MEET THE MAKER – an exciting new blog which I know you will all enjoy.
I will be posting one a week hopefully so you will have to bear with me as I have nearly 90 UK designer/makers on my books at the moment – it will take some time to get through them all!!
But to kick this off I want to introduce myself to you so that you can understand how Heart Gallery started and why it is so important to me, so I guess this blog is MEET THE OWNER.
Many of my regular customers know me pretty well now after 4 years of being open in the heart of Hebden Bridge but those of you who just keep up-to-date with the blogs and can’t visit Hebden Bridge then this is for you … so enjoy!
Alison Bartram - passionate owner of Heart Gallery
I don’t really know where to start with this as writing these words down is painful – far more painful than the spoken word as it is so much more permanent. However, I do feel that the time is right to tell my story, so here goes:
I opened and ran a very successful business with my first husband in the eighties – Bradford’s first and only punk, goth, metal shop called Fizz! We quickly opened another 2 outlets in Leeds, one shop and one unit in an ‘Afflecks Palace’ type of warehouse.
Alison in the early eighties!
However, our personal relationship wasn’t good after our son was born in 1988 and so in 1990, when Adam was only 2, I made the decision to leave. This was a really difficult decision to make at the time as I was putting my own needs first before those of my son, Adam.
Adam's 21st with his 'photo' cake!!
I had great support from my mum who encouraged me to go back and study and she loved looking after Adam whilst I took evening bar and club jobs to support us both.
Mum and Baby Adam
I actually did not know what I wanted to do with my life at this point, I just knew I had to gain lots of office skills to enable me to jump out into the world of employment as I had been self-employed since getting married after traveling for a year. But I also knew that one day I would be my own boss again ………. I just didn’t know when, where, what or how, but I knew … call it feminine intuition!
When my son Adam was 7 I met a wonderful man, Bart, who loved me – warts and all! And believe me, after being single for some time (apart from the few really lovely relationships with guys who were sweet but not for me), there were a lot of warts as I was fiercely independent!!
Alison and Bart - London, candlelit drink for two!
He had his work cut out romancing me as I was convinced I wanted to be alone with Adam and didn’t need anyone else in my life.
Bart and Ali on a rare Saturday night out together - all dressed up with somehere to go!
Yet, a year later, to the day, we married and Adam gave me away and Mum made the speech ‘traditionally’ reserved for Dad. (I should say at this point that over the years my relationship with Dad was like a roller coaster, we weren’t really close since Mum and Dad split when I was 13). He was in my life but things were very strained between us.
Alison and Bart, wedding day 1996 Oakwood Hall Hotel
Sadly Mum died the January after our August wedding and at the time of her death (11 weeks after her cancer diagnosis) I was 11 weeks pregnant. I knew that as her life was taken from me it would be given back and I would have a beautiful daughter .. which I did, Rebecca Kaye in 1997.
Little Baby Rebecca
Becki won the fake moustache competition at Christmas!!
Becki being more serious for the camera instead of fooling around, age 11!
I missed mum dreadfully, we were best friends, but life goes on as we settle back into our routines doesn’t it? My sister, Rachel, seemed to cope much better than I did at the time, she’s 3 years younger than me, she was quite robotic as we organised the funeral and I was an emotional wreck. Yet inner strength was found at Mum’s funeral as we both got up to say a little piece – funny that, where does strength come from at a time like that? Little did I know I would need it again 8 years’ later.
Alison and Rachel
After years of moving from one office job to another (I got bored easily once the challenge had gone ) I found my ‘perfect’ admin job working at The Yorkshire Craft Centre, part of Bradford College. This married my admin skills in a creative environment and suddenly I knew that maybe I wouldn’t leave this job quite so quickly as those before! Every day was different as exhibitions were planned and I was just loving it. I was on cloud nine until something came along and burst my bubble.
My sister took her own life, January 8th 2005. I’d called up for a cup of tea as she hadn’t been well and the family were worried about her. I was the only one with a key and as I pulled up outside I just knew that something was wrong. All her curtains were drawn and the house was deathly quiet with a strange smell I can’t describe. I found her naked on the bathroom floor, a brief note saying sorry in her bedroom and empty packets of tablets by her bed. This just wasn’t happening, it all felt so unreal as I made the call for an ambulance, rang Paul and Dad.
