As part of a new series of interviews for the Blog we’re interviewing some of our exhibitors who’ve been with the Affordable Art Fair since the early days. Here, Rowan and Liz from Woodbine Contemporary Arts tell us about how their gallery began, and the last fifteen years with the Affordable Art Fair!
Tell us how you first started?
We met at Cardiff College of Art in the late 60s, whilst studying for Fine Art degrees. I was two years ahead and took up a teaching post in Peterborough after my PGCE – Liz joined me later having graduated and also undertaken a PGCE. Neither of us stopped producing art and for a number of years we were members of the 678 artist group, which exhibited throughout East Anglia. When the group folded we both continued to paint, and on moving to our present home in south Lincolnshire, we restored the small derelict cottage at the end of the garden as a gallery space- initially to show our own work, and also that of one or two artists we knew.
Where did the name Woodbine come from?
The name of the cottage was ‘Woodbine cottage’, due to the large honeysuckle bush at the side of it – woodbine being the country name for honeysuckle. When the galley opened in 1997, it was called Woodbine Cottage Gallery, although the name was later changed to Woodbine Contemporary Arts.
How did you first come across the Affordable Art Fair?
We didn’t find the Affordable Art Fair, the fair found us! In the early days we used to advertise in Art Review and we think Will, the fair founder, found us there. The first thing we knew about the fair was when a letter from Will arrived, explaining what he was planning to do, and would we be interested in applying. Although I’d not long left teaching and money was tight, we both knew it was something we should be involved in.
What was your first AAF like?
Our first AAF was exhilarating, stimulating and exhausting. Exhilarating, because suddenly we were part of a big London event, with a large footfall and a higher level of sales than we could achieve in our small and very rural gallery. Stimulating, because like the visitors, we could see in one event what 90 other galleries were doing and achieving. Exhausting, because fairs are tiring anyway, but as our two sons were still at school, we would drive down from Lincolnshire on a daily basis to ensure that they could see us, and we could see them, every day.
Which Affordable Art Fairs do you now do?
We now take part in Battersea, Hampstead and Bristol fairs, although we have also taken part in the Amsterdam fair.
Best thing about doing the fairs?
For us the best thing about the fairs is that not only do they give us the chance to be part of well organised and well publicised events, from which we have built up a large client base, but to be part of something which, at the same time as being groundbreaking, influential and now global, allows us to still feel part of the family.
Funniest fair memory?
There have been many funny moments, but one which stands out is when, a certain lady from a certain Bristol gallery, on a quiet Friday afternoon, decided to prove that she could to the splits, and did so in the middle of the aisle!
What’s next for the gallery?
What’s next? Immediately, it is the Bristol fair, but after that, to keep pushing up the quality of what we show, and how we show it, and also to look at the possibility of taking on another Affordable Art Fair.