Independent retailing in focus: Heart Gallery, Hebden Bridge

The British Craft Trade Fair (BCTF) has welcomed a raft of new sponsors on board for its next round of awards, to be presented at the show in Harrogate on Monday April 8, 2019.

Heart Gallery in Hebden Bridge will sponsor the Best Newcomer award for the first time and we caught up with owner, Alison Bartram, for an insight into the workings of this wonderful independent gallery.

“Heart Gallery opened in 2006 with a clear vision to support artists/designers and makers in the UK and hopefully change the way people shop by seeing how important it is to support and shop locally and keep the pennies circulating round your own town (ignoring the big boys and shopping with small independents!). Our ethics were, and still are, to support and nurture our many talented local and UK based artists/designers and makers; working with both established and those just graduated.

“We spend a lot of time carefully sourcing and selecting the right work for Heart Gallery with each of our artists chosen not just for their style but their craftsmanship. I have created a stunning yet serene environment in a former Baptist Chapel built in 1777 to showcase the wealth of talent on our doorstep. We hold regular group exhibitions and solo shows and work closely with fine artists, jewellers, ceramicists, glass artists, textile artists, printmakers, artists working with paper and mixed media, photographers and sculptors. Our relationship with our customers is something we pride ourselves on and offer excellent old-fashioned customer service and gift wrapping.

“Our knowledgeable staff can speak to customers about the products we stock and the artisans that make them.

We were interested to know when Alison’s connection with BCTF began:

“I actually visited BCTF prior to opening Heart Gallery in a previous role as administrator at The Yorkshire Craft Gallery. The last 13 years however have been the best as I have been sourcing for Heart Gallery of course. BCTF has a great reputation because it is so established and with high standards Margeret has set. The choice of products is vast and the quality generally very high so I am always confident that I will pick up a dozen or more new artists/designers/makers for Heart Gallery. It’s spacious to walk around and easy to plan with a well-produced catalogue. I love the ‘family’ feel there now I am also established and have to take 2 days to visit as I know so many people exhibiting!

“I am delighted to have been asked to sponsor the BCTF Best Newcomer Award and hope that I can fill the big shoes that Angie and Paul have left for me to fill. It’s an absolute honour and I am really looking forward to 2019. As part of the prize I would love to offer exhibition opportunities to newcomers and nurture them through the process as well. It would depend on the winner of the Best Newcomer award as to what the exhibition would be, of course. If they were an artist it could be a solo show but if it was a jewellery it would be part of a group show, so watch this space!”

We wanted to know whether Alison thinks there a strong appetite for British made crafts both at home and overseas. She told us:

“When I first opened in 2006 it was really difficult to ‘educate’ people. Talking to customers back then about buying handmade, unique, bespoke work was a hard slog but I was persistent and slowly but surely I saw a shift happening. This is more apparent now with so many other campaigns out there championing the very best of British and getting the message across very effectively.

“Just a Card campaign, Small Business Saturday, The Great British High Street, Shop Local etc have all played their part in the shift towards buying British made crafts from small independent shops but here at Heart Gallery we are really proud that the provenance and story of our journey and those of our makers has meant we have visitors returning to us and to our lovely town of Hebden Bridge time and time again. We have helped to put Hebden Bridge on the map as a town full of independent maps that meant in 2016 we won two awards – Best Small Market Town and The People’s Choice.”

For more information on Heart Gallery visit the website

For more information on BCTF visit