Archives for posts with tag: fashion show

Welcome back.

Exhibitions!  I want to talk about exhibitions!

Sorry to get so excited but there is a lot to get excited about. The opportunity to host exhibitions was, and is, a core ingredient of the gallery and the reason Cupola is not just a ‘shop’.  I don’t mind people calling the gallery a ‘shop’ as selling things is how the business survives, but without the exhibitions, which are often not cost effective, I honestly would not bother to carry on. Exhibitions are the icing on the cake for me, and anyone that knows me, knows that I do have a tendency to eat the icing in preference to the cake 🙂

However, when I set up the gallery I had scant experience of putting on exhibitions; I had put up my degree show and held a one off event in a flat above a butchers shop; I didn’t really have a clue.  However, you have to start somewhere and now was the time to get stuck right in!

My very first exhibition was a group show – no theme, just a collection of work gathered from whoever I could convince to let me have work.  I’d visited studios, talked to artists and gathered an exhibition together.  It was a start.  There was good work and it was varied. It is this variety that has become the hallmark of Cupola in many ways.  It was an interesting experience too, talking to artists and asking them to show work in an unknown gallery, in what many considered an odd location, run by a 23 year old recent art graduate with no experience.

An artist recently, for my 2oth anniversary year, very candidly recalled her reaction to being asked by me to submit work to the gallery all those years ago.  She said she had rejected my request in a fairly dismissive manner, but later, having visited the gallery and seen work on exhibition by the now extremely well known potter/artist, Edmund De Waal, changed her mind.  Edmund exhibited with Cupola on a number of occasions before he moved out of Sheffield and down to London.  In fact, my mother in law still has three of his pieces, unlike me, who managed to break the coffee pot I had.  I believe they still have the prices on the bottom £16.50 on each vessel and £38 for the jug.  Not likely to get any of Edmund’s pieces for the price now!!


Edmund De Waal's Atmosphere at the Turner Contemporary 2015

Edmund De Waal’s Atmosphere at the Turner Contemporary 2015

Edmund De Waal talking about his work at the Turner Contemporary.

Edmund De Waal talking about his work at the Turner Contemporary.

Edmund doesn’t seem to have changed much by the looks of this picture.  Just like me I’m sure lol!

It was only really after my wonderful mentoring experience from David Butterfield (see earlier post) within a few months of opening that really helped me get my exhibition programme off the ground.  And once a structure was in place, I was off!  I never thought of myself as a ‘curator’ at the time and don’t really think that of myself even now.  It is the correct term I’m sure, but I think of myself simply as someone who tries to host interesting, thoughtful, exciting and importantly for me, engaging exhibitions.

Suffice to say, I have had, over the years, exhibitions of every conceivable type including:

  • solo shows
  • two person shows
  • painting
  • sculpture
  • printmaking
  • glass
  • textiles
  • fashion
  • jewellery
  • photography
  • furniture
  • performance
  • dance
  • poetry
  • comedy
  • music
  • installation
  • multimedia

Plus literally, by now, hundreds of themed exhibitions exploring politics, colour, gender, humour, nature, scale, process, light, time, religion, myth & legend, identity, recycling etc – the list goes on.

An example of a fairly early quarterly schedule detailing three upcoming exhibitions.

An example of a fairly early quarterly schedule detailing three upcoming exhibitions.

Oh look!  I found a picture from the time of ‘THAT’ fashion show.  Here he is…my boy in a bikini!  Richard whitely (Yorkshire TV) SO missed out on this one (again see earlier post).

Models for the Fashion show held at Cupola in 1993.

Models for the Fashion show held at Cupola in 1993.

After a bit of a rummage, I have found some early photos but it is hard to remember quite what happened when, as I am happy to admit I wasn’t exactly ‘systems woman’ in the early years.

I know this was an early exhibition as it was my friend Shaeron Caton Rose – previously Shaeron Hill, who had kindly helped me in those early years.

Solo show by Shaeron Caton Rose in the early years of Cupola.

Solo show by Shaeron Caton Rose in the early years of Cupola.

This was a pretty early show too – Lyn Hodnett (painting and printmaking) and Hanne Westergaard (ceramics).  Both these artists are still represented by the gallery.

Two person exhibition by Lyn Hodnett & Hanne Westergaard.

Two person exhibition by Lyn Hodnett & Hanne Westergaard.

I know this was an early exhibition partly because at this point the door to the gallery was still an entrance and the frame and window ledges were still plain varnished wood.  They have been white for a number of years now. In addition the floor was re-covered many years ago making it impossible to gain entrance to the gallery through the door you can see in the shot.

In the early years the gallery only consisted of the two downstairs rooms and so it was essential that I made best use of the space and therefore often the exhibitions were ‘busy’ with many images on each wall  and sculpture or ceramics or other 3D work displayed on plinths as well as directly on the floor.  This is not always appropriate for all types of work but an engaging atmosphere was always really important to me and it was very clear that most people preferred the ‘feel’ of a busier space.  They had to come in just to be able to have a good look at everything and to see what was lurking around corners.  Luring people in has also become a Cupola speciality!

This is a shot of how busy some of my shelves sometimes became at that time, although not in the main dedicated exhibition space I hasten to add.  I think this must have been around Christmas time as these shelves seem especially tightly packed – I was really cramming it in then!  But, you know what?  I sold a lot of things!  People loved it.  The gallery is still busy now, but not like this as there is much more room to display works with more breathing space which allows each piece to really shine!

Displays in the gallery main entrance room in the early years.

Displays in the gallery main entrance room in the early years.

By the way I commissioned an artist, Simon I think his name was, to design and make that domed cabinet in the top picture as I felt there should be at least one ‘Cupola’ shape in the gallery.  A number of years later this cabinet actually fell off the wall and landed on a helper, but that’s another story…..

Although I have many many more pictures to share with you I shall leave you now with a quote from one of my customers from ‘the early years’.  She said:

“I like buying things from you as I feel I’m rescuing them.  They are always competing with so many other things that when I take them home I feel I have just made them that little bit more special.”

A photo of me back in the early 1991 or 1992.  What a jacket!

A photo of me back in early 1991 or 1992. What a jacket!

In the next post, rather than trying to find some of the earliest exhibitions I’ll talk a little about some of my favourites, the list of which keeps growing!

Speak soon and thanks for reading,

K x













Apologies for my tardiness.  I cannot believe how long it has been since my last post.  Please do forgive me. I am just so busy all the time!  Though I believe most people think that running a gallery seems to involve nothing more than sitting around looking glamorous, eating cakes and taking money (I wish),  there is rather more to it than that, as my recent work experience students can testify I’m sure!  Which reminds me of a story… However, I must not get distracted, so here we go with the next episode of the story of Cupola.

The Looming Supertram.

With support from my new mentor, David, I began to organise and curate shows, bring in new stock and manage the picture framing business more effectively.  I was essentially running two businesses on my own which meant I was working all hours of the day and night, and often 7 days a week.  Looking back now I cannot for the life of me work out how I did it, but I did.  My new husband did try to help at one point but it was pretty obvious that was definitely NOT going to work.  He,  I am sure won’t mind me saying, is about as practical as a, well, a completely impractical thing!

Amidst this, with me working very hard to build my business, I remember being approached by someone doing a survey about building what is now called the Sheffield Supertram.  Of course I didn’t really know what it was all about or have much of an understanding of what the construction work was going to mean for businesses in my area.  Fortunately for me, the small number of businesses around me had created their own little network called Middlewood Traders and they regularly got together to try to help improve things for members in the area. They even ran their own weekly raffle, it was great stuff.  Kate, one of the members who owned a transport cafe knew that she would go out of business; our road was going to be turned into a cul-de-sac for approximately three years. When I heard about this, I knew something had to be done and was absolutely determined that if I was going out of business I would go out because I did, not because someone or something else put me out.

So I decided that I needed to do something to raise the gallery profile significantly and I hatched a cunning plan …

My International Fashion Show

Please don’t ask me why I decided to try to host a fashion show in two domestic scale shop units and a back yard for my profile raising stunt,  I know it was a ridiculous, impractical and a slightly unhinged idea, but staying true to form that was what I decided to do.  It meant a crazy amount of work but I didn’t mind that and it did help me make some amazing new connections with some wonderfully talented people. I can’t remember the name of the woman now who offered to help with the PR side and my amazing friend and customer, Matthew, helped in a way that can only be described as utterly selfless, verging on the masochistic. He volunteered to help me start work at 5 am, painting the cellar ALL NIGHT, leaving him off his head with the fumes so that he couldn’t even manoeuvre a table out of the front door which he had offered to store!

I advertised the opportunity for artists through Artists Newsletter and local fashion colleges. I ended up being sent work from Italy and London as well as getting work from local fashion students.  The Crucible Theatre offered to do the sound and lighting for me for nothing and I borrowed a catwalk from a school.  We also used a local model agency for our catwalk models, who had to change in my basement, which was cleared and painted thanks to Matthew.

Through all this, it was painting the naked models in the yard which caught the eye of the national press.  I think they would have been even more delighted had there been a tin bath as well as my outside toilet, keen on depicting the northern stereotype.  Whereas the men in the bookies next door formed an orderly queue to take a peek out of the back window …

independent wed 14 july 93

Here is the coverage I managed to get in the Independent, and what elicited my ‘good girl’ postcard from my mentor and friend David Butterfield.

Despite it being a ridiculous idea I did get an astonishing amount of press coverage; I had 15 articles in the local press, coverage in the nationals and a good slot on local TV wearing a dress made out of the colour separation sheets from a laser copier. The TV appearance was great fun, naturally there were a few incidents too.  One of the models managed to give herself a massive black eye the day before the TV show and had to use stage make-up to cover it up and one of the male models refused to appear, however, I definitely understood why.  One of the fashion pieces was a denim bikini for a man, which he had been happy to model for our photos shoot (I WILL find that picture), but he had not been informed by the model agency that the TV wanted to shoot that particular piece. He therefore had told all his friends and family to watch, so when asked to model the “boy bikini” he refused.  The TV tried hard to persuade him as they were desperate to use the tag line “and now here’s a number for Richard Whitely on his holidays” .  Yes, it would have been great, but a ‘no show’ on that one I’m afraid.  It would have become a classic I’m sure.

Here are a few press cuttings from The Sheffield Telegraph.

Fashion by Russian artist for Cupola's fashion show.

Front Page of The Sheffield Telegraph.

Coverage in the local Sheffield Telegraph

Coverage in The Sheffield Telegraph

I do have images of some of the fashion items somewhere and I will post them when I find them.  We had the denim wear and also rubber wear(!) as well as other pieces.  I now know that you have to use talcum powder to get rubber wear on … You really do learn something new everyday!

We had a national competition winner’s dress, we had boys in bikinis, we were ahead of the times (Mankini?)  Bah! Girls stuff Heh! Heh!

The lovely, talented, and amazing Elton from ‘Hair by Christmas’ as it was called back then (now Betty Tigers) did all the hair styles for the models for free too.  The way people helped out and pitched in was just fantastic, it simply would not have been possible otherwise.

So, how did we actually manage to fit in a catwalk into the rather small space? Well … We built the catwalk around from one room to the other and out into the back yard where we erected a marquee!  ‘Marquee Mark’ did a marvellous job attaching part of the marquee directly to the wall of the building and securing another corner to the staircase that led to next door’s upstairs flat.  It did restrict their entrance, but I bought them a bottle of champagne to say ‘thank you and sorry’ for the inconvenience.

The event was two shows in one day, and believe me, that was enough.  I can only tell you how much work it all was and then suddenly it was over, but we did manage to pull it off, amazingly.  Everyone seem pleased with the event except one artist who had come up from London.  She was clearly expecting something else when she arrived, something far grander I presume.  I say that as she declined to allow her work to be used in the show.  It was a shame as it was lovely work and we had allocated a model to wear it, but it wasn’t to be.  I offered to pay her travel expenses but she declined and simply drove all the way back to London again.  Such is life.

Anyway, the strategy clearly worked in terms of profile raising as we got huge amounts of press coverage across newspapers, magazines, radio and TV.  The feature on local TV even managed to impress my in-laws; no mean feat I warrant you!  I suddenly became ‘Our Karen’.

Mission accomplished; my new status as ‘press friendly’ was to become invaluable as the Supertram works were looming, little did I know how valuable.

This fashion show, however unrealistic, time and cost inefficient, was the most amazing experience on so many levels.  I met wonderful, creative, generous people, learnt a huge amount and delivered something no-one really thought possible.  I am not sure I would ever do it again, but it made me ambitious, adventurous and maybe even more daring than I was previously.  With that under my belt I was ready to tackle anything!  Or so I thought …

Little did I realise that my biggest challenge was just about to start.

I’ll try not to leave it so long next time.

K x