For the past 38 years we have been championing contemporary craft in the vibrant city of Leeds to shine a spotlight on independent makers and their small businesses from across Yorkshire and the rest of the UK. Through an exciting seasonal exhibition programme we highlight the skills behind handmade and share their inspiring stories. Bringing these amazing collections of contemporary craft together under one roof has created a haven for many visitors to escape the stresses of daily life & create mindful experiences. Please help us keep the gallery and the hundreds of small businesses we support alive by donating what you can so we can continue to keep bringing the very best of contemporary craft to you and help us and these creative industries thrive.
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This year we're proud to be celebrating our 35 year anniversary. We started to ask our regular visitors if they had any stories they wanted to share about items they had purchased from us over the years and launched our campaign #wherearetheynow? a few weeks ago. If you have any stories you want to share you can send us images and information to firstname.lastname@example.org or tag us in social media posts via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, we'd love to hear from you.
This week we were delighted to hear from two special visitors who have been visiting the gallery since the late 80s, Gi and Brian Cheesman. Over the years Brian has bought his wife lots of special jewellery pieces.
Here's their story...
A word from Brian:
"I recall us noticing the gallery when it first opened and thinking that it was a space extension for more exhibitions and the items, artifacts on show were not for sale but an exhibition space and showcase for artisans, artists etc. It is one of the most enjoyable places to visit and experience remarkable creativity and skills on show. I have a firm belief that the gallery is almost a unique venue. Finding a similar gallery is not easy.
Much has changed across the landscape of Leeds city since the gallery first appeared in 1982. It is a real testament to the ‘staying power’ of the gallery and its staff that it has managed to maintain a real presence within the city."
Why Brian chose these pieces for Gi:
"Because you have a character and personality that is colourful, confident and ‘shouts out loud’. Never underestimate the importance of seeing your partner, wife, husband wearing something that you find beautiful. I love colourful things and being able to give you colourful things like bracelets, brooches, earrings etc makes me feel positive even though it is not me wearing them."
"Your personality appreciates and adores the colours that are always an integral element in the jewellery that I have bought for you. Your awareness of fashion trends makes it easy to spot items that fit with your ability to wear such artifacts. I love the idea of a piece of jewellery being a conversation piece. As is well known, jewellery makes statements about the individual wearer. Your collection fits your personality so well. Not only has your jewellery caught the eye of individuals you purchased my Humbug brooch which has never failed to create amusement and interest." (Pictured humbug brooch by 'Timothy').
One of the brooches looks from a distance like a large splurge of colour. However, a closer inspection reveals a beautiful flower. Another can be identified as a tangle of colourful bits of metal which immediately catches the eye. Ironically, again from a distance a specific element of it looks like a fish head." Gi was bought this in the early 90’s; "I wore it a lot during that period, it specially suits summer fabrics, not flowery, as it fights to be noticed on a pattern. It's always commented on, mostly accompanied by reaching out to touch it. It’s a bit bent now but still wearable and is one of my favourites." (Pictured - currently investigating to identify the maker).
"You think you are unfortunate to have Xmas and your birthday so close together. The gallery has saved my ‘gift purchasing bacon’ on a number of occasions when I have been able to identify two presents in one place! The jewellery is like an investment, an archive and a memory bank. Each item feels like a milestone in our relationship. (Not a millstone!)"
A word from Gi:
"My jewellery collection is one of the most important ‘things’ that I own. Its’ value is increased vastly for me because Brian has chosen and brought them. Every day, even if I/we are not going out I think about what jewellery I am going to wear. For special occasions, like our sons’ wedding this year I love being able to pick out pieces from my collection. Each piece is unique and that is probably the most important element for me.
I mostly wear my jewellery for work….dressing quite smartly with some unconventional aspects to the way I dress. I do not look like a model, I’m not slim and sleek but I can intentionally make myself look a bit different.
Although I have always worked in very senior roles in the NHS and Local Authorities I studied art at Exeter College of Art and then fashion at St Martins, so wearing my jewellery must be my expression of creativity (albeit mostly chosen by Brian)."
"This piece is much more difficult to wear and would shout ‘look at me’ if it was pinned to the bin liner. As it shouts ‘look at me’ this also suggests that I want people to look at me, which is not necessarily the case. Brought I think, in 1994/95 and worn for special work and non work events over a couple of years but now less worn because the colour mix and the size has not suited the fashion of the time and brooches are now worn much less. Their time will come again." (Pictured brooch by Geoff Roberts).
This image shows off two items of jewellery; a necklace and a rectangular brooch. "This necklace was given to me by Brian very early on in the late 80’s or early 90’s. It is comprised of sections so sits really well and is really easy to wear. At the time I also had several pairs of gold clip earrings (I don’t have pierced ears) also brought from you and these were worn over a number of years with the necklace to accompany my power suits and posh handbags. Very interestingly this little necklace was a guest (round my neck) at our son’s wedding in Spain last year. I wore it with a black lace midi dress and together with a gold and silver bangle (also yours) I have had for as long, with a Chanel gold chained mini handbag. So it has had massive longevity. With regards to the brooch this was bought circa 1996/97; as a brooch I don’t wear it much at the moment but it has been pinned to a big black scarf and I think a while ago it was worn on a floppy summer hat….like the ‘Annie Hall’ hat. This is a very unusual brooch in that it is made from little bits of paper like sweet papers with bits of gold. Like much of my jewellery it is very tactile…people want to feel and examine it. If it had been a bracelet or bangle in a ‘cuff’ style it would have been continuously amazingly wearable…or as big earrings which are so fashionable now." (Pictured necklace and brooch by Joanne Tinker who featured her wall hung pieces in our Another Life exhibition 2016. You can visit this show's page in our archive to discover more).
"These are very recent purchases (by Brian of course). The blue and green bangle in December 2014 by Sue Gregor and the multi coloured bracelet and earrings the year after by Gail Klevan. I love both bracelets and of course the matching earrings. As I wear a lot of monochromatic outfits these two pieces go with lots of things and the splash of colour makes them immediately change the look of me and what I am wearing. I love matching them with other things like my bag or shoes etc. Consistently fashionable and of the most brilliant quality which is true of all the pieces." Both these makers are still going strong today with Gail's work currently on show in the gallery and Sue's work due in for a show called Branching Out which starts in March. Discover more on our website by clicking on the Branching Out link.
"Another favourite of mine are two matching brooches brought in the early 90’s…I am going to start wearing these again as they seem to suit the moment, politically and socially." (Pictured early work by Sarah Jane Brown).
Thank you so much Gi and Brian for sharing your stories with us and for your support over the years we hope to welcome you here again very soon.