First" Gallery's eagerly-anticipated Xmas Show manages to recreate its special magic year after year. 'Regulars' almost set their (Christmas season) clocks by it, and if you don't, it's high time you paid a visit to find out why they do. Last year, a new visitor remarked: "Why don't more people know about you? I've travelled all over the world and have never been anywhere like this". We are tucked away, somewhat off the beaten track (part of what makes us "the most unusual gallery in the South" (BBC South)) but no less worth finding, for all that.
Please note that, if you've found this site during our second week (Nov. 22nd – 27th) you need to ring first to check that someone's in attendance to let you in; if so, you can just turn up. This informal arrangement operates year round, whenever there's no main show on.
Even during exhibitions, if you wish to – or can only – visit outside our set drop-in times of 2 – 7pm daily (which apply during the first 9 days of every show), the same ring-up-and-turn-up system runs (as long as someone is in, of course!)
This is our 36th consecutive year of mounting the event which, as has become traditional, sources a rare mix of the well-made, the different and the affordable. We're aware of this being the Season of Goodwill and Strained Budgets (probably even more so, this year!) so we make a special effort to seek out good-value items without compromising standards.
"The First" Gallery extends its renowned warm welcome to the following "New Faces" this year:
LUCY WILDER, recently graduated, makes perky, quirky and fun birds in fabric — mostly felt and leather. Her range currently comprises British, mainly woodland / garden, species, but doubtless more will follow! The felt ones free-stand; the leather ones are brooches sewn on to stylised backgrounds, and come with their own linen keep-bag; all are bursting with character.
Another, rather more art-leaning, line is collaged images of birds, showing various aspects of each. Collage is usually pretty flat, but some of these have plainly 3-D attachments. They have authentically rustic-style frames.
MARION BRANDIS also creates birds, in ceramic, with real feather accoutrements. Their solidity is partly illusional: the body is less than 1cm. thick, and fairly flat, with the detail printed on, in the manner of antique Natural History illustration. Not necessarily depicting any species, the ones here have a Bird-of-Paradise / lyrebird feel to them, this exoticism in keeping with the 'period' style of the imagery, when such birds were new to Western science.
KATE LULHAM, too, makes birds... and bees...... and fish, all as wire sculpture, with interestinglty textured / coloured accoutrements. She's sent a selection of fish this time round. First coming to our notice while living in Banbury, Oxon., making wire insects, Kate was lined up to be invited into our 2002 show Flights of Fancy. However, an artist in a similar style accepted first, and it was felt that, together, they would cancel each other out.
We were delighted to find she was still active, and part of the Festival in Brighton, where she moved about five years ago.
ANDREA GREGORY makes metal jewellery in silver and aluminium, gorgeously polished. It's the latter metal we have on show. By using thick sheet, she can stamp it and tint the stampings with other metal colours. Visitors have commented on the faintly Ancient Roman / Anglo-Saxon feel to the designs.
Quality finishing is a declining skill (Geoff Clarke, the gallery's co-founder and a trained precision engineer, used to commit much time to finish and polish, so we've been spoiled by his standards!) We were especially pleased to see this aspect of Andrea's work, allied to her fine design sense.
We have fewer jewellers than the market could absorb, mainly for the reason of being unable to find workers who pay sufficient attention to this aspect.
[WOLFRAM LOHR, advertised on our flyers, failed to send anything, without notice or apology].
We have also sourced some East European faceted glass, by an unnamed maker. Mostly chained together, chandelier-style, they create beautiful hanging sparkles. With some pieces joined GEOFF D. CLARKEís (1925 – 98) enamelled jewellery, these become unusual decorations.
An untypical element this year: for 2010, and beyond, we're making a large selection of art-related books available for sale. These are labelled, to distinguish them from our own books (which we leave on their usual shelves, some of which are visible in the display-areas).
There's more to appeal to the child in all of us, in the form of automata by PETER LENNERTZ and NEIL HARDY, a pipe-warmer for their joint show at "The First" next Autumn.
VICTOR STUART GRAHAM and ROBERT RACE each recall their memorable joint show Still Moving here last Spring, with more tempting sculptures / automata mostly in reclaimed wood.
Out of her slight artistic 'doldrums' of late, prize-winning artist PHILIPPA BAMBACH has regained the slightly disturbing sense of "otherness" inherent in her work of a decade ago. We have four of her latest paintings on show. (She won a top prize at the 2010 St Barbe Open, Lymington).
plus TOYS & CUT-OUTS CARDS & GIFTWRAP FRAMING
ALVIN BETTERIDGE No new pieces, regretfully (that WOULD be something to celebrate!) but pieces from our stock, stretching back to about the late '80s
LOTTE GLOB's pots are always popular. Those on show this time are mostly domestic, non-ultilitarian: this phase is no longer obtainable from her, since she has begun to focus entirely on sculptural pieces. A couple of her rare Icelandic series are included
SARAH PERRY needs no introduction to our 'regulars'. Showing her amazingly wafer-thin stoneware dishes / bowls / vessels, etc. (light enough to be porcelain) from our stock, bought over a period (mid-'90s – mid-2000s) for our unrealised ceramics touring show
Also, a selection from our extensive holding, mostly dating from the '90s, by knowns / unknowns, e.g. inter alia, Mike Dodd, Jonathan Garratt, Chris Hawks, Richard Ballantyne, and anon.
SUSAN ANDERSON offers a series of woodcut / lino-prints, all made since her last showing with us.
H. M. CLARKE is showing various oil-paintings, and: – a new line for her – collages: as usual, since the Gallery's primary purpose is not to promote its Director's own output (!), the selection is made at the last minute, to fill any gaps in the display!
