Handbags with a little bit of theatre sewn in

15 Jan 2018
by Nick Holker

The Rare Skills Gallery in Forest Row celebrates the work of 20 plus artists and craft makers with exceptional talent and creativity. As a result, in addition to a wide variety of original paintings and prints, we have a wonderful collection of vibrant ceramics, art glass, textiles and decorated wooden bowls and boards. We are particularly pleased with the hand crafted leather bags, belts, wallets and purses that we offer.

One of our distinguished exhibitors is Victoria Baker who worked for many years as a costume designer and maker in the field of Theatre, Film and Dance. She made costumes for such well-known film actors as Glen Close, Julia Roberts, and John Malkovitch, as well as for productions in the West End and, even more challenging, fringe theatre.

For the past 15 years, Victoria has focussed her design and exceptional hand crafting skills on making beautiful and unusual handbags in high quality leathers and textiles.

Her extensive knowledge of historical garment construction has led to visual ideas on form and texture that feature in her recent designs for bags. As she says:

"Shape has always played an important part in theatrical costumes and this has influenced the design and techniques which I apply to my handbag making. But I have also had to learn a new set of skills like skiving, paring, burnishing and using a saddlery stitch etc. And I'm still learning!! "

Another influence stems from Victoria's work in Indian theatre and dance where bright fabrics and other media were used to create flashes of colour - a technique that is now seen in the linings of her bags.

Owners of Victoria's bags delight in the knowledge that they have bought an exclusive, stylish, yet practical handbag that has been lovingly crafted by a true master of their art. A seasonal discount is currently on offer making them even more attractive.

New additions to My England series

15 Jan 2018
by Nick Holker

There are three new additions to Andrew Redden's My England series for 2018. The first is a study of the interior of the Palm House at Kew.

The next is a near photographic painting of the magnificent Radcliffe Camera, part of the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

The Third is Cliveden, a spectacular house first built in the mid 17th century, but most famous for its association wth the Astor family and latterly the Profumo affair.

The original paintings of all three are available for sale and prints can be ordered in four different sizes ranging from 50 cms x 70 cms posters to A5 mounted prints.

Rare Skills @Trinitytheatre launch event

06 Apr 2017
by Nick Holker

From 10.00 a.m. on the 25th April to 12.30 p.m. on the 7th May we're holding an exhibition at the Trinity Theatre and Arts Centre in Tunbridge Wells. Entrance to the Exhibition is free.

We will be showing a wide variety of original paintings and prints from George Antoni, Claire Gill, Andrew Redden, RIGS, Graham Sendall and Sonya Tatham.

All of the work, which includes several previously un-exhibited pictures, is available for sale, and can be purchased through the box office. Local delivery can be arranged.

We're having an opening event on Tuesday 25th from 17.30 to 19.30, when we will be serving appropriate refreshments and nibbles and you will have an opportunity to meet some of the artists. Since numbers are limited by the capacity of the Gallery, if you'd like to join us, please contact us on info@rareskillsgallerycom or call the Rare Skills Gallery during office hours on 01342 457443.

During the fortnight, the exhibition is open all the time that the foyer is open, so, from 10.00 a.m until whenever the show starts on a given evening. From the 25th to the 29th the main performance in the theatre is Alan Ayckbourn's Private Fears in Public Places which starts at 19.30. So it could be the beginnings of a very cultural evening.

Spotlight on Rare Skills - Dennis Hales

30 Mar 2017
by Nick Holker
Dennis Hales woodturner

We first met Dennis Hales at one of the excellent Sussex Guild craft shows last year. Dennis described himself as making a 'guest appearance', since his workshop is actually in Norfolk. However, it easy to see why his presence is eagerly sought at all manner of quality craft events across the country including exhibiting at the Worshipful Company of Turners of the City of London, of which he is a member.

Dennis works with locally grown sycamore, holly, ash and maple - particularly clean white woods which offer him a natural canvas for a wide variety of finishes. He turns, carves and textures the surfaces and then uses airbrushing, hand-painting and marbling techniques and water soluble, modern analyne dyes or traditional dyes such as Vandyke crystals to give a blend of colours and shades which enhance the natural features of the wood.

After decorating and lacquering, some of his work is then treated to elaborate and highly-skilled gilding using 24 carat gold, copper and double weight silver leaf, before being returned to the lathe for further work to achieve an intricate, iridescent patina. A further two coats of lacquer effectively encapsulates the gilding to minimise any risk of tarnishing.

As a result, this extraordinary work achieves a sympathetic balance of form and finish.

We currently have about a dozen pieces of Dennis's work.. but they are very popular, so don't leave it too long to pay us a visit.

Illustrations which leave indelible impressions

28 Mar 2017
by Nick Holker

We have admired Claire Fletcher's work from afar for some time. Last week she brought three enchanting original paintings, some small black and white animal illustrations and a selection of framed and unframed prints into the gallery, which are now on display.

