In our last blog we talked about the beginnings of Bils & Rye. This one is all about what we stand for now, two and a half years into what we hope will be a long and happy journey. Earlier in the year we commissioned a film by Craft Council favourites Richard Foot and Arron Finch. They, together make films under the R & A Collaborations banner. We loved what they had done for several of the makers we already worked with.
This film is the easiest way of explaining what we do at the gallery and why we do it. I will now try and put that into written words, as many of you know, I'm prone to waffling and going off on a tangent, losing the thread and generally being a little controversial at times! I will do my best to stick to the task at hand!
When we started up the gallery, it was all very last minute and rightly we didn't have much of a vision beyond wanting an outlet that focused on three dimensional art, particularly ceramics and sculpture. We didn't have a single picture. At the time, Kate shared the studio space and was deep into painting highland cattle galore. As we began to grow up as a business, we were repeatedly asked for paintings that complemented the other works on sale. To start with we ran them as separate businesses, soon realising that meant double the workload in administration, websites, social media etc.
So about a year in, we combined them all into Bils & Rye as it is today. As the growing up continued, we sought work of a higher and higher standard. Now it comes to us quite often yet we still travel the length and breadth of the country to find new and exciting pieces to show. We have several criteria for work to be accepted, firstly it must have an aesthetic value that we hope will engage our audience. Secondly it must be made extremely well. With pots we look for a consistent product across the whole range. Finish is immensely important, a smooth bottom to protect your fine furniture and a coherence of look for those pieces that might be collected in multiples.
We often hear the phrases 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder' or 'emperor's new clothes' about contemporary British art. Are these a duck out of actually saying what you really mean? One of the things the gallery has become well known for is open conversation about the merits of each exhibit. From this we can provide occasionally edited feedback to the artists we represent so that they can further their game. And that is exactly why we are in this business! To provide the forum for their work to be seen by a greater audience, gain them new custom and deliver the feedback must artists so desperately desire but seldom actually get. Not selling a piece doesn't mean it is not much admired. It might just not be right for the viewer at the time, beyond their budget or too big/small. By giving this feedback the work that arrives the next time has a greater chance of reaching a new home.
Bils & Rye quickly developed into a pro-artist gallery, yes we think we provide a great customer experience and service level and we show you can do that alongside promoting the artist, paying them the correct amount in a timely fashion and building up the self belief levels in established and emerging artists alike.
In the course of our journey we have met several hundred artists and there aren't many of them who have a self belief that matches their work. We are inherently drawn to those who under value their own abilities. The joy of helping these talented people to realise their own brilliance is as good as creating a profitable business. That is our core reason of existence these days!
Moving forward we aim to become the foremost gallery in the North of England dealing in modern British ceramics. Added to that, with the historic link our buildings have with John Bunting, we will always show a diverse selection of contemporary sculpture and we currently have plans to develop an external site for a six month show of garden sculpture.
Finally, we will show a number of painters covering figurative, land and seascapes tending towards a slightly abstract finish. Our aim is for these to complement the three dimensional pieces we have on display.
We have already established the gallery within the international market place with many overseas sales although direct sales from the gallery make up the bulk of purchases. It is the relaxed atmosphere and dare we say 'safety' that convert many of our visitors to buyers. Be warned 'We Deal In Temptation'!