NEIL HARDY, of Fabulous Animals, has sent at least one brand-new design this season. A great success, in both entertainment- and sales-terms, each time he's shown work here. Get in early!
PETER LENNERTZ has shown with us just a few times, but always attracts attention. Visitors with sharp recall may remember his take on Edvard Munch's famous The Scream, which drew many wry smiles and expressions of intrigue. There's an equally unexpected parody of another iconic work of art in the present show, along with two other designs we've not seen before.
PETER MARKEY has hardly been making at all this year (he was 80 in September) but we have a selection of pieces in stock from previously. Some are colourful, some plain wood. There are two Markey designs in the Christmas cards display and, of course, those perennial favourites, card automata cut-outs (£2).
ROBERT RACE, despite his frenetic work-schedule, always turns up the goods. This year, his magical mystery "autreasures" comprise Balancing Birds (these are finely balanced on a weighted stiff wire, and rotate gently on an intriguing driftwood stand), Muttering Birds (see animation) and Surprise Birds (which turn as you pick them up). He, too, has card cut-outs available.
ANGELA & LAURENCE St. LEGER report a similarly trend-bucking year just past. They're exhibiting ten miniature pieces, including a Cow Jumping Over the Moon in a style entirely new to us (dispensing with the "circus footstool" look of many of their bases). Over half the designs have not been shown here before.
Single pieces by other automatists are also on show; a few others could be made available, on request.
LYNNE HUDSON Delightful hand-knitted mohair shawls and an eclectic mix of Christmas-tree decorations, non-fabric items using wire-crochet and knotting [sic] techniques, and both new and previous card-designs, too. New this year are her knitted Hug Mugs, which wrap round your mug to keep your hot drink hot.
ELIZABETH NASH Recent work of familiar avian / natural subjects, including two silk hangings, and collagraphs. This year, she has completed a new studio at home, and has returned to painting, so there are some small canvases (a bargain I suggest, at around £60) one featuring imagery less typical for her. In the print-rack is one of the Green Man series, a foretaste of next Spring's* exhibition based around Liz's large-scale print-cycle on the subject. * unavoidably postponed from the Autumn just gone
'RAY' REYNOLDS [= Rachel Louise Reynolds' new trading style, adopted to avoid confusion with the other Southampton-based textile artist, Rachel Reynolds] is showing a series of new and recent semi-abstract images in hand-made felt and hand- & machine-stitch. Developing spectacularly over the past few years, she manages to achieve both pattern and perspective in her landscapes. Glorious colours. We've started noticing a whole raft of felt- / fabric- picture-makers emerging lately, but none remotely as good as this.
Work by William Walker, Potter-Morgan and others.
SUE EVANS We have a few small non-automated items available: her Protective Seal & Pup / Cat & Kitten designs.
VICTOR STUART GRAHAM shows his usual arresting mixture of yachts, houses, and scenes, almost all from reclaimed wood. A new development this year is the terraced houses, seen before, but now split into sections, so they don't have to be displayed in one straight line. The example we have is fairly large by Victor's standards.CARDS & WRAP
OUR GREETINGS CARDS
At "The First" Gallery, we don't hold with the commercial hijacking of the term "hand-made" for increased profits. All our hand-made cards are exactly that: designed and made by one person each, not assemblies of ready-made / pre-printed messages and images, like supermarket 'hand-made'. We indicate, on the item, any element that isn't done by hand, or where mass-produced components (e.g. pre-cut card blanks) have been incorporated, so you know exactly what you're getting. That said, the prices are around £1.50 – £3.50, rather less than the typical price you see for churned-out, production-line 'hand-made' cards in shops and boutiques.
MARGERY CLARKE has again been busy, producing another 30 specimens of various new hand-drawn / -inked card designs: her own original pen-&-ink images, some cartoons, some serious; a few are laser-printed outlines, each individually hand-coloured by her; others multiples of the same design, but each drawn afresh (what the commercial art-world perceives as an "original", as if that mattered!!!); also some one-off designs. She also hand-colours "The First"'s own Christmas cards, of which we make available for sale the few unused ones from previous years' sending.
No slouch, she, over the printing-table, either: there are more large sheets of hand-printed giftwrap this year, as well as a few sheets of last year's output.
LYNNE HUDSON Designs include her popular "Orienteer" cards, and new developments using sparkly stones and metallic stitch.
PETER MARKEY As last year, a couple of designs, one professionally printed from the '80s, with hand-coloured additions; the other laser-printed from one he mailed to his personal and business circle in a previous year, which the Gallery used as its own Xmas card in 2005 (the year we marked his 75th birthday here). Both are hand-coloured by Margery Clarke.
ERIC MEADUS (1931 – 70) Three sophisticated, witty designs. Colour laser-copies, some dramatically actual size (A4-ish, when folded), some reduced to A5 when folded. The A4 size, and currently just a few of the smaller ones, come with hand-made, pearlescent envelopes, a most stylish feature (using the same paper as our mailed-out invitation flyers).
Back in the '60s, before humour was a prevalent feature of Christmas cards, Eric Meadus submitted them, unsuccessfully, to Gordon Fraser for consideration.
Though not crafted, there is a selection of recycled (and some unused) period printed cards from the 1920s to the 1950s.
THE CORNERSHOP Most of the framing for paintings and fabric-work on view is by PAUL CLARKE, whose further details can be found elsewhere on this site. Click this link
As though this isn't enough, it's complemented by items from our wide-ranging and unusual stock, and familiar elements like our bargains table.And don't forget that, from Monday November 29th, the whole show, in reduced form, continues on display until Xmas Eve, BUT only by prior appointment (a rather grand way of saying "please ring up before you turn up"!)
Could you ask for more? If so, come and find it at "The First" Gallery's 36th Xmas Show! ;)