I love beautiful objects and, especially in gloomy economic times, we need something around us to lift the mood and inspire higher things. We are blessed in Ashbourne with lovely architecture, scenic countryside, talented craftspeople and great galleries.
Tucked next to the Smith’s Tavern at the bottom of the market square is Opus Gallery run by the welcoming and knowledgeable Catherine Caffrey. The quirky shaped shop is beautifully lit and shows off the works well. It is surprisingly spacious and Catherine obviously knows how to use the height of the walls well to give each piece space.
The front of the shop is full of ceramics, glass and jewellery. One of the reasons for writing this series of articles is to encourage people to go inside the Ashbourne shops we all think we know and see them through fresh eyes and Opus Gallery is a prime example of this – you simply can’t appreciate the range and beauty of the gallery without going inside.
When I visited the ceramics are what struck me immediately. In a shelved area were several pieces by Russell Wilson, Susan Ault and Elizabeth Eccleston. Each artist’s biography is neatly displayed on a card and the provenance of each piece is clear. Just this area shows Catherine’s desire to showcase local craftsmanship. A high proportion of the work is made in Derbyshire or Staffordshire. It also often depicts rural subjects which represent our area well; whether wild animals or landscape scenes. The Russell Wilson ceramics are almost primitive art representations of wildlife subjects.
The layout of the shop means that investigation yields a reward. There are some beautifully crafted small pieces of jewellery (cufflinks and necklaces) as well as fine wooden boxes and cases. Catherine is very clear that the shop displays art, rather than decorative ornaments, with a strong local bias. She regularly meets with local artists to select work that will sell and which fits in with the style of the shop.
At the back of the shop are originals and prints – often showing local scenes but in a wide range of styles. There were some brooding moorland landscapes by Vicki Usherwood, some collages of farmland by Helen Hallows and local landscapes in watercolour by Iain Mackay.
There is no price comparison to be done as far as Opus Gallery is concerned. Catherine stocks unique and beautiful objects for all pockets. Importantly she supports the ethos of sourcing locally and the resulting displays have a very local feel to them through subject matter. Galleries can be starchy and unapproachable but Opus Gallery is very welcoming. With Christmas approaching and with birthdays throughout the year it is a great place to buy that unique gift.
The shop also has an excellent online presence at http://www.opusgalleryashbourne which has some lovely photographs of the gallery and work by particular artists that regularly show here. There is a guide to current and upcoming exhibitions. There is also an interesting option for displaying and selling work you own via the website.