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.

Saturday 24 May 2014

As I sit here writing my eyes keep looking away to a chair that is here in the gallery.
At the moment it stands on a plinth and is shown as a work of art
Of course it functions as a chair but for me it is so much more than that,
It was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh
and it is one of the main reasons that I am sitting here today.

As a young boy I was employed as an apprentice in the printing trade,
of course this was at a time that printing was considered a skill.
At that time for me it was just a job, my very first job.
My main duties were making cups of tea and delivering parcels, I was just the "odd job" boy for five years while I slowly learnt my trade.
Most of my colleagues treated me as just the "boy" with one exception,
that was a young man [he seemed old then] of 25 years old.
His name is Fred Sykes.

By trade he was an engraver and his job was to correct all of the minor flaws that appeared on the copper printing plates, and in those times there were many.
He was a lovely intelligent man and I think that he understood that I didn't really fit with
this "mans" world that I had been thrown into,
an environment where you were measured by how many hours you could work
and how much beer you could drink.
He started to talk to me about art, designers, architects and antiques.


After a year or so, at the end of each day he started taking me to museums and art galleries,
he would bring me books to read about artists he admired
and bit by bit he educated me to the beauty and understanding of Art Nouveau.
In particular two artists he greatly admired.
Archibald Knox
Charles Rennie Mackintosh
As a result I now have a collection of work by Archibald Knox
and a pretty good knowledge of Rennie Mackintosh,
a man whose work has always been my "benchmark" for beauty and good design.

In later years I was even fortunate enough to work for a company that was owned
by a man who told me to design my own workspace, he then employed carpenters to build it for me.
Of course the room was an amalgamation of Mackintosh designs.
I was a lucky employee, and now many years later my employer is my best friend

So one reason or another for many years Charles Rennie Mackintosh has influenced my thoughts.

Recently Irene and Rebecca visited Glasgow to see a friend performing in concert,
the next day they were due to catch an evening flight home, so with no other plans
and with time on their hands they went to visit the Iconic building
The Glasgow School of Art
The greatest work of art created by Mackintosh.
Not only did he design this incredible building but also each and every feature inside,
from doorplates to lights and of course the furniture.
It was completed in 1909 and has been described as the most important building of the past 175 years.
It is a listed building and although it still functions as an art school it is
regarded as a museum to Art Nouveau.

On their arrival home the girls were full of stories of their visit and had many pictures to show me
of "things you would love to see".

Memories of Fred Sykes and his education of me returned, I was soon digging out old books
depicting things that he had told me of and which Irene had now seen,
amongst these was a brochure that he had given me of a man who still created some of 
the furniture designed by Mackintosh.

The result is I am now looking at a chair designed in 1902 but made in 2014,
and it looks so very contemporary.
With my rekindled enthusiasm I just had to have some around the gallery.
Since they arrived I have thought of Fred Sykes a lot, I knew that he would be so proud
to know I have learnt from his many lessons.

Then last night watching the news
like many people the world over I learnt that The School of Art was afire and that so much
of the beautiful building was lost forever.

   For me it is such a sad coincidence.
For many people and especially for Scotland it is a tragedy.

It will be rebuilt, but!

Meanwhile the chairs in the gallery are a reminder for me of a great artist
and my mentor.
Without them both my life would have taken a different path.

Wednesday 21 May 2014

I think that maybe the cover of the invitation for our new exhibition might say it all
Laid back and relaxed.
Of course it is the Irish sculptor Christy Keeney
who I told you about a little while ago.

I have grown used to being "up to the wire" with work arriving close to an exhibitions opening,
but I did know that however close to the date Christy would never let me down.
I admit I was starting to get concerned about how much time I might have available
to change the whole gallery around but I was never concerned
about if it would arrive.

As I explained to the people who asked if Christy's work had arrived yet.
"No, he's an artist."
"What does that mean"?
"It will be here when it's ready and when he is happy with it."
Christy is not laid back he is a total professional, it's just that he doesn't worry as much as me,
and that's just not fair
If I'm worried then I want everyone to worry with me.
 So I understood that his sculptures would arrive in good time
but only when "he"was happy with the results.

