Alison Bartram, owner of Heart Gallery in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire.
♥ How long have you been in the boutique business and what made you get started?
I opened the doors to Heart Gallery in September 2006 after finally realising a dream and taking a leap of faith brought about by tragic circumstances.
My sister took her own life in 2005 and it made me realise that nothing in life is certain and we have no idea what is around the corner so I quit my job and took a part-time job in a café whilst I thought about what was important in my life. Rachel had always told me I was wasting my life working for others, she had always told me that I should go out and grab that opportunity, she had always told me to open my own shop again (I’d had a punk/alternative clothes shop in Bradford in the eighties), she had always told me that nothing was impossible, she had always told me that tomorrow never comes .. and for her there are no more tomorrows. But for me there are and her death gave me the kick up the backside I needed to realise that dream – my when, where, what and how had arrived finally when I spotted the Old Baptist Chapel in Hebden Bridge up for rent.
♥ What’s your shop like and what do you sell?
Heart Gallery is a unique contemporary jewellery and craft gallery featuring an eclectic mix of ever-changing work by around ninety emerging and established designers and makers, with quality and originality guaranteed.
Heart Gallery is passionate about all things beautiful and sells the very best of inspirational work including fresh, innovative and exciting contemporary jewellery, ceramics, glass, textiles, wood, furniture, accessories and stationery.
Heart Gallery ensures that there is something for everyone's tastes and budgets and is constantly evolving and reinventing. Heart Gallery prides itself on showcasing classic pieces for today's modern living alongside the more quirky and challenging accent pieces and brings unusual and unique sumptuous gifts and design-led
interior and lifestyle products together in one beautiful and inviting space offering a haven from the predictability of the High Street.
Heart Gallery is currently only bricks and mortar - see it, touch it, feel, it, try it on! Heart Gallery aims to have a selling website in the future however.
♥ What’s your typical day like - the best bits and the worst bits?
Every day is so different and that's what I love about working in Heart Gallery. Every day I put the key in the big black door that was once a Baptist Chapel and open it to Heart Gallery I feel instantly calm and as excited as I felt the first day I opened to the public way back in September 2006! I never know what is going to be thrown at me and although there are jobs that have to be done every day quite often not all of them get done because of who comes through the door, who emails me or who phones! The worst bit if I'm honest is not having enough hours to get everything done so a lot of work goes home!
♥ What do you look for in handmade goods to sell?
Heart Gallery prides itself on being a little bit quirky and not a typical gallery that can appear to be a bit unapproachable by customers due to the white walled format and stark layout used. I try to reflect Heart Gallery's quirkiness in the makers I source, the pieces I choose to display and also how they are displayed. There are certain disciplines that I have tried at Heart Gallery since opening that don't seem to be appreciated by my customers so I unfortunately tend to ignore those at Shows and when searching on line for new makers. Otherwise, I just tend to adopt the approach of knowing that if I fall in love with it my customers will too as long as the craftmanship is there.
♥ Do you actively seek new designers, or wait for them to come to you?
I am constantly seeking new designer/makers - I can't switch off really, even when on holiday. If I spot a maker in another Gallery somewhere that I know would sit well in Heart Gallery then I contact them. I do have more approaching me these days as I have a good reputation within the industry.
♥ What’s your best seller?
I display more jewellery in Heart Gallery than other disciplines as there was such a gap in Hebden Bridge for great contemporary jewellery designed and made by makers in the UK. Obviously that means I sell more jewellery but handblown glass sold amazingly well in December and functional ceramics weren't far behind! It does change however, there is no pattern and I can never understand why!
♥ How do you prefer a designer to approach you about selling their work? Any tips?
I have had to get strict over the years and now refuse to see makers that just turn up at Heart Gallery to be honest. I don't feel it's the right approach as I am open to the public and therefore cannot give quality time to the maker or to their work! I have an artist section on the website that asks makers to send images first. This means that I can see if their work will fit into the programme ahead and if it will sit well in Heart Gallery. I can then contact them to make an 'out of hours' appointment to meet them and see their work.
♥ What sort of basis do you prefer to work with your designers - consignment or wholesale?
I have run Heart Gallery purely on Sale or Return since opening and I do believe this is certainly a two way street that works for all. Because the makers have faith in me as a Gallery Owner I can offer more diversity for my customers. Because I know that I wouldn't have Heart Gallery without their faith then I ensure that all paperwork is kept up to date and payments made on time as per my agreement which they sign.
♥ Link us up!
Heart Gallery Wordpress Blog
Heart Gallery Blogspot Blog
Heart Gallery on Twitter
Heart Gallery on Facebook
"Meet the Stockist" is a collection of interviews with stockists of independent designers' work, posted on the last Friday of each month. If you are a stockist and would like to be featured, or you are a maker and know of a great stockist to interview, email me!
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