Sheffield Unchained explores Sheffield’s very own Antiques Quarter during National Antiques Week
The Sheffield Antiques Quarter, which recently launched in November 2012, encompasses an irresistible range of independent vintage, retro, arts, antiques, militaria and salvage shops and centres, as well as independent cafes, restaurants and even an ale house.
When Sheffield Unchained heard that the Quarter’s 35 plus members were pulling together to celebrate National Antiques Week, we simply could not resist the opportunity to meet all these independent gems. So we have dedicated this week to giving you an insight into the stories behind some of the independents in the Quarter.
Whilst we get to know the people behind the independents, the Quarter will be joining antiques collectors and aficionados across the country to highlight the greener side of local retail, focusing on the sustainability of their recycled, reused and reclaimed products from 22 – 28 April.
On Sunday 28 April the Quarter will be holding a Spring Market on Clyde Road with over thirty stalls representing its members. The Quarter has also made their own flyer, which includes a map of the area taking in Abbeydale Road, Broadfield Road, parts of London Road and Queens Road.
How did it all begin?
Hendrika Stephens, owner of The Corner Gallery and chair of the Antiques Quarter group began campaigning for the quarter to be officially recognised in early 2012.
The previous year Hendrika had set up the Corner Gallery, which promotes local art and craft, in the Sheffield Antiques Emporium. The Corner Gallery is a social enterprise, which allows local artists to be part of the gallery by paying a sub to fund the rent of the space. Hendrika, who has four children, has been an artist for the last twelve years:
“I’ve just always been madly making things and never stopped, I make ceramic pieces and I do mosaics. I break so many things myself and always have done, so I use them in mosaics. I also make recycled button jewellery and I do workshops. It is basically about finding a way of putting all the energy I have into the gallery, the Antiques Quarter and also making a living.”
After almost a year at the Emporium Hendrika felt that the business was not being marketed sufficiently:
“Having walked around the area and seen all the antiques centres, I thought ‘why aren’t we all pulling together and actually marketing ourselves together?’ It is something that they did try to do a few years ago, but it never went very far. So it was very much about sounding out with businesses whether they were interested, and they all were, and then bringing them together for our first meeting in March 2012. It just seemed so blatantly obvious to me that we should be doing this and that we could be a destination for people to come visit Sheffield.”
Whilst setting up the Antiques Quarter group Hendrika moved the Corner Gallery to the Heeley Bank Antiques Centre eight months ago. As a not-for-profit the gallery does not charge the artists commission and artists are allowed to set their own prices.
“It’s about supporting local artists. Commercial gallery’s sell at 50% commission, with this gallery we are trying to appeal to a wider audience and challenge places like Ikea with their mounted art posters. For the same price you can come in here and get a genuine, original local artists’ piece. That’s why so many artists are on board and excited about us because they also want to promote that.”
Hendrika has many ideas for the future of the Quarter and hopes that the businesses will get more involved to help improve the whole area:
“It has been very stressful and hard work over the past year and there isn’t money to fund a role, but it is not going to stop me anyway. I pushed it for a year and I’ll keep pushing it because we are almost there, we are at a point where it’s all cascading into making this a brilliant area. It is worth putting in a lot of energy and effort because look what we have done in a year. If all the businesses put in a lot of effort, which we are getting to, then we could change the whole area. We could have mosaics on the walls and make the whole area look fabulous with small projects involving young people and apprenticeships, there is so much to do.”
Whilst Sheffield Unchained was talking to Hendrika, a man walked into the Heeley Bank Antiques centre wanting to sell a camera and an antiques item. Hendrika and her colleague Sam Parr were not sure about the value of the antique, as they are artists not collectors. However, Hendrika pointed the customer to other antiques shops in the area who would be better suited. This was a living example of how the Quarter can benefit all the businesses as they work together, knowing which business is suited to which products. Hendrika has set up a facebook group for the businesses to work towards this purpose.
Investing back into Sheffield
The Quarter is celebrating National Antiques Week by offering discounts for their environmentally friendly products throughout the area all week. Hendrika said they are trying to encourage more collaboration within the businesses and to highlight local, independent businesses in Sheffield.
“All the businesses in the Quarter are Sheffield based people, so when you buy in the Quarter you are putting money back into Sheffield. At a time when everyone is struggling and the councils have to make so many cuts, if we don’t support local businesses in Sheffield they won’t exist in the end and they will have to close down even though they are vital to the economy.”
Hendrika believes that having the Quarter officially recognised is very important as many people in Sheffield don’t even know the shops in the area exist. She also believes it will be a great attraction for visitors to Sheffield.
“Sheffield doesn’t sell itself at all well, the council is only just about to take out a membership to the tourist board Welcome to Yorkshire. We need to sell Sheffield more and that is what the Quarter can do for Sheffield.”
The Quarter also hopes to encourage more independent businesses to open up in Sheