Archives for posts with tag: fashion

Apologies for the lack of posts recently.  Bad Karen.

Sometimes you can feel like you’ve had the stuffing knocked out of you.

I’m sure everyone has felt like that at times. Nothing dreadful has happened thankfully,  apart from the election, of course, which I am not going to comment on as other people do it much better and with more knowledge.  I shall steer well clear of that one.

When you have that feeling, we all reach for different forms of comfort.  I’ve been finding comfort in painting mostly and launching a crazy new project just to keep myself positive and motivated.  However, this evening I didn’t feel like painting and didn’t really want to work on my crazy new project on my one day off per week, so I dug out some old photographs.

Old photos are wonderful aren’t they?

You know the ones I mean – the printed ones in the old packets you used to get from the shops that developed them.  Thirty pictures or so in each packet, some dreadful, many you don’t even remember taking and some that just capture that memory.  I have hundreds of photos, most of which have not been put in albums or been sorted into any kind of date order. Many are no longer in packets at all.  I’ve been promising I would sort them out for years and one day I will get round to it.  I promise.  But for now I’ll just have to work with what I’ve got. So, what shall I share with you?

Fairly early on in the history of the gallery I managed to befriend a couple of benevolent and talented photographers who kindly took photos of the gallery exhibitions out of extreme generosity and kindness and occasionally in exchange for framing services.  I’ll always be very grateful for their skill and service in leaving me with a lasting memory of the gallery exhibitions.

The first photographer was called David Short and this is a link to his current website:

He took the photos for the first printed brochure I had made back in 1994.

I still have many of the large negatives from the early years and remember the first time he invested in an enormously expensive digital camera.   How times have changed!  Following David, Nigel Barker then kindly helped me for a number of years before the prices came down enough to enable even me to invest in a digital camera, which then meant that, sadly, I ceased to get prints made of the photographs. Here’s a link to Nigel’s website:

Both are very talented photographers to whom I’m extremely grateful.

Here are a few photos from the early years.  I honestly can’t say who took which of these photos and any of the not so good ones will have been taken by neither David nor Nigel.  I’ve just scanned in or snapped the original prints using my phone so apologies now for the quality.

A christmas exhibition. No idea which year.

A christmas exhibition. No idea which year.

I’m pretty sure this decoration of our Christmas exhibition, whose title currently eludes me, was based upon this phrase ‘Everytime a bell rings an angel gets its wings!’ from the film  ‘It’s a wonderful life.’  There was a hanging illustration by the talented Lyn Hodnett and the line of decoration hung high on the walls were cast chocolate angels!

Dinner Party 2000.  In the year 2000.

Dinner Party 2000. In the year 2000.

The exhibition illustrated above was ‘Dinner Party 2000’ for the year 2000.  Everyone was talking about celebration and so I thought it might be fun to try to have an exhibition highlighting a different approach to a dinner party where each place setting, table and chair was made to suit the needs and personality of each guest.  Hand made, tables, chairs, plates, mugs, cutlery, glasses etc.  Not a thing was to match!!  I did cause a bit of a furore with this show though as I struggled to find any ‘hand made’ cutlery in Sheffield – the steel city!  I sent out a press release ‘Sheffield shamed’  which caused a storm.  It resulted in several trips around cutlery factories though.  No permanent harm done and I learned a lot!

I think this is part of 'A whiter shade of pale' exhibition.

I think this is part of ‘A whiter shade of pale’ exhibition.

I’m pretty sure this is a photo from an exhibition titled ‘A whiter shade of pale’.  I had a number of colour themed shows around that time including a very popular one titled ‘Paint it black’ – and no, I didn’t play either of those songs during the exhibition…. 🙂

'Joy' a ceiling mural commissioned by artist Elenore Somerset for another Christmas exhibition.

‘Joy’ a ceiling mural commissioned from artist Elenore Somerset for another Christmas exhibition.

At Christmas I always like to consider a theme.  My gallery has no subsidy and needs to sell work all the time but especially at Christmas I never want to lose the idea of a ‘curated’ or ‘thoughtful’ show.  Therefore, this time I commissioned Elenore Somerset, a talented Trompe L’oeil artist, to paint a small mural for the gallery ceiling.  This resulted in one of my favourite press release title sentences, which read:

“The Sistine Chapel comes to Cupola – well not quite but do read on…!”

“Mini Squares’. An exhibition where are the work submitted had to be square and outside frame size 8x8inches or smaller.

Over the years the gallery has had a number of small or miniature exhibitions, which is not surprising as when I started the gallery was only one space 12x14ftx10ft high and I like to give people plenty to look at and offer space to as many artists as I can.  It is SO lovely now to have four exhibition spaces plus an award winning sculpture garden, giving a combined total of around 2000ft of hanging space!  Storage is a nightmare though, but that’s another story….

'Treat' - any delightful surprise.  Another Christmas show.  This is a detail of a 10ftx10ft advent calendar made by the talented Ross Gilbertson inside which we put artwork on display.

‘Treat’ – any delightful surprise. Another Christmas show. This is a detail of a 10ftx10ft advent calendar made by the talented Ross Gilbertson inside which we put artwork on display.

Another Christmas exhibition!  This was was ‘Treat – any delightful surprise’. I loved this.  I commissioned the multi talented Ross Gilbertson to make an oversized advent calendar inside which artworks were to be on display behind the doors.  This was great.  I’m not sure we had 25 doors but whatever we did have was wonderful.  Thank you Ross!  Shame we had to take it apart after the exhibition.

Aha! Photos of me taken to publicise our exhibition 'Remembering Versaci' This would have been 1998 or thereabouts.

Aha! Photos of me taken to publicise our exhibition ‘Remembering Versace’ This would have been 1997 or thereabouts.

Well, this was fun!  We had an exhibition titled ‘Remembering Versace’ as he’d recently died and I thought it would be fun to make a cupola version of ‘That dress’ – the Liz Hurley one with safety pins down the side.  My version was made using two dresses from charity shops and aluminium coke cans in the shape of Cupolas down the side.  The dress was made by Helen Moore, a talented printmaker, knitter and dressmaker.  Heroin chic was the ‘in style’ at the time – hence the old coat hanger in my hair (courtesy of the fabulous Elton from ‘Hair by Christmas’ as it was then and ‘Betty Tigers’ as it is now) and the pale face & black lipstick – styling (ha!) by me. I had been told around this time that I’d had a local press editorial bar due to having received far too much free publicity.  However, when these photos landed at the press office – how could they not publish them?!  They were published…..

'Vases &  Flowers'.  Quite an early exhibition.  Maybe around 1994.  There were even some of my paintings in this exhibition!

‘Vases & Flowers’. Quite an early exhibition. Maybe around 1994. There were even some of my paintings in this exhibition!

And the last one.  Again a fairly early exhibition.  I tended to have mainly mixed group themed shows at that time as that allowed me to show more work by a number of artists which was preferable to solo shows early on.  I wanted artists to know about the gallery and this was a good way of engaging more people as well as offering more opportunities to artists to exhibit.  This was also a very accessible and pretty show – I love flowers!    I invited artists to submit contemporary images of flowers and contemporary vessels.  I wanted to show a contemporary alternative to the traditional decorative painting of flowers in vases.  And I got the fun of filling the gallery with cut flowers 🙂

More soon. Thanks for reading.



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