One name that has passed the lips of many artists and makers that I have interviewed is Rachael Chambers, pictured above.
They might be exhibiting work in her gallery, been given expert advice by her or wishing they had sought it out – the one thing they all have in common is that they all extol her virtues.
Rachael is the owner of Ferrers Gallery based at the Ferrers Centre for Arts and Crafts at Staunton Harold.
The multi-award-winning gallery features the work of more than 100 British contemporary designer makers over three floors, so you might think that would keep Rachael busy enough. But no, she also shares her knowledge and expertise with individuals, groups and even universities as a creative business mentor and coach. She is also Contemporary Craft Editor for craft&design magazine and has recently begun writing for Ceramic Review.
It is her work-hard ethic coupled with her easy going personality and natural openness that has garnered her the respect of the arts community and won her two businesswoman of the year awards.
Rachael recently celebrated 15 years at the gallery with a gathering of staff past and present. Among them was her own 14-year-old son Jake who has started working occasional days at the gallery. The proud mum explains that this was especially fitting as she found out she was pregnant at the same time as she took over the gallery.
“When you look back it wasn’t ideal timing, but I love the fact that Jake was with me from the start. He wants to work in design, and he seems to have a good eye for it, so it is good to see him building his confidence working here,” she said.
Before making the bold decision to take on the gallery Rachael worked in arts, education and tourism marketing. She had reached a point in her life when she needed to make some changes and spotted an advert for a gallery business for sale in a magazine.
“I didn’t know anything about the craft industry or have any retail experience but I am a quick learner, not easily fazed and I saw things I wanted to change. My marketing and PR background really helped.
“I wanted everything exhibited to be British and I wanted it to be the sort of gallery where everyone felt welcome and they could browse and look at craftsmanship from all sorts of disciplines. I want people to be surprised by what they like.”
One of the unique elements of the gallery is that there are so many designer makers, and that they continually change.
“Without the artists I would not be here, that’s why I am pleased to guide support them. After a while it started to become known that I was open with my advice and more and more people were asking me for guidance, which is when I decided to offer mentoring and coaching workshops.
“I couldn’t be happier with what I am doing now. I work with some wonderful designer makers, get to meet others across the UK through my journalism and am able to pass on my knowledge and help others with the mentoring.
“I’m looking forward to what the next 15 years may have in store.”
For more details about the gallery and mentoring go to http://www.ferrersgallery.co.uk