Jon's creation,
I would love to think that they will find a joint home, they deserve and should stay together.

In memory of the original title and as a dedication to Jonathan's countless hours of work
our exhibition is called "A Rhyme in Time".

As well as many unusual pieces of art there will be other clocks on show,
but none that took as long in the creation as this.

The pictures above show the invitation cover depicting Jackie's inspiring painting.
The clock in the "early" [six weeks] stages.
The back cover showing the clock before being secured in a case.
The inside of the invitation showing various works by different artist's including the one that
has been the cause of my recent upset.
But I will tell you more of that as the artist really deserves
recognition for the effort that she took to be involved in this exhibition.

If anyone wants to order a signed book with unique illustration let me know as we will only
have a limited number and we are expecting a lot of Jackie fans at the opening.