Archives for posts with tag: running a gallery

Hi,

After my last post I started thinking about changes;  all the changes that have happened and the transformations the gallery has gone through.  Amazing times.  I started the gallery in 1991 and most people now don’t realise that it wasn’t until 1994 that home computers really came into their own.  Email wasn’t the foremost method of communication in 1991.  When I started I had an electric typewriter as well as an outside toilet and no heating!  Yup it was pretty tough going.  Not really what most people imagine a contemporary gallery  to be like.  However, I’ve never been most people!  Not only has the gallery changed, but my circumstances have changed too.

In the early years I seemed never to live in the same place for too long for lots of different reasons. The gallery wasn’t what people expected and nor was I! Many made assumptions about me, my background and my lifestyle.  This is not surprising as I, and my gallery, do not fit the stereotype.  Many galleries, and I’ll stick my neck out here and say most, are either not for profit enterprises or run by people who don’t need to make any money out of them, partly because it is pretty darned hard to make money from a gallery which sells contemporary work from unknown artists.

Therefore, partly I’m sure, because of my ‘posh’ accent it was often assumed that

a) I was much older than I was

and

b) I came from ‘money’.

I joke now that my accent is my ‘bbc voice’.

I’ll never forget the look on my helper’s face the day I took her back to ‘my place’ to collect something I needed.  My place, at that time, (around 1991) was a room above a transport cafe just a few hundred yards up the road from the gallery.  My husband was working abroad, I didn’t own any furniture, or much ‘stuff’, so I didn’t need much space, and it was not expensive, which was an important consideration. She was clearly quite shocked and almost stunned into silence.  She manage to utter a very quiet ‘Do you live here?” and when I affirmed that I did, she wasn’t quite sure what to say. I asked her where she thought I lived and she said “I thought you’d have a big house out at Dore or something.”  And I’m sure she wasn’t the only one that thought that.  Dore, for non Sheffield readers, is one of the posher areas of the city with big houses and bigger house prices.  At one time I did managed to live in a housing association house in one of the ‘posher’ areas of the city but that didn’t last too long.  I lived there whilst the original tenant was living abroad.  It was very nice, but I was mostly at work so didn’t really reap the benefits of it too much.  The flat above the transport cafe was fine when my husband was abroad but it was less suitable when he was back, as there really wasn’t much room and not very much privacy.  I remember waiting for him to return one Christmas by sleeping in chair in a downstairs area, as he wouldn’t be able to get into the building otherwise. I’m not sure quite when he arrived but it was pretty late (early morning I think).  Quite romantic I suppose in some ways but not too practical.

Oh the things you do when young (not that I’m old now of course!)

When Chris and I were first married we lived in a shared flat above a butcher’s shop in Nether Edge with at least one other person, if not two.  We most certainly didn’t have our own home, or any financial security, as I’d spent what could have been money for a deposit on a house on setting up the gallery – oops! So, from there I think I moved to the transport cafe when Chris starting working abroad and then we moved into the housing association flat on Endcliffe Vale Road (posher side of town), then to Harcourt Road (everyone seems to know someone that has lived on Harcourt Road – not sure why), then we moved into the gallery – that’s a whole other story – and then finally into the house we are currently living in, which is close enough to allow me to walk to work.

When we had moved to Harcourt Road, the local press wanted to do a story on where I lived, because, I presume,  I was a ‘gallery owner’ that didn’t fit the stereotype. Picture below.  It wasn’t a great flat and was cold.  Really cold. There was no central heating, no double glazing and only an electric bar fire. We used to get ice on the inside of the windows in the winter and I used to tell people that I’d get into the bath with a top on until I’d warmed up! I honestly do think I did this once….

We once had a visitor who, on entering the flat, joked  “I’d forgotten what it was like to be poor.”   I have to say I’ve never felt poor. I’ve been cold certainly, but never gone hungry and always had somewhere to live and friends to support me and art to feed my soul.

Chris & I in our flat on Harcourt Road

Chris & I in our flat on Harcourt Road

Shortly after the piece appeared in the paper, I was stopped in the street by a business owner fairly close to the gallery who told me, quite seriously, that I should be ashamed.  Apparently the woman felt the article brought the world of business into disrepute as it was clear that I wasn’t making a lot of money.  I really didn’t know quite what to say, though I might have a little more to say now.