So the pictures above show the arrival,
what a fun time that was, it made me wonder why I had ever worried at all,
now it was time to relax and enjoy things for a little.

Whenever any new work arrives it feels like the Christmas times I remember from childhood,
"just what is inside those boxes"?
No matter what else I have to do I always take a long time opening such "presents,"
the anticipation of what might come next is just so exciting.

So much of my time is spent "working in an office" these moments are relished and enjoyed.
These are the times are that make having a gallery worthwhile.

Christy's sculptures are dynamic,
They have no grey area's, people love them or hate them, they are just strong and direct,
In fact he is one of the most admired artist's in our gallery,
his work seems to appeal to people of all age groups.
We are often asked by his admirers "please don't sell that before I come back again".
For some reason his art just connects with a lot of people.
Including myself.

Unfortunately, with this exhibition that presented me with a slight problem.
I "can not" purchase anything from my own gallery.
Many times I want to,
But I decided long ago that I couldn't or we would end up with no stock, and no money.
So, I just look and admire and pretend that everything is a part of my own
private collection.
That's not all bad as at least my collection changes more frequently than most peoples.
But sometimes I do have regrets.

The sculpture above is something that I would have loved to own
I can't explain why but to me it was just beautiful plus also a little bit different for Christy.
I wanted it so badly I was convinced it would be the first piece to sell.
It was.

I spoke with Irene about it on the morning of the opening.
"If you like it, treat yourself and buy it".

"Where would I put it at home"? I answered
As I have boxes and boxes of my own personal collection stored in the garage.
No, it had to be sold, after all that is what we do.
So, it was with regret that I placed a 'Red Dot' on it when it sold.
But it did sell to a very nice collector who I know will enjoy it almost as much as myself.

However, although that was my own favourite there are many unusual sculptures that are on display.
Since they arrived I have been compiling my own "wish list",
so I suppose the pictures shown here are a part of that,
Not in any particular order but they are all sculptures that I recognise as being a little special.
I have admired Christy's work for a long while and many times I have pondered, thinking,
"I will get that for the gallery in a few minutes,"
only to lose out to someone who didn't hesitate.

At least now with his exhibition here I know that we have some of the best pieces available,
Of course later in the year Christy will visit England
and as usual the galleries and collectors will be fighting for his best works.
Meanwhile, it is just nice to understand that only we have the best.

Including this head "DIVA"
A sculpture where he  acknowledges his influence of artists like Picasso.
I can't take it home but at least this week it belongs to me.

Sunday 4 May 2014

Most of the time I write about different artists and their work, on occasions I might talk about the gallery and myself [my favourite subject],
but I don't think that I have ever made much mention of the customers.
When I say customers I don't mean the people who wander in each day but the people who have become our friends and a part of our life.

Let's face it without them we wouldn't exist, but it is about a lot more than that.
They are the people who have an affinity and connection to the art that we display, the customers
that assure us that we are doing the right thing exhibiting the art that we do.
As we all know art is very personal.

A lot of my heart goes into everything that we choose to show, it is very important to me.
It is never about money it is about doing something I believe in,
I then hope that it may turn into money so that we can continue with this crazy lifestyle.
So, the people who return, purchase and speak encouragement are important to us,
as a result they have become friends.

We often think of them and at times become concerned about there well being.
It usually turns out that the person who you were concerned about has been off enjoying a holiday,
while we had been worrying about their health.
If any of them read this blog they will know who they are.

They are the people that when I eventually get home cause me to exclaim
"guess who came in today?"
This then prompts a conversation about them and what they have been up to and when we might see them again.

It is almost the same as when we talk about artists, they are an integral part of our extended family,
as such they are an important part of our life.

So, this post is devoted to one of those customer/friends.

Over a period of a few years we have been visited at each new exhibition by a beautiful lady
who we have come to like very much, her name is Helga.
At the opening of an exhibition she has been one of the first to arrive and the last to leave.
She enjoys art plus she is also an artist.
In fact a well known and collected artist, we have never shown or asked to show her art for different
Firstly, she didn't come to us as an artist and secondly she has been showing with
a very well known London gallery and didn't need another outlet.

