Celebrating the Official Opening with the Artists
As a creative one of the biggest challenges can be finding the perfect platform for your work. But five textile artists from across the North-east have crafted their own solution to that problem. The pals have come together to launch an artist cooperative.
Fleece is a gallery shop in Reeth that not only provides the ideal place to showcase their work but also brings opportunities to likeminded artists.
Vicky Petrie, who founded the cooperative with Louise Curnin, Thelma Russell, Margaret Chalmers and Janet Phillips, said: “We wanted to create a place where artists could not only sell their work directly to customers but also show the real quality of the products being made.”
After many years of designing, making and indeed selling their work, the group, who all met through their shared love of textiles, felt ready to take the next step. “For us it was about being able to create and sell handmade items in an environment that reflects the hours, days or even weeks of intricate work that has gone into each piece,” said Vicky, who designs and makes felt from her home in Yarm.
Plus they are doing their bit to help support the region’s creative economy, for as a not for profit cooperative the money made from every sale goes directly to the artists. Already filled to the brim with the work of up to 17 creatives from the Yorkshire Dales and just beyond, the friends are clearly filling a niche. The shop brings together textile, glassware, woodturning, handmade books, hand-dyed wools, watercolours, silver jewellery, ceramics and everything in between.
Staffed by the artists themselves who all volunteer for two days a month, visitors to the store also get the unique opportunity to see the creatives at work. And while quick to point out that they are not in competition, there’s no denying that when you are surrounded by creative talent you are always going to up your game.
Textile artist Janet Phillips, who is owner of The Threshing Barn and a fellow founder of the cooperative said: “The shop has a good mixture of different crafts and everyone respects what each other are doing.
“I get such a thrill out of running a creative business and situated in the heart of Swaledale this is such an awe-inspiring landscape for creative people to work.”
Having enjoyed a lengthy career working around the world, the grandmother-of-three from Wensleydale added: “It is very rewarding to be able to put something back into the community.”
With the shop officially opened by president of the International Feltmakers Association, Sheila Smith, the textile artist and author from Thirsk, who is also selling handmade books in the store, said: “Because the shop is staffed by the artists themselves it is a very inspirational place.
“People can talk to the artists about their work and who knows it might even encourage them to have a go themselves.”
She added: “There is certainly a lot of creative talent in the area and this is a fantastic opportunity for artists to display and sell their work.”
Having taught four of the cooperatives founder members and knowing the fifth through the industry for some 20 years, she said: “I now consider them all friends. It gives me a real sense of pride in seeing that they have developed the same love for felt making that I have. I was honoured to be asked to open the shop.”