Friday, 31 December 2010

Slip sliding away

Having spent the last few weeks on ice, you almost miss it now its gone. Particularly as the crispness (!) of mid-December has been replaced by all encompassing mist.
Despite the cold, life in Burnham has continued pretty much as usual; on a parochial note the gallery has actually seen an increase in visitors over December last year.  It obviously takes more than a bit of snow and -10˚ here in the garden to put people off!
Having finally got to Christmas, it did briefly appear that the traditional family Christmas at Gunton might elude us, being - fortunately only temporarily - defeated by glazed ice on the final approach. Judicious lightening of our respective loads and a slight change in the atmosphere produced a happy ending.

Correspondence with artists around the country suggests we have been lucky but there is still January and that month that follows.  Maybe the 4x4 will still be needed!

The last few days have seen visits by a number of our regulars - customers and artists - and as usual new work has appeared. Some of it has sold already, which provides yet further proof that if you like it, don't delay.

2010 was not without incident - but has generally been good to us. Long may it continue.... Happy New Year!

Friday, 12 November 2010

Autumn Thoughts

More friends, more visits and more weather. Just a couple of weeks ago friends from London ended up staying in Wells whilst visiting their daughter at UEA and celebrating their wedding anniversary. Taking pity on them following a typically tiresome journey up, I collected them from their B&B, The Old Custom House on East Quay, to go out for dinner. It was only the following day, when they popped into the gallery on their way to Norwich, that it transpired the view from their room was pretty much the same as one of our best-selling cards.

I have to say that this fact had escaped me the night before. My only defence was that it seemed very dark and I was concentrating on parking on the quay and not in the harbour.  Anyway, the dinner was good - vension from Stody - and well worth a drive through darkest Norfolk.

Following a brief trip to London for a fantastic Charity Event - - and a rare day at home, it was back to Norfolk for the opening of our latest exhibition in the Norwich Gallery.  This features the work of ALAN BENNETT - not that one - but a very talented artist now living here who paints trees and heathland. If you get the chance its well worth a look.  On previous occasions we have shown his bigger works, but this time there's something for all walls and budgets.

My return seemed to signal the true onset of Autumn here. Monday was foul by common consent.  It was improved considerably by a visit to the wonderful DUCK INN just up the road.  Fantastic food accompanied by music from NICK HAYWOOD who has also been known to make beautiful buildings for your garden and can also turn his hand to painting.  The transformation from the Duck's previous incarnation as the idiosyncratic Crown is remarkable.  This the first of music/casserole nights on Mondays looks like a must for the next few weeks!

Perhaps prompted by a weekend of indulgence, the delights of Brancaster Beach are back in my schedule on a semi-regular basis. This week I have been rained on, hailed on and yesterday almost blown over. So much better than sunbathing I always think.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Paintings, Pots and Visitors

It's always good when artists and makers new to the gallery meet with approval. The last two weeks have seen just that with both JOHN HANNYNGTON's pots and NAOMI CLEMENTS-WRIGHT's paintings being warmly received.  John's pots provoke varying reactions, those who like the organic pieces seemingly ignoring the more traditional work and vice-versa.  Similarly those who appreciate Naomi's interiors don't seem to register her still-life work.  Which all confirms what we have come to know - that you cannot predict response.  Suffice to say that we are very much looking forward to building on the foundations of this their first show.

Artists and friends who visit often ask whether life isn't a bit quiet in North Norfolk.  Well... not exactly,  which goes some way to explaining how fast time seems to move on.  One of our favourite artists, GEOFFREY ROBINSON, who has shown with us since the beginning, needs no convincing of the delights of North Norfolk.  Despite living within sight and sound of the sea in Hampshire, Geoff fell deeply in love with Burnham Market when he stayed here during his last exhibition.  He didn't actually move, but he did find his way back here last week with some fantastic new paintings.

A day out with friends from Yorkshire prompted a visit to the Far East - well Horsey to be more exact. Its all too easy to forget just how big and varied Norfolk is.  Just like Brancaster, Horsey has sand-dunes and a beach that goes on forever.  But the sea is bigger and there are real waves.  They also have seals on the beach, where they come to pup each year.  And a proper pub, and a proper brewery close at hand.  Fantastic! But... I suspect time may go just that little bit slower, so I'm not thinking of heading east just yet.

The following day saw sanity restored with lunch at Brancaster and all the wind and rain you could wish for. The kind of real weather you expect in the west (Cornwall) but not so frequent here. Put the wilds of Penwith to shame!

Friday, 22 October 2010

Tripped Up?

Just like the birds, our artists come back in the autumn!  Presumably, they like many of us prefer Norfolk when it's just that little bit quieter.  Very good to catch up with everybody's news. It also leads to eating out a bit more often... and it's then that the changes that affect every pub and restaurant come to light.  The pub that I have glowingly recommended over the summer months may have lost its chef, or been sold to someone else or...

