Gallery 45

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Gallery 45, Art, Art Gallery, Gallery, North East, Felton, Gift Shop, Craft Shop, Gifts, Crafts, Workshops
Gallery 45 in Felton, Northumberland was set up by Jane Mills and Mary Mewett. As they celebrate their first birthday this weekend, we chatted to Mary about how far they’ve come in a year
‘People are going back to knitting and other crafts, as well as looking for things that are handmade and of a high quality’

What is Gallery 45?
It’s an art gallery, gift shop and craft shop, as well as having eight resident artists who have their own studio spaces here. We also provide workshops with different tutors on different themes. We’re just trying to promote local crafts as much as we can.

Why is it called Gallery 45?
It comes from our address. It was the hardest part of the whole process, trying to think of a name! We had our kids involved and friends giving suggestions, but our address is 45 Main Street, so we went with that. Our logo is a stag’s head because this building used to be The Stag Head village pub. We are trying to keep a lot of the original features like the wood-burning stove... and the bar, we’ve still got the bar!

So how did you and Jane meet?
We’ve been friends since our kids were babies, and from doing the school run together. We were both teachers, and ended up working at the same school together. We were getting a bit disillusioned with our jobs so we thought we’d open an antique gift shop. Then we found out that the village pub had been up for sale for a long time, and when we had a look around we could see the potential in the building straight away. 

What’s the purpose of Gallery 45?
Part of it is to make sure that traditional handicrafts are nurtured, and I feel that they are very popular at the minute. People are going back to knitting and other crafts, as well as looking for things that are handmade and of a high quality. Another purpose is also to support young artists. We have a lot of very young artists, from 17 and 18 years old, that aren’t quite sure how to turn something they love doing into a business, so we’re supporting them as well. We want to give people a space to share. Creative people can be very lonely sometimes, but when they come together, they feel supported and can bounce ideas of one another. 

How did it grow to include an exhibition space and resident artist studios?
The artists came to us because they were getting frustrated that they had nowhere in this part of Northumberland to show their work. They wanted their own studio space too, so that they could make what they were doing a business, not just a hobby. Originally, we were going to make the space upstairs a holiday let, but now we have a waiting list of people wanting to work in one of the studios.

Can you tell me a little more about the resident artists?
We have eight resident artists that include a well-established glass artist who does stained glass and fused glass work and a painter, who just lives down the street, and was one of the first artists to get involved. We also have two textile artists, a lady who knits gorgeous, very high-quality products, a photographer, framer, a lady who does beautiful leather work and a lady who makes kites, lampshades and all these fabulous things which are hard to describe! 

Who can attend your workshops?
Anybody! All the details are on our website and we have a lot on, especially in the run up to Christmas. We get a lot of local people who attend our workshops, and now we’re trying to work with different school groups. We have a local group of carers who come in and do the glass workshops as a way of de-stressing. Some skills like knitting and crocheting have been lost a little, so people come here to remember or learn how to do them.

Do you think it’s important that these skills are retained?
Yes, I do think it’s very important. Just this week I’ve learnt to knit from one of the resident artists. It was very relaxing and I think it’s good for your mind as it’s learning a new skill and working the brain a bit more.

How are you going to celebrate your first birthday?
We’re just going to have a big cake and invite all our customers and friends. When we started out a year ago, the village really helped out. The local vicar came in to scrub the floors and help us clean the bathroom, and people we didn’t even know came to help us paint. Now that we’re a year on, and the redecorating work is nearly finished, we just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has helped us and to our customers who’ve become really lovely friends. All the studios will be open, so people can have a bit of a wander.

Did you imagine a year ago what Gallery 45 would be today?
No, we had more of a three-year plan, and we’ve done that in a year! At the start we had business advisors who said it would never take off or work, so we decided to do it all by ourselves. We’ve worked really hard to do it, and it’s nice to say look what a group of women can do! It’s quite empowering. 

Now that you’ve done your three-year plan in one year, what does the future hold for Gallery 45?
Well, we have this huge function room upstairs that’s going to be a gallery space, but our next big thing is working with local schools and young artists, especially those secondary school teenagers who want to be artists when they grow up. Sometimes people can put them down or tell them they’ll never make any money, but we have artists here who can mentor them and show them how to create a business out of their passion.

Published in: November 2014

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