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 30 August 2012

As many people know at times I can be a little bit of a cold hearted person,
and if not cold hearted then certainly cynical.

Like every other retail outlet we are besieged by people coming in collecting for various charities,
"good causes" or maybe just for the local boy scouts, as there seems to be this feeling that anyone with a shop must have lots of money. I suppose the thinking behind this is that if we have [collectively] all the things that people want to own then of course we must be rich.
"You've got what we want" = wealth.
Doesn't make sense to me but it does to anyone collecting.

Initially when we opened the gallery and "collectors" came in I thought it was the norm to hand over money or goods to help there cause, so even though it irked a little at times, I would try to help.
Eventually I realised that this was happening about 2-3 times a month and it started to annoy me.
Speaking to other shop owners I was made aware that I had obviously been put on the "soft touch" list.
I was advised that I should do what the others do and tell them to go away.

I now have no problem at all with telling any "good cause" collectors to "close the door on their way out". As a result I now rarely get bothered except for the occasional opportunist with no credentials and dressed as Superman coming in and telling me he is collecting for "????????", which amounts to himself. It works, it seems if you embarrass people enough they will give you money to go away.
So, having established that there is truth to the claims that I have no heart,
I will tell you of a recent episode.

It was past 10am one morning, I hadn't been open for more than a few minutes when
a well dressed man and woman walked in. 
"An early sale, could be a good sign for the day", were my selfish thoughts.
Then I noticed the folders they were holding as they approached the counter.
"I'm sorry, whatever you are collecting for I'm not interested. It's not personal but I won't give you anything", was my opening conversation.

[What ever happened to "good morning]?

"I totally understand how you feel but could we just tell you what we are trying to do"?

"No, I'm not interested. I have people like you coming in collecting for various things every week,
if I gave every time I would have nothing and have to start a collection for me and my family". 

"We understand this, and really do appreciate your position, but can we tell you what we are doing"?

"Thinks"[Wow these guys were really asking for it and I was going to give it to them].

"You must be having a laugh, what makes you think I have money or goods to give away?
You don't knock on the doors of ordinary home owners and beg from them so why pick on me?
Do I look rich? [I was wearing my usual jeans and T shirt]".

"I know that it must seem unfair to you Sir, but we are just trying to collect very special things".

"Thinks"[What they want some more? OK they can have it].

"I'm sick of people like you coming in all the time collecting for this, collecting for that, a new Scout
hut, a new playing field, new footballs for the local school, oh please support us we need your help.
I don't ever see you supporting my gallery".

"Thinks" [Boy was I telling them]

" Could we quickly explain what we are after, then we will leave"?

"Thinks" [Jesus, these people are really asking for more, and I'm going to give it to them].

"You want money? OK I will tell you where 3 local millionaires live just along this road, then you can go and bother them because I am telling you that you will get nothing from me, my heart is closed".

Thinks"[That should do it].

" We just need special things and we thought this was the best place to come to".

The conversation went on for sometime, back and forth. Too long for me to record.
My thoughts were, 'these people are really serious, they just keep turning the other cheek. I think they deserve to be listened to'.

"OK, tell me what it is you are after, but whatever it is you won't get it".

They then started to explain that they were collecting for research into male cancers, which for some reason receive very little funding but from which many men die.
Apparently it seems that male cancer research isn't too fashionable and most of the funding comes from charity work. It seems that the real funding goes elsewhere.

They talked for about 20 minutes and they captured my interest, mainly because they were so passionate [after all anyone who had put up with my deliberate rudeness must be passionate].
They explained that they understood that the public were bombarded by different charities and had become immune to them, so they had set out to try and raise as much money as they could in one day.
A day full of different events and culminating with an auction.
"We are trying to find things that money can't buy, then let people buy them. Different people suggested that we come here to your gallery".

I was flattered and yes without a doubt I had become moved.
Also, I am a male [Irene begs to differ], and a fortunate one. I am healthy.
I promised that I would try to find something for them.

About two weeks later I met the artist/author Jackie Morris at a large art event.
I have known Jackie for some time and what I had learnt in that time is that she has a large heart.
So knowing she had the immanent publication of a new book I approached her with a plan in mind.

I told her of my visit from the "beggars" and how they had broken me down and moved me with their 
obvious passion and good intentions and explained that I wanted to do something.
To be precise, I wanted 'her' to do something to help 'them' and which would give 'me' all the credit
Those weren't my real thoughts but that is what it amounted to.
I asked would she do a unique illustration in the frontispiece of her unpublished book so that it could be auctioned.