Rachel and Alison in The Lake District, the last time we went on holiday together.
Rachel's final resting place at Friars Crag, Derwentwater, The Lake District
Rachel was diagnosed as manic depressive in her early twenties and struggled for many years with mood swings but I never thought she would take things to the next level. My world fell apart that day.
All arrangements for the funeral took place at my house with Dad, Bart, and Sandra (Dad’s partner), and a lot of it is a blur but one thing stands out for me which was a turning point in my relationship with Dad. He took my head in his hands and told me he loved me, something he hasn’t done for many, many years. Out of the negative came the positive.
With Dad, with love x
Leaving home the day of Rachel’s funeral we followed the brightest rainbow, which was so poignant as Rachel was carried into church whilst Eva Cassidy sang ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’ – there wasn’t a dry eye in the room and it was standing room only. That inner strength came back to me when I got up to speak a few words and has remained with me in my hour of need. That rainbow followed us to the crematorium also and appears in my life when I need it.
Rachel's rainbow over Park Farm
Losing my sister made me realise that nothing in life is certain and we have no idea what is around the corner so I quit my job and took a part-time job in a local café Organic House whilst I thought about what was important in my life. Rachel had always told me I was wasting my life working for others, she had always told me that I should go out and grab that opportunity, she had always told me to open my own shop, she had always told me that nothing was impossible, she had always told me that tomorrow never comes .. and for her there are no more tomorrows. But for me there are and her death gave me the kick up the backside I needed to realise that dream – my when, where, what and how had arrived finally.
Carpe Diem - So the when was 2006, the where was Hebden Bridge, the what was a Contemporary Jewellery and Craft Gallery and the how was with support from my family … those still living and those that are now my guardian angels.
Heart Gallery exterior, 4a Market Street, Hebden Bridge
Heart Gallery became a reality and no longer a dream, named because Rachel knew that having my own business was something I held close to my own heart for so many, many years.
Heart Gallery interior shot of the counter
Again the positive comes from the negative and I try to live every day as if it is my last. The passion I had the first day I put my key in the big black door of a former Baptist Chapel I had converted into a warm and inviting Gallery space is still with me today. I love my life, my home, my family, my friends, my customers, my designer/makers, my Gallery and my work. I still feel a great sense of pride when a new customer discovers me for the first time. No two days are ever the same and no two days ever go by without me thanking Mum and Rachel for looking over me, propping me up when I need it and celebrating with me when my achievements are recognised.
Collecting my award in London for Best Newcomer in the North for gift retailing
2008 saw me win Best Newcomer in the North and Scotland for gift retailing as voted by Progressive Gift and Home Magazine. This was a fantastic honour for me because I can pat myself on the back a hundred times a day when I know how hard I have worked so to be recognised by someone else makes me realise that it is all so worthwhile.
2009 I was shortlisted for the Best Jewellery Retailer in the UK as voted by Progressive Gift and Home Magazine and got down to the final five. Sadly I did not win this but I was over the moon to have got that far and overwhelmed by it all to be honest; the winners had 9 branches!
I have refused to buy into all the negativity we are fed daily by the media. I go to work every day with a smile on my face, open my door to Heart Gallery, concentrate on my customers, enjoy my day and go home and enjoy quality time with my family.
My family enjoying a 'get together' over food and wine!
Becki with Grandma
I opened Heart Gallery because I am passionate about introducing new and emerging UK designer/makers specialising in beautiful jewellery and craft to Hebden Bridge. I opened Heart Gallery because I wanted to. I opened Heart Gallery because Rachel wanted me to. This is my dream and I will live it until old age creeps up and bites me on the bum ….!
A relaxing bath after a long and busy weekend at Heart Gallery
I hope that my customers all feel my passion when they walk into Heart Gallery and continue to return time and time again for a truly wonderful shopping experience in an inviting space, in an unusual and interesting gallery situated in the heart of a beautiful town. xXX