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Creative Recycling Gallery

by Angie Boyer

Published: September 2007

“We have always been able to articulate why we do what we do,” says Glennis Andrews, one of the three people responsible for the Creative Recycling Gallery in Manchester. “And we are very confident about the philosophy behind what we’re doing here; sharing, consensus, collaboration and support have always been our driving force.”

That philosophy dates back to the days when she and Fiona Norton were actively involved in the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Movement. “The peace campaigns continue to be an important part of our lives,” says Glennis. “In fact we recently held a ‘Banners and Badges’ exhibition in the Gallery, which was dedicated to the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Campaign and included the Boise Quilt that was always hanging on the fence at Greenham, along with some photographs of Jack, who was just a young child and came with us then,” adds Fiona. Jack Lloyd is her son, the third person involved with the Gallery. “I went to university in Manchester to study Theatre Design, but I’m doing something very different now, photography, sculpting and framing at the Gallery,” he explains. Glennis tells me that it was actually Jack who was the driving force behind setting up the Gallery, which houses not only his work, but also the contemporary fused glass works of Glennis and Fiona as well as pieces by selected artists, who also work with recycled materials.

“What I do now isn’t what I set out to do,” says Jack. “But I believe that we have to connect with our customers, it’s self indulgent not to, so now I make for the people who come to this area.” “About 85% of what you see in the Gallery is our own work,” explains Glennis, “that’s how we make our living. Then we have different exhibitions featuring makers who produced work using recycled materials in disciplines we’re not involved in ourselves, such as Textiles, for instance.” For several years they sold their work from a showroom in Fiona’s house, were they also held workshops - initially with the aim of raising money for the various Peace Campaigns and Organisations that they were involved with. “We’re able to do so much more here, though,” says Glennis, “and it means Fiona has her house back, too!”

They had obviously researched the location of their Gallery thoroughly, as it fits the area very comfortably - and the area seems to suit them as well. “The position of the Gallery is crucial to its success. When people talk about the region that we’re in, they always describe it in a way that we want to be associated with,” explains Glennis. “And there’s a real sense of community here, which is very important.” Jack agrees, “It’s a terrific place to be, there’s a real mix of shops and eating places along here, you can buy something from 50p to £5,000!” So why is this Gallery just a little bit different from most others? Everything about it, from the moment you step in through the door, reflects the sentiments that have been so important to those three people for such a long time. In fact, you’ll see these words on the door when you arrive: Reduce, Re-use, Recycle, Recreate. And those words provide the essence of what’s being promoted here - not just the usual ‘recycle’ philosophy that is fashionable now, where local authorities encourage people to put things into different coloured plastic bins (and where then does it all go, across the oceans to far and distant landfill sites?). No, this is all about recycling in the fullest sense of the word. Nothing - but nothing - gets anywhere near a bin if it can be reused. Whether it’s the glass and other components of Fiona and Glennis’s work, or the unusual materials which have been used to create a relaxing outdoor exhibition space - or even old copies of this magazine which have been recreated into rather stylish origami-style paper bags for their customers; these people live their philosophy to the full and encourage others to do the same. “When we first opened, people checked out the ‘recycled’ element of the Gallery, they wanted to be sure that what we were offering fulfilled their own personal requirements from that point of view. We were attracting people who wanted to establish their credentials from what and how they buy. Of course, the other side of the coin is that some people would stand outside and question the prices of pieces in the window, thinking that because it’s recycled it should be cheaper!”. Now that the Gallery is well established, people tend not to stand outside at all, they are more likely to pop in for a coffee, a chat and a wander - and sometimes they buy, or they may get involved in a course or project - it’s very much a place where people feel welcome and at ease. “We hold a number of courses here, some of them practical, others more about running a small business. We find that the business courses attract people working in all sorts of areas, not just craftspeople,” explains Glennis. “For example, the florist at a nearby shop came to a course recently, to find out more about running her business. We’re very pleased to share information with people, whatever work they do, it’s good to be able to help them make a success of what they’re doing. We’re about sharing ideas and processes,” she continues. “We have lots of courses that people of all ages can enjoy, and everyone has created something at the end of it.”

The Creative Recycling Gallery is a fine example of what can be achieved by working together, not only with your business partners, but also with the local community. Glennis, Fiona and Jack have achieved what many makers aspire to do - selling their own work and that of other makers through their own Gallery. It may have a different slant from other Galleries, focusing on a special philosophy and approach, but the basics are the same for anyone in their position, as they explained. “Your Gallery has to be another one of your products,” says Jack, “not just a place to be.” Glennis adds, “Our biggest learning curve after setting up the Gallery was realising it wasn’t like selling at a craft fair. We need to make people feel comfortable enough to come into the Gallery, whilst at craft fairs, they’re already committed. People must feel comfortable about coming in to view, without feeling that they must always buy.”

Fiona has sound advice for makers considering doing something similar. “Don’t rely totally on your own work to stock your Gallery - it’s really hard to make and start up a new business as well. Choose a variety of work to appeal to a variety of eyes. You’ll need a back up of work by other artists that blends with your own, as you can’t always replace your own work if you’re busy running the Gallery.”

Jack adds, “We also have work by other makers here because we wanted to show that other people produce work using recycled materials, other makers have the same outlook as us. Basically, this is all about spreading the word, encouraging and inspiring people to re-use things themselves, for us it’s much more than just running a business.”

The Creative Recycling Gallery is at
40 Beech Road, Chorlton, Manchester M21 9EL
T: 0161 881 4422
www.40beechroad.co.uk
www.houseofbystander.com

 
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