TripAdviser got more than its fair share of coverage a few weeks back, with Hoteliers alleging abuse. Whatever the truth in this, it can cause problems.  One of our artists decided not to book into the most obvious choice here due to something he'd read, and booked into another establishment a little further afield in Blakeney.  Asked to join him and his wife for supper, I think we were all somewhat surprised to find at 7.30, the menu shrinking before our eyes.  Given that I believe this is a daily menu, we were taken aback to find that even at this early hour there was only 1 of each of two of the main courses!  We might have forgotten this - putting it down to an unforseeable early rush, but strangely the same thing happened with the wine list - with an apparent shortage of Chardonnay.  Oh well.  What we eventually got did taste ok. I can only hope that breakfast was not similarly afflicted.

Ironically, I suspect that the dodgy review that lead to this was just that - dodgy!

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Where did August go?

Can't quite believe that it's September tomorrow. Just four weeks ago, summer still seemed stretched out before us, and yet today with fantastic blue skies and finally - no wind, you can almost hear the change of season.

August has been surprisingly good with lots of visitors and some good sales. Amongst new arrivals in the gallery have been paintings by PIERCE CASEY - a wonderful man, originally from Southern Ireland with a fantastic feel for colour and composition.  His paintings are currently on show in the Norwich gallery, but will be heading north very soon. People often ask how we find our artists?  Serendipity.. and a little help from our friends - in this case Burnham Market's resident artist ANDREW RUFFHEAD.  I'm looking forward to putting these two old friends back in touch.

In contrast to last year, we've gone easy on the one-man shows this year.. until now when we're making up for it with the return of GERARD STAMP.  As well as some of what he has become so well-known for (even HM The Queen now has one), there are a couple of stunning landscapes, including what surely must be his best interpretation of the Saltmarsh yet, and a new departure - paintings of the fishing sheds at Brancaster.  If you haven't seen it yet, its on for just another 10 days or so.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Superblog from Devon

Put to shame by my friend RICHARD GODFREY, whose blog not only looks nearly as good as his pots - but includes a really good video of him at work on his new landscape pieces.

I can vouch for the landscape too...... 

- just fantastic! And all this to the accompaniment of Barney Bigard... Crawfish Blues, oh yes!

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Paul Whittome

For those of us who live or work in Burnham Market, the start of the month brought the sad news of the untimely death of Paul Whittome.  As a newcomer to the village, nearly three years ago, I very quickly became aware that Paul - through his commitment, drive and personality - had with his family and team, created in The Hoste Arms something very special - a unique mix of pub, personality and professionalism. Somehow he has locals, dogs, children and all the rest, all mixed up and enjoying the same front bar -  at the same time blending this into what has become one of the country's most memorable hotels.  And you feel welcome. Creating this natural buzz and vitality isn't easy and to succeed is rare and remarkable.
Like many, I barely knew him - but when we did meet there was always a friendly welcome and - always - a sense of drive and direction.  In the gallery, a substantial majority of our visitors, stay, dine or at least drink at The Hoste.  For many, The Hoste is synonymous with Burnham Market; it is the focal point of their visit and we, like many of the other businesses in the village, have much to be grateful to Paul and his team for.

To establish such an institution - for that is what it has become - and along the way to effectively secure the viability and vitality of the village, is to my mind a truly remarkable and worthwhile achievement. A life well spent.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Saturday Lunchtimes in Burnham

Saturday lunchtimes have become something of a social institution in the gallery. First in today was BRIAN HINTON whose characterful paintings are very much in tune with the mood of the place. Those who frequent the restaurant at The Hoste sit alongside Brian's paintings of Jazz musicians and it gives us great pleasure to be selling his new work. The subject has changed but his people are very much his own - characterised by curves and good humour.  Next up - but not unexpected - was MAX ANGUS, bringing two new prints which we are, as ever, delighted to show.

Difficult to believe, but Max has only been showing with us for two and a bit years, but has become very much a regular.  As ever, they are very competitively priced - and absolutely ideal for anybody who loves or lives (hopefully both!) in Norfolk.

Last in, MICHAEL CHAPMAN with a typical Chapman - Receding Tide at Holkham.  He does get the atmosphere and the light just right, but then I suppose he should do.  He has been here some time and as I am realising really does understand the place. So much so that the paint was barely dry on his last delivery before it sold.

Friday, 4 June 2010

News from Norwich

For all the latest of what is arriving, happening or is about to happen in our Norwich Gallery - visit our other blog, imaginatively titled NEWS FROM THE GRAPEVINE GALLERY.  Work in either gallery can be viewed wherever suits you best.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Glorious Devon

Rounding off my all too brief trip west, I stayed overnight in a fantastic 1930's Showman's Caravan in the garden of another good friend and talented artist - SUE DEAKIN. If you imagine a classic timber built yacht with all its bespoke joinery and fittings and cross this with a Pullman railway carriage, you just about get the picture.  Absolutely beautiful - and surprisingly cosy on a night of one of the latest Devon frosts for many years. 