While I was researching her career to be able to put some meaningful background onto the gallery website, I came across the cover of one of the children's books that Claire had illustrated back in 1994.

The book is called The Wind Garden. I can remember reading it countless times to eager children who were capitivated both by Angela McAllister's narrative and Claire's illustrations.

It is one of the wonders of images that they can catapult you back through time and space to when you first laid eyes upon them, often accompanied by the sounds and scents of the moment... even if, as you can see from the quality of the image here, the memories can be a little hazy.

If you've got a moment, pop into the gallery to look at Claire's latest pictures, I'm sure they will bring back fond memories from your own childhood.

May exhibition of B&W paintings and drawings at Rare Skills Gallery

27 Mar 2017
by Nick Holker
Andrew Redden at Rare Skills B&W

Another date for the diary. Throughout May we will be holding an exhibition of mono work in charcoal, pen and ink, acrylic and mixed media contributed by a variety of different artists.

A broad range of themes will be covered including birds and wildlife, seascapes and landscapes.

Many of the works have been created specifically for the exhibition and both originals and prints will be available.

The Exhibition will run from the 1st to the 31st of May and will be previewed on this site and Facebook towards the end of April.

We look forward to welcoming you at Rare Skills Gallery.

We're open from 10.00 a.m. to 5.30 p.m every day excluding Sunday, or out of hours by prior arrangement.

Rare Skills at Trinity. Free affordable art Exhibition in Tunbridge Wells.

16 Mar 2017
by Nick Holker

A note for the Diary. From the 25th April to the 7th May 2017, we will be exhibiting an exciting selection of work by the artists and artisans we represent at The Trinity Theatre Gallery in Tunbridge Wells.

The collection will include affordable original works in oil, acrylic, watercolour, mixed media and photomontage, as well as a variety of framed and mounted prints.

While the Trinity is best known for its theatre and film activities, it has a lovely Gallery space which is open throughout the day and into the evening. There is no charge for admission. There is also an excellent cafe and bar on site.

We will be releasing specific information about the exhibitors closer to the time.

Trinity Theatre is in Church Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent. TN1 1JP. See more details at www.trinitytheatre.net

Make Mother's Day

03 Mar 2017
by Nick Holker

If you're looking for something special to give your mother on the 26th March, you owe it to yourself to pay a visit to the Rare Skills Gallery in Forest Row - even if it's just to get ideas.

We've lost count of the number of times that people have paid us a visit after the event and said 'I wish I'd found you sooner, I could have bought everything in here.'

What do we have to suit the occasion?

Many of our original paintings and prints are of familiar local land and seascapes, architecture, wildlife and flora and fauna. They are often bought because they evoke powerful, pleasant memories.

There is a variety of outstanding ceramics whether perfectly formed, colourful and practical or simply stunning statement pieces.

We have eye-catching decorative wooden bowls and plates from a master of the use of gold, copper and silver to enhance the natural beauty of holly, ash, sycamore and maple.

We are becoming particularly noted for our finely crafted handbags, shoulder bags, music bags, evening bags and even shopping bags in leather, tweed or canvas, many of which are one-offs.

Alternatively there are fabulous fine wool or silk shawls and scarves from Kashmere.

Finally we have a range of beautiful cards which are made all the more appropriate because they don't have Happy Mother's Day on them.

Why not come and see for yourself?

Rare skills thrive in East Sussex

11 Feb 2017
by Nick Holker

At the beginning of a year when we are likely to see the world and our place within it undergo considerable change, it is good to know that exceptional creativity, beautiful materials and exquisite craft skills remain a constant currency.

Since coming to Forest Row late last Summer, we have been delighted by the extremely positive comments we receive about the collection of paintings, ceramics, decorative wood turning, jewellery and leather work we have on show.

The majority of our artists and artisans reside in Sussex and Kent and their work reflects the natural beauty of the area as well as its architecture and traditions.

The greatest joy of running a gallery is being able to build relationships with the artists you represent and the ever-growing band of customers who relish what they create.

We feel very lucky to be exhibiting works by: George Antoni, Mark Beverton, Claire GillL Lorraine Gibby, Josie Gamble, Dennis Hales, Topsy Jewell,Simon Kemp, Andrew Redden, Jan Norman, Katrina Pechal, Graham Sendall, Alison Sibley and Sonya Tatham. As well as the wonderful leather, canvas and tweed items from Taylor Kent, Glen Almond Tweed company and Vicky Baker and the new range of handmade scented candles from Gatehouse Candles.

Bags of Love

05 Feb 2017
by Nick Holker

This week we have had a delivery of five hand-made leather hand bags from Vicky Baker.

Before designing and making her own range of leather bags and purses, Vicky had a long career in costume-making for stars of stage and screen. Each of these items has a special theatrical quality about them and has been crafted using unusual techniques and materials that you are unlikely to find elsewhere.

The two featured heart-shaped bags would make ideal Valentine's Day presents.