An Eye for Art: The Byre Gallery, Millbrook
On the hunt for something unique for your wall? Discover the artwork your Farrow & Ball paint job's been longing for at Cornwall’s beautiful and inspiring Byre Gallery.
Hosting an array of British artists and stylish contemporary crafts, The Byre Gallery, on the edge of Millbrook in south east Cornwall, was set up by PR-turned-curator Elaine Dye in 2014.
Taking a refreshing approach to exhibiting, Elaine likes to display artwork in a chic domestic setting, rather than on the white walls and plinths favoured by most galleries. This inspires visitors to see how a piece might work in their home and creates a stylish but unintimidating space to view and choose new art.
Elaine curates five exhibitions a year, around seasonal themes. The current exhibit, Full of the Joys runs until the end of April and is all about colour and spring freshness. Here she shares her tips on buying and displaying art in your own spaces…
How did the Byre Gallery get started?
I’d always loved ceramics and took a course while we were living in Sydney, Australia. Two years later, I had to face the fact that I wasn’t going to set the ceramics world on fire with my pots and vases, but my tutor encouraged me to try curating. When we returned to the UK, our current home layout lent itself to having a gallery. So I completed a Masters programme at Plymouth College of Art and after two exploring curating, I opened the gallery in spring 2014.
What makes your approach different?
The Byre looks rather different from what most people expect from a gallery. I like to show work in the suggestion of a domestic space. I like to think that you could pretty much lift the exhibition and drop it into your home. There are still a lot of places that rely on the white cube, work on a plinth style. I reason that if an interiors store can use styling techniques to sell mass-produced items, why can’t a gallery do the same with one-off crafted pieces?
To keep things fresh, I change the look and feel of the space for each new exhibition – re-painting the walls every time and there is always a lot of interest in what colour it’s going to be next. But the art and craft that I show are the real stars of the show – with works in ceramics, glass, metal, textiles, wood and jewellery, by established and emerging makers from throughout the UK. Much of the work comes from south west artists but I like to include those from other parts of the UK, who our visitors might otherwise not get the chance to discover.
What advice would you give people shopping for art for their home?
Buy what you love. If you start from the premise that you’re looking for something to fill a certain space I think you will nearly always end up compromising. You may be lucky – but I think if you see a piece of art or craft that you know you just can’t walk away from then you will find a place for it in your home. I’ve had some clients who’ve repainted rooms to better display a new piece of work that they just loved.
Can you tell us about your upcoming exhibitions?
The current exhibition – Full of the Joys – features some fantastic work from makers and artists new to the gallery: paintings from Sophie Harding and Sara Bor (two artists I discovered at Gallery Tresco last summer); there is also gorgeous glass from relative newcomer Alice Heaton; ceramics from Judy McKenzie who is exhibiting in Cornwall for the first time; wood from Falmouth-based Adrian Mitchell; and some wonderful jewellery too.
On the 4th May it’s all change with A Colourful Life: paintings from Cornwall based Sara Owen will hang alongside work from Cheshire and Plymouth in the form of Christine Oliphant and David Muddyman. Also from Plymouth, is glass artist Benjamin Lintell whose work I’m really excited to be showing alongside sumptuous ceramics from London based Carolyn Tripp, another fantastic new find. We’re then back in July with more wonderful work for summer.
Do you have any tips on the best way to display art at home?
In terms of the applied arts – especially pieces in glass, ceramics and metals – it’s a good idea to make sure the spot you choose gives sufficient light, so that you can see the full effect of the finish or the colour. Glass looks wonderful with light coming through it and bouncing on to other surfaces. I also like to mix textures up – a roughly glazed ceramic vase can look amazing next to a delicate blown glass piece. For paintings, I think the emotion a piece evokes can dictate where you want to enjoy looking at it. If a painting is dark and brooding and provokes a powerful emotion you may not want that hanging on your bedroom wall to gaze upon just before you go to sleep.
Many years ago I bought a painting that I totally fell in love with and which made me feel happy and contented by just looking at it. In our previous home it was the first thing I saw when I stepped out of the bedroom door and so I felt that pleasure first thing every day; now it is at the end of the corridor connecting the gallery with our house, so seeing it now signifies the end of the working day.
Where else in Cornwall would you recommend to art lovers?
As well as all the wonderful galleries there are throughout the county, Open Studio events are a great way to see artists and makers in their own creative environments and to talk to them about their work and inspiration. Cornwall Open Studios runs across the county in the last week of May with hundreds of painters, ceramicists, jewellers, sculptors – and more – taking part, so there is lots to enjoy. Later in the summer, Drawn to the Valley is another open studio week, centred around the Tamar valley – the traditional border with Devon – and features artists and makers on both sides of the county divide.
The Byre Gallery, Hillside, Hounster Hill Millbrook, PL10 1AJ. Thebyregallery.co.uk