A York gallery is celebrating its 30th anniversary – just in time for Valentine’s Day, reports CHARLES HUTCHINSON
PYRAMID Gallery is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2012, a milestone that is being marked by the Thirty30 exhibition of 30 British jewellers and makers.
The jewellery show coincides perfectly with Valentine’s Day, always one of the busiest times of the year at the Stonegate gallery run by Terry Brett.
Aptly, the exhibition focuses on jewellery designers who have enjoyed a lasting relationship with the gallery, such as Debbie Moxon and Ian Simm, from Pateley Bridge, who have been selling their patterned titanium and silver jewellery in York for 30 years.
They began at the original Pyramid Gallery in Gillygate, continued at gallery founder Robert Feather’s subsequent gallery and now are exhibiting once again at Pyramid on Stonegate.
“They’re one of the most innovative and artistic makers in the country,” says Terry.
“They’ve experimented with the material and developed a skill that when combined with artistic flair has created a unique style and pieces of wearable art that could not be produced in any other way.”
Other long-standing jewellers who are part of the show include Robert Feather himself; fellow former Pyramid owner Julia MacGregor; Roger Barnes; John and Dawn Field; Valerie Mead; Jo Mitchell, of Hot Metal; Anthony Blakeney; Pamela Dickinson; and Celia Davies.
Along with the jewellery, Pyramid Gallery has paintings, etchings, sculpture, textiles, glass and ceramics for sale. For the anniversary show, the walls of the upstairs galleries are adorned by abstract figurative oil paintings by York artist Isabel Wakeman.
“Isabel started painting in her sixties and has an approach to representing the figure that is bold in colour and composition, using dynamic poses that portray strength and movement,” says Terry.
“She is showing a stunning group of canvasses that are unusually bright and colourful. The eye and brain has to adjust to the images that at first look totally abstract in order to make sense of the figurative forms. I like to show paintings that give some reward for the effort observing and understanding.”
His pleasure in Isabel’s late-burgeoning artistic career is typical of Terry, who took over the gallery in 1994 with his wife, Elaine.
“We were working in Warwick; I was a computing consultant and Elaine was a minerals planner (for quarrying and coal) for Warwickshire County Council,” Terry recalls. “At the time of the 1987-1994 recession, I was self-employed and frankly making myself ill, learning something new at night before having to travel somewhere the next day.
“But I’d helped to run a gallery in an architects’ office when I was a surveyor in Preston and Elaine had an interest in ceramics and had done night classes. So the grand plan was to open a gallery and we’d both decided that we would open one in Warwick to sell ceramics, but while we were researching that, we saw that the Pyramid Gallery was for sale.
“Elaine’s vision was to put the house on the market, move the family north and take over Pyramid, so we came to view it on Christmas Eve, having never heard of Stonegate, and though we were just going to have a look, Elaine immediately decided it was better than what we were first proposing.
“We already loved York, as we’d gone there for our first anniversary, and though I thought the move might be too unsettling for everyone, in retrospect it was exactly the right thing to do.”
So much so that Terry quickly forewent his intention to continue his consultancy work as he found running a gallery so enjoyable.
For the first 15 years, Pyramid thrived, but the credit crunch has latterly had a “dramatic effect on turnover”, although Terry has adapted, also coming through his split from Elaine, who has moved to Keswick to set up the Northern Lights Gallery.
“I was worried about the income reducing, but I’m actually enjoying running the gallery as much as ever. The challenge is different, surviving,” he says.
“It’s changed my buying habits; we’re doing more on sale and return, but what’s interesting is that the things that are being bought are the more expensive items. The market is still there; the quality end is still worth it,” he says.
“But what I’ve noted is previously someone would buy a present and maybe buy something for themselves. Now they will just buy the present.”
• Thirty30 jewellery exhibition runs at Pyramid Gallery, Stonegate, York, until April 30; Isabel Wakeman’s paintings are on show until March 27. Opening hours are 10am to 5pm daily and in school holidays on Sundays from 10.45am to 4.30pm.