Without a pause she said "OK, but I might not get it done until tomorrow, so come and see me before you go home". [The event was on for days]

I did return to see her many times and on each occasion she was signing her different books for the many fans that had come to visit her, but I didn't see any sign of "my" book illustration happening.
At the end of the event she explained that things had just been too hectic and that she would have to post it on to me.
"Don't forget, it's important to me", I told her.

A few days later I received an email from her telling me that she was far too busy and wouldn't have time to fit something like that in.
I was stunned, this wasn't like Jackie. Sure I know it was asking a lot and maybe I had asked too much at a time when I knew she had a lot on her plate, but this wasn't the Jackie I knew.
What could I do now I had no plan B?

Two days later as I was sitting doing paperwork when the postman came in [he had called earlier],
"sorry I forgot this", he said handing me a small parcel.

"Hhhhmmmm, wonder what this is".
Of course it was the book from Jackie, complete with a unique illustration at the front and signed.
Something money couldn't buy. Something only one person would ever own.

I had forgotten just how well Jackie understands my volatile nature and how I have no time for artists that consider themselves more important than the rest of the population.
How she must have laughed, I bet she was hoping that I would call and have a "rant" about
self important artists [then she would have laughed more].

What can I say?
A lovely gesture from a lovely [and far too busy] woman.
I feel humbled by her generosity.

As a result on September 22nd a very special book, a true "one of a kind" by a special woman will be auctioned and with luck raise enough money to make a difference to the lives of many men.

Sunday 26 August 2012

All of the time that I had been travelling [enjoying myself] and collecting various different works it
had been very much in my thoughts that there was an exhibition to set up on my return.
However this was not going to cause as much stress and panic as the usual show,
the reason for this is that all of the exhibits had been delivered well in advance of the opening.
In the past on some occasions we have had work turn up the day before
[even on the day] the opening, to say that this increases the stress would be something of an understatement, as a result I will often be sitting here at 2.am the morning before
still typing out the price list, the excitement of this wore off some years ago.
This time it was very different.
The very last of the art arrived here with two weeks to spare, what is more amazing is that the
three artists involved all live in France, so the logistics,
the packing and shipping was even more involved than what is normal.
What a refreshing change it is to be involved with artists that understand that you need their help to
create a successful exhibition.
So returning from my trips I was excited at the thought of preparing the new show.
The invitations were all printed so it was an enjoyable period setting up the exhibition and even
having time to re-arrange things until we were completely happy.
I have decided that I prefer this to doing it the day after the opening.

The three artists involved are, Melanie Bourget, Louise Gardelle and Christine Amelie Petit.
Sculptor, potter and painter.
We have shown work by Louise ever since we opened 7 years ago and it seems strange to see that she now has a loyal following here in the Suffolk countryside. People come in occasionally talking as if she is a good friend and we have requests for news of fresh pieces every week.
Melanie is new to us although we have had a few pieces on show for a few months to create
interest in her sculpture.
Christine, approached me after plans for the exhibition were already in motion.
It seemed the obvious thing to invite her to be included in the event, luckily she agreed.
For a while in my mind the exhibition was titled 'Three French Hens', in fact all my paperwork
and computer files have that as a heading.
Fortunately before the invitations went to be printed Irene became involved so we opened a show
with the title 'Trois Femmes Francaises'.

The reaction has been really good, with many people returning to look and to purchase.
I think that it is an exhibition that given enough time would be a sell out as "word of mouth"
is bringing new visitors daily.
Paul, the local hairdresser has told me that it is the talk of his salon, I am not surprised when considering some of the various hairstyles shown in the different pieces.
I look forward to him telling me that someone came in asking for a "Melanie Bourget no. 3" style.

This has been a fun exhibition from the very start and it still has a little longer to run.
The artists are professional, their work is beautiful, but the best thing of all is:
my French has improved.
"Au revoir mes amis".

Tuesday 21 August 2012

It was only as I thought to write this post that I understood just how far behind I am with many things,
emails, letters, telephone calls, picture taking, web site updating, calls, etc, etc.
It seems that the daily life of just running the gallery has taken me away from more things than I had
imagined, I suppose that is a good sign as it means we are busy, busy doing many things.
This is also the time of year when I tend to do a lot of travelling, as there are interesting fairs, events and exhibitions happening all over the country.
So in a short period of time I seem to squeeze in a years worth of driving.
In theory this should be good as it means that I return with lots of new art plus also I should have lots to write about, telling you of the many interesting people that I have met and the places I have seen.
Somehow though it all just becomes a blur as one journey merges with another, in fact I often have to concentrate to remember where I have been. Of course this isn't helped by the fact that one 'Travelodge'
seems exactly the same as the last.
Maybe I'm getting confused, perhaps I have only stayed at one, who knows?
So I thought before all of my memories where erased I would just make a small mention of one trip
while it stays in my memory.

