We have been gallery owners for three weeks now, and the tenor of our lives has changed in subtle ways. On the days we are open, we both still take a leisurely breakfast together, sipping coffee and doing crosswords. At about 9.30 am, David washes up and tidies things away, while I drive up to the highway with the sandwich board to let visitors know where we are. Then we settle down to our various interests, with half an ear cocked to the sound of a car turning into the driveway.
It is early in the season and, so far, we have been receiving only a few visitors each day, but our lives are being enriched by new acquaintances. We are getting to know our neighbours and their weekend visitors. Friends have driven down from Canberra. Several potters have already called in, and we hope to see more as word-of-mouth spreads.
I am happy to report that the gallery seems to be a hit as a destination. The house itself is an attraction, with its large, light-filled spaces, and its views of the mountains and the trees lining the river. For those not really interested in pottery, there is still pleasure to be had in admiring our ‘grand design’, touring the displays and talking about things in general. Those really interested in the collection linger to explore our back rooms, share knowledge and reminisce.
We have made a few sales from the gallery but it is probably a good thing that we are not wholly dependent on visitors to the gallery to build up our capital for new purchases. There are now over 200 pieces listed in our online shop, and we are starting to sell online, and to make trips to the Post Office with carefully packaged items.
In both the gallery and the online shop, we aim to be very clear about the condition of items. After a few false starts, we have learned not to trust our database records, and to inspect each item very carefully before listing it. This handsome Eric Juckert jug, described as in good condition when we bought it on eBay in 2005, turned out to have a repair under the rim near the handle, and had to be described and priced accordingly.
One might think that undeclared damage is one of the risks of buying online, but in practice, there are protections on eBay if an item arrives ‘not as described’. By contrast, auction houses generally sell on an ‘as is’ basis, leaving the onus on buyers to inspect lots at presale viewings. This can mean some unexpected surprises for absentee bidders.
As things change hands, just as the memory of the maker may be lost, so too may be the memory of a repair, and I don’t think the seller of the Juckert jug was aware that it had been damaged. It is human nature to fix things, and to do as good a job as possible. We bought the Garry Bish vase at the head of this entry at an exhibition at Narek Galleries in the late 1980s. It hadn’t been long in our collection before one of us knocked it over and broke the side-piece off at the neck. Of course we glued it back on, with no intention to deceive. While it stays in our collection we will continue to value it as if it were whole, but it will have to be remaindered if it is ever put up for sale.