On her visits I had never given it proper consideration
but now in retrospect I appreciate that she has always purchased "gentle" artworks from us.
Almost every time it was ceramics and every piece contained flowers or usually a Hare.
I now understand why.

We haven't seen Helga for well over a year and she was one of the customers we had started to worry about.
At each exhibition I would look outside to see if she was around and waiting to come inside.
She is a little frail and has always had to rely on a friend to drive her to the gallery,
so if it was a cold day we would rather her be inside early
than having her sitting outside in a car until the clock strikes 12.00 noon for the opening.

Of course it is not strange for our regulars to miss an exhibition or two,
let's be honest I can't really expect everything that I show to appeal to everyone who visits.
So when we don't see people we miss them but appreciate that maybe,
just maybe, this exhibition doesn't appeal to them.

Last year it was only when Helga had missed about three shows that we started to wonder
if everything was OK with her.
Of course it is impossible to call someone and ask "why haven't you been here recently?"
But the thought does come into your mind and with Helga it seemed odd.

I decided that if I was ever passing near where she lives I would make a detour to say "hello"
and catch up on events.
Well, l I decided this but then in my usual fashion forgot about it.
That is until last week when I was returning from making a delivery in Cambridge.
It was a nice day and I wanted to have a think about a few problems so I took a long scenic route home.

Let me explain, I find driving therapeutic and usually the longer the journey
the more problems I solve.

I found myself passing a roadsigns that had a familiar name.
I realised that I must be near where Helga lives so I did a small detour and stopped to see her.

I am so happy that I did.
This chance stop has been one of my most interesting days for a long while.

Like the lady herself her home is like something from a novel.
Well a fairy tale really.

She lives in and has created a home that children of all ages would love to visit and explore,
there were unusual treasures to be discovered everywhere, inside and outside.
It was like a novel where you visit a favourite aunt who has so many magical tales to tell
and wonders and delights to show.

However, I learnt that Helga as we suspected had been very ill, in fact she almost died.
But I know that is not the story she would like me to tell,
she would rather have me tell you tales about her unusual home.
Unfortunately I haven't got the hours to spare that would describe what I found and viewed so I will just leave the images to give you a small idea of her home.

It is a very small snapshot of what it is really like, I haven't shown the wonderful outbuildings and sheds all with reclaimed Gothic windows.
I have left out the thriving Bee hives, pondand much much more,
especially the interior which holds a collection of some of the best ceramics I have seen.
As I write I keep thinking about different treasures, each could make up an individual posting. 

In truth her home is something from a story, it is an artists home.
Situated high on a hillside with views that stretch for miles, somewhere that you can sit, dream and create.
Which for years is exactly what she has done.
For the first time I was able to see her paintings, it was so easy to see the source of her inspiration,
the garden is a little piece of English Heaven, it has been featured in magazines worldwide,
something that was easy to understand.
Although she kept apologising for the terrible condition that it is now been reduced to.
"It is not cared for any more and I haven't the strength to do what is needed."

She told me that in fact she is to lose her home.
For reasons that she could not explain it seems that she will have to move away.
"I don't think that I could live without this place".

I understood exactly what she was saying but I was lost for words that would encourage her.
Her home was somewhere that I was captivated by, and I was just passing.

"Is there nothing that can be done for you to keep it", I asked

"I don't know. Maybe if I was able to find someone to rent the studio? I don't know, I just don't know."

So if there is anyone out there who wants to lease an idyllic studio [pictured above] let me know.

Despite this sad news my visit to our customer was very joyous.
Helga is a very exciting woman with a vivid and fertile imagination, we had fun talking together.
She showed me a copy of her Limited Edition [very limited] book.
It was a work to treasure and I intend to ask can we have a few to show and sell.

In the introduction she explains her love of nature especially Hares and Unicorns.

"Unicorns"? I asked her.

"Yes, I have seen many Hares but never a Unicorn
But, I will".

You know what?
I really believe she might.