Back in the 80s I remember visiting Leeds Corn Exchange as a kid. From memory it seemed like quite a grand but much darker place and I can’t remember what was in it, shops or market stalls or what. In fact the whole of Leeds seemed to be a dark, rainy, bus fume choked, overcrowded place on a Saturday afternoon. We’d get the Day Rover (or was it the KerChing?) from Dewsbury station to Leeds, down through the stinky underpass and head up to the Odeon, via any shops that would let kids in. Basically we’d not buy anything and just waste time out of the rain before the cinema would let us in – so toy shops, book shops, record shops, novelty shops, hifi shops, cafes, anywhere warm and dry. We certainly didn’t visit any craft shops.
So here we are a few years later and I love craft and design, and I don’t know about you but I try to visit new craft shops and galleries whenever I get chance. If you’ve not been to Leeds for a quick look around in a while, my how it’s changed since I were a lad! It’s almost as if a load of money got thrown at it and it somehow got quite gentrified in the process.
I particularly wanted to see the revamped Corn Exchange as I’d heard good things about it. I headed into pretty much all the shops inside, but the ones that stood out for me were Nautical and Nice and Summerhouse, both upstairs.
In Nautical and Nice I had a chat with owner Ken about all things craft, ecommerce, retail, trends, pricing. He’s a very knowledgeable chap. Their shop is lovely and very seaside / sailing themed, very niche. It kind of felt like being in a seaside boutique for a while, surrounded by lighthouses, boats and all things beachy! We both decided my work isn’t a great fit although my Waves coasters might work, but he loved the colours of my Retro layered blue clock. He recommended having a chat with Summerhouse as they would be more my thing. (I also put in a good word for Kate Wimbush, who I share a stand with at BCTF, as she does some lovely beach and lighthouse themed jewellery, perfect for N & N).
Three or four doors down is Summerhouse, run by Camilla Schmidt. It’s a boutique gift shop which seems to have an open plan layout with the people next door, so two shops in one. Ken was right, Summerhouse is a much better fit for my work. The concept is a relatively new one, whereby you rent a shelf but you get to keep most of the takings – usually it’s more like a 50/50 split between you and the retailer. It’s less of a risk for the retailer but more of a risk for the artists. I showed Camilla a few pieces of work on my website and she loved them.
One week later I headed down there again with a load of products, far too much to fit on my shelf (!) so I had to be very selective about what went in. Currently they have my coasters, a small number of various sizes of clock, plus a few surprises.
The Corn Exchange is well worth a trip if you’re passing, with plenty of interesting independent eateries if it’s chucking it down outside (!). Not sure what the table tennis tables are all about but they always seem to be in use. And definitely have a look upstairs where you’ll find Summerhouse and N & N.
NB since writing this, Summerhouse has unfortunately had to close. Nautical and Nice are still there.