With an hour or so to spare, I headed as far south as Devon goes, for a fleeting trip to Dartmouth. Drifting along Foss Street, browsing in other people's galleries - role's reversed for a change - I had one of those extraordinary moments that seem to come with this business. Peering into what appeared to be a little bit of France - apparently some kind art workshop - I found a face I knew staring back at me!  STUDIO DIX NEUF is the new home and business of two friends, Lys FLOWERDAY and Gilles BOURLET, who I had no reason to suppose were not where I thought they were - in Norwich.  Our Norwich customers will remember Lys' wonderful prints and drawings were shown in the Grapevine some years ago - but here they were in deepest Devon, having moved over 18 months ago. 
The studio is beautifully presented and it just looks so good. Fascinating to discuss gallery strategy - door open? or door closed? etc. The  questions are the same wherever you are. I have always liked Dartmouth - but now I have a real connection!  If you're in Devon - GO THERE!

Half an hour back up the road, a quick visit to LEA PHILLIPS studio, restocked Grapevine with her very popular (and affordable) mugs and jugs - but this time in new colours, just right for the Summer.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Out West - Part 2

I love Cornwall - but these days it's so easy to get there, I fear it's lost some of its mystery.  A lesson for Norfolk perhaps; just maybe we'd be better off without the completion of the A11. Anyway the upshot of this is that less than 2 hours driving from Richard Godfrey found me in Penryn, meeting up again with one of my current favourites, PATRICK HAUGHTON.  

Very much part of the St.Ives tradition, I think his work is just fantastic. His studio look out towards Falmouth and the Carrick Roads, but the biggest influence to me in his current work is the time he spends each year in the far west of France. If you want to know more about Patrick's work, you need look no further than the web-site of another of my favourites GEOFFREY ROBINSON, who made a short film about Patrick's work not long ago.

Over lunch it emerged that we shared a number of mutual friends in and around Falmouth - and somewhat bizarrely Patrick was re-united with a lost and much loved scarf! Very good to see Patrick and Suki again and I look forward to entertaining them in Norfolk; - it seems Patrick has his eye on a visit to the RAILWAY INN - - here in Burnham Market. 

Friday, 21 May 2010

A long delayed trip out west - Part 1

Before opening the Burnham Grapevine, I seemed to head west down the A303 fairly regularly.  So it came as something of a surprise to find that it was nearly 11 months since my last visit. As usual it brought unexpected delights.  

Arriving to stay with my good friend and potter extraordinaire RICHARD GODFREY in glorious Devon, I was invited to join Richard to a brief recording session (twinning arrangements have a lot to answer for) at a house in a magical setting overlooking the river close by Newton Ferrers.   I knew Richard was also a talented musician - but he turns out to have something of a voice as well. Back at home, I was introduced to Devon Blue - a cheese new to me but one which is truly superb and a worthy rival to Binham Blue.

To business.  A new group of Richard's wonderful pots was acquired the following morning - plus the real pleasure in finally meeting MIKE BROMAGE a truly unique talent who I am sure we're going to hear much more of if I'm not very much mistaken.  Mike has just published his 2nd book of drawings and cartoons of his wonderful birds. Simply fantastic.

All too brief a stay... but further delights lay further west.  And as it turned out - east.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Gone to the Dogs

A puzzling absence of the usual enthusiasm for biscuits by my neighbour's dog - at the opening of a doggy themed art exhibition became clear later.  They certainly looked like dog biscuits... but apparently they were ginger - and meant for the humans.  Never mind, didn't seem too put out.  

An unexpectedly full Indian restaurant lead to us eating at The Kings Head at Letheringsett.  Frequently passed, but last visited many moons ago, this is one of Chris Coubrough's expanding empire.  Very welcoming, plenty of room and good food and already added to the Grapevine list of places to eat.  Amused to see that like all of us, it's easy not notice the seemingly obvious; the till receipt proclaiming them to be in in Letteringsett.   

Monday, 26 April 2010

A spring evening at Overy Staithe

The sun's out..... England and in particular Norfolk is at its most seductive.  The tide is high, Harry the dog is well-behaved. It's just fantastic.

Burnham Market afternoon

The sun is high in the sky - and the swifts are back. Not so many as last year.. yet. Let's hope there are more on the way.

Just had an interesting new painting in - very different to anything else in the gallery but I have high hopes. 

Talking of birds, lots of nice new Birds (and a whale) by Terri Smart have also arrived. These ones are ceramic, but equally fascinating and very affordable. I think my current favourite has to be the Lapwing.