On that note, I think I’ll leave it there tonight.  In the next post I think I’ll talk more about my own painting and the shows the gallery has hosted over the years.  Thanks for reading.

K x

Hi,

Sincere apologies for the delay in posting.  I cannot believe where the times goes.  I often joke that we could have saved Einstein a lot of trouble as it is so bloomin’ obvious that time is relative.  It clearly speeds up as you get older!

When I started in 1991 I had an electric typewriter and photos were ‘hard copy’ and taken on slide film.  So, although I have photos, they are all in numerous photo albums and I have not found the time to scan them all in yet.  Yes, something else to add to my never ending ‘to do’ list!  Eventually there will be more illustration on here!

So, back to the blog …  What happened next?

I’ve opened the gallery, I’ve learnt how to picture frame, put on my first exhibition and am reeling slightly from the significant amounts of negativity surrounding my venture.  However, I am not one that is easily deterred and often telling me I can’t do something is the best way to get me to do something.

Mmmm, not entirely sure I should have shared that!

Anyway, I think I should tell you a little about the space I had bought/inherited. I have already explained that my gallery was opened in Hillsborough, an area of the city considered traditional working class, and that it was situated between a betting shop and a launderette. I don’t think I mentioned that there was no central heating; my only heating was a portable calor gas heater, and there was an outside toilet. Yes, I know it is Yorkshire but even I was a little surprised by that! And, although I had removed and replaced the wood chip wall paper from the main gallery space, the framing shop, which is now our reception gallery was covered in brown wooden slats and had an internal partition wall. This was not attractive or practical in my opinion but I had run out of money and needed to concentrate on some income generation before I could change this ‘decor’. I looked to the picture framing side of the business to supply my cash flow and regular income, so this is what I needed to concentrate on and get good at.

Here is a photo of ‘Hang Ups’ picture framers I took over – the original shop front.

This is where where the framing took place...

This is the picture framing business I took over before I did any kind of renovations to the sign.

Cupola framing shop friont 2011

This is Cupola Framing as it was in 2011. We may be moving into more new premises soon….

When I took over the picture framing business and received my ‘training’ I noticed that the framer had the back door open to cut the long lengths of wood, as there was clearly not enough space to perform this action inside.  When I asked him what he did in the winter, he looked me straight in the eye and said “I do it quicker!”  And believe me when I say I did too! Though, as I am far more ‘nesh’ – that’s someone who feels the cold, for those that don’t know the term –  than he was, I came up with a slightly better solution.  I cut a small hole in the back door and put a door on that!. Thinking of the space I have now, it seems ridiculous that I ever managed to run both a picture framing business and a gallery in the space I had, but I did – somehow.  You just work with what you have.  I did have to make best use of the double cellar I had for storage though, which was always rammed with work.  Thankfully it was pretty dry and I did tend to put out as much artwork as I possibly, possibly could!

So, there I was, working all hours GOD sends, collecting and delivering stock before I opened and after I closed,  making picture frames, finding artists and displaying their work and learning very much ‘on the job’. I joke now that I give excellent business advice (and I do) because I have made every mistake in the book! I really have learnt everything the hard way, but hey, at least I have learnt.

Then one day, about three months after I started my business, something rather amazing happened …

My dream mentor walked in off the street!

It really was the strangest thing.  A tall thin man walked in off the street and walked past me and straight into the gallery in a most assertive manner. He went up to a collagraph print by my now very good friend Lyn Hodnett (whose work I initially wasn’t too sure about showing, as though it was certainly very strong, it contained strong sexual and religious references) and stood and looked at it for a good 5 or 10 mins. He then came back round to where I was picture framing and stood far too close to me, face to face  and said “I don’t know who you are and I don’t know why you have done it, but you have opened a gallery in my old backyard and I like it.  So, I am going to help you.  BUT you are going to have to learn to do as you are told.”  He then turned round and walked out.

Well!  I was a little too stunned to speak.  Who was this strange man?  Why was he interested in me?  Why did he want to help?  Also I was none too keen on anyone telling me what to do.

This strange man turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me.

I shall tell you more in the next exciting instalment and I promise not to leave it so long next time!

K x