On his drive home from a day demonstrating watercolour painting at Cromford Mill artist Martin Sloman spied out of the corner of his eye a To Let sign.
Part of the old bakery on Cromford’s Market Place was looking for a new tenant and Martin immediately started dreaming of having his own studio and gallery.
The more he thought about it the more he knew he couldn’t resist the challenge. He had been involved in organising pop-up galleries and selling his work at craft fairs and several Derbyshire galleries so he figured he would know the basics and with a bit of hard graft he would be able to make a success of it.
That was five years ago on August 31 and since then he has certainly established the gallery as one of the best for local artists in the Derbyshire Dales.
“When I saw the shop was empty I knew it would be perfect for what I wanted to do. I love its quirkiness and the fact that it has such a lot of history attached to it as part of the village’s old bakery,” said Martin.
“When people come here they enjoy talking about it while they are looking at the work we are exhibiting.
“I count myself very lucky to be able to work here surrounded by such a diverse range of work and meeting the lovely people who come in.”
The gallery has two floors packed with paintings, ceramics and jewellery by more than 80 artists and makers.
On the top floor Martin also has his studio and holds regular workshops and classes in watercolour painting.
Martin, 68, who in a previous life was a manufacturing optician, has always been good at painting and says, with a modest grin, that at school he was normally top of the class at art.
He was born and brought up in Derby and at the time he left school it was expected that he find himself an apprenticeship. Announcing that you were considering art was not an option, so he instead took a job with an optician and over the years worked his way up into the manufacturing side of the business.
“I carried on painting as a hobby but it wasn’t until much later that I decided to take some classes in watercolour painting at Murray Park School in Mickleover.
“I went through beginners’ and improvers’ classes and then my tutor said I had reached the stage where I was good enough to be teaching others.
“He offered me the chance to run some classes and I have been there for about the last ten years now,” explained Martin, who also has classes at Boylestone Village Hall.
Had he not been made redundant from his last job in optics he may never have opened his gallery – but faced with having to look for a new job or take a different path he decided to make his passion his business.
“I knew it would be tough as 2013 was not exactly the best time to be launching a gallery but I knew a lot of artists who wanted somewhere to exhibit their work and I had the classes to fall back on so I just thought it was now or never really.
“I have not regretted it at all though, and am thrilled at how much so many people get out of what I do here.”
Martin, whose own work is predominantly inspired by the landscapes of Derbyshire, Devon, Cornwall and Scotland, is a professional associate of the Society of All Artists.
For more details about the gallery and Martin’s work go to http://www.cromfordstudioandgallery.weebly.com