By Kate Marsden
This week we're heading down to one of my favourite spots - the beautiful Padstow in Cornwall to take a look at Jane Reeves Gallery. Make sure you pop in if you're heading that way this summer!
Jane gives us some fantastic advice, whether you hope to open a gallery or shop of your own, or if you're a designer/maker or artist...
Tell us a little about you. What do you do?
My name is Jane Reeves and am a painter who works with fused glass. I also have a gallery in Padstow, Cornwall where I show my own work and the work of a fantastic community of artists from around the country. My background is in design and illustration, and my introduction to glass came about through working in stained glass. I began to create fused glass about 18 years ago and to cut a long meandering story short, 18 months ago we decided to follow a dream and open our own gallery. Having been on the artist side of the business for so many years I felt I knew what was required of a gallery, how best to represent the artists and work hard for them... That's how it all began.
What does a typical day involve?
It depends if we are working in the gallery or from the studio. It's essential to have a manager that's completely dependable and on your side. We have Liz and she understands my work and our style, so she works brilliantly as our manager. When you have 40 or so artists in your gallery there is a lot of admin involved, so day to day that takes up a lot of time. One aim of ours was to try to keep our artists in the loop with things in the gallery, and in Padstow, and of course to make sure they are represented well and paid on time etc. Another big part of the day will be keeping the displays fresh and tidy. When work is sold its tempting to just fill gaps. It isn't long before the displays start to lose coherence. So that's a big challenge. A lot of folks comment on how lovely the gallery looks. It helps to make our space stand out in their memory, so hopefully they will come back!
Where do you work? What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?
My studio is in my home. I'm lucky enough to have the whole ground floor given over to my work. We have two large kilns and a space for framing too. Plus my studio opens out onto my garden, far too tempting on a summer’s day! I love the garden and flowers so it's a lovely place to take a tea break. We live in an urban spot, so relaxation would involve getting away to the countryside or the sea. Somewhere quiet. A lot of my inspiration comes from photography and escaping to places where the only sound is the sea or the birds.
What do you consider to be the main challenges facing gallery owners at the moment?
Gosh, that question is quite loaded! The straightforward answer is probably the same as any business at the moment. We are a brand new gallery really, and our overriding concern is that we make enough money to make a success of it.
We feel passionately about the role a bricks and mortar gallery plays... Nothing beats seeing a collection of work in the flesh. But I don't think we fully anticipated the complexity or volume of work involved. It's a 24 hour a day job. And there are so many hidden costs. As an artist I often questioned the high commission rates of galleries. When we decided to explain to our own artists where the costs lay by showing them a pie chart, it shocked us too! We do endeavour to earn every penny of our commission, as we simply couldn't survive without it.
Of course making choices about artists and who you represent is another big challenge . A coherent but varied collection of work, high quality and clean presentation, are all so important. Gaining and keeping your good reputation is crucial.
What ambitions do you have for your business over the next few years?
Our ambition at the moment isn't about expanding or becoming an empire! The crucial thing for us is about growing our reputation. We would love to become known for showing fantastic work, but also we want to be known as a gallery that works hard for and encourages its artists, is fair and prompt at paying. Not very complicated but top of my list of priorities.
Do you have any tips for fellow small business owners, designer/makers and artists who are reading this and may be just starting out?
To a maker I would say this... Make and create what you feel passionate about, do it to the absolute best of your ability, research fully where it might sell (if that's your intention), make a careful and informed approach (not a tweet!) and supply good quality photographs etc. We have many approaches from artists who haven't really understood our gallery, and it's hard to have to say 'no' to work that obviously doesn't fit. Quality too is so important. Think hard about how you present or show your work, good framing is absolutely crucial.
To potential gallery or shop owners... Do your research! We spent many years talking about it and then an intensive 6 months visiting galleries, artists, writing approaches and artist packs... Talk to other folks who are one step ahead of you... Time spent like this is never wasted.
If you are passionate, it will still be hard, but hopefully it will be rewarding too.
Had you realised the Just A Card campaign message suggests cards as an example of a small purchase - we're about encouraging all sales as they keep businesses afloat?
I think obviously the name of the campaign highlights card purchases... I realise now that the aim is to encourage all small sales...it's amazing how small sales often add up to a good day in the gallery.
How important is the Just A Card campaign message to you and your business?
The campaign seems to have a life of its own and its growing and the evolving all time. How it impacts the gallery is mirroring that. the spin off from all Sarah Hamilton's hard work is excellent exposure for artists and galleries and shops... Sarah has a wonderful tenacity to work on behalf of us all.
It's reminded us to make the most of our card display, and not to get too fed up on the quiet days when perhaps all we sell are just a few cards or smaller items. We only sell our own artists cards, so it's a big part of the commitment to them to make the most of card sales. We are keeping a beady eye on the campaign and doing our best to promote it.
Where did you hear about the campaign & which Social Media platforms do you use most frequently?
Well we are lucky enough to show the work of Sarah Hamilton so that's how we caught wind of the campaign, through Twitter. Instagram and Twitter are our favoured social media platforms, Facebook seems to be waning of late, which is interesting. Although it's been amazing considering it's been a free platform.
I love Instagram because it's primarily about the image, followed by a carefully crafted and edited few words. It causes you to consider carefully what you want to say to your followers. I confess that I tend to glaze over if I see a long wordy post...
What do you think people can do to support Just A Card, and how will you be doing so?
Show support by literally 'showing' support. Retweet and share... But act on it too by making small purchases, cards etc. We hope that the quality and presentation of the work in our gallery makes it easy for folks to make those purchases. The market today is flooded with art and craft, but it has to have quality and integrity for folks to spend their pennies!