I travelled North, and as usual if the opportunity arises I will make this coincide with a stay at what has become my "home from home",
 The Green Dragon Inn, at Hardraw in Yorkshire.
It is a place that I am made to feel so welcome that at times I  have often driven 5 hours home with the door key in my pocket, this is usually because Mark the owner insists on having a "cuppa" and a chat about artists before I set off,
The quick coffee ends up taking an hour and a half by which time I forget I'm a customer, shake his hand, saying " see you in a couple of weeks".
It seems natural to leave with my own door key.
However on this trip "there was no room at the Inn", except for my last night before I returned home,
so for this adventure like many before the car was my bedroom.
But it was a bedroom with a fantastic view, 'Ullswater' in the Lake District.

To say that the weather had been bad in England would be something of an understatement,
while the rest of the World struggled with heat and drought here we were almost sinking in rainwater.
So after a day spent at a ceramic fair my evening and night was spent by the lake.
Although I have done this many times before it has never been like this visit, the area was deserted.
No campers, indeed no holiday makers. It seemed I had the lake to myself for the evening and night.
What a night.
I think that every conceivable weather change happened within 12 hours, as a result although I was able to witness some incredible changes in light, colour, mist, hail and rain I didn't take one photograph
until the following morning.
That morning started with rain, then sun for a short time then back to rain, then sun, then rain.............
Above is one of the early good periods. 

Luckily after another long day at the ceramic fair I was able to set off for home and a real bed.
The Green Dragon, of course.
Some of the treasures that I collected at the fair I will have to show at a later date or I will never
get this finished, but I will mention that I "bumped" into a fellow blogger at the show.
An American potter named Dan Finnigan.
It was a genuine pleasure to meet the real person, plus an added pleasure to find him such a real 'gentle'man. I do hope we meet again one day.

So, Green Dragon and 'comfy' bed. I was on my way.
I had forgotten that they were holding their annual "Gathering", which is an incredible, not to be missed Folk music event. I mean "real" folk music.
The kind where local farmers turn up, with their guitars, banjo's, accordions, flute etc,etc,
 sit beside famous musicians in the various rooms and all lose themselves in music.
How could I have forgotten?
This was the reason that they could only fit me in for one night, hundreds of people had descended upon this remote hillside inn, plus me.
I had been reserved the best suite at the Inn, which is an indication of what nice people 
[Mark & Yvonne] are, but it was directly above one of the Bar rooms where the music was underway
as I arrived. The atmosphere is so good I was determined to enjoy some of it, but after half an hour and a pint of cider I decided that I was "just too tired".
I hated myself for giving way to tiredness and knew that I would regret it at a later date, but upstairs I went, showered and climbed into my enormous bed.

I forgot to mention that the rooms all have large open Fireplaces, there was one in my room and one 
alight in the room below, this meant that all sound travelled.
Still it wasn't a problem, after a night in the car I would sleep though anything, I did for a while.
I awoke,
It was two in the morning, the sound of a beautiful voice had crept into my mind.
Up the chimney came a woman's voice sing "Sounds of Silence".
For a few seconds I lay savouring it, thirty seconds later with trousers on [just] I was downstairs
witnessing this "magic".
That is the only way I can describe the event that I found.
A room lit by firelight, people of all ages playing instruments, violin, guitar, flute and voice.
The songs were all from an earlier generation, my generation.
The evening finished with a man singing a love song to his wife, they were sitting on a giant old Oak settle, barely illuminated by the fire.
He sang that he loved her and she sat twisting her hands looking at the floor like a young girl,
it was wonderful and I was so pleased to have witnessed this ending to the event.

The next morning when I came downstairs for breakfast it was as nothing had happened,
the inn was spotless and empty except for me.
As Yvonne said to me "it seems like it was a dream".
It was to me, but seeing that she was still wearing last night's cloths I imagine it had been a nightmare,
cleaning and preparing throughout the night.

So I left the "Dragon" with its crazy "No Hippy" sign
[you don't find many of them in North Yorkshire], and their waterfall,
heading North and East.
Once again travelling through four seasons in a day, I visited a glass maker and a sculptor and
I think the pictures show it wasn't a wasted journey.
But as they say that is for another day.

Plus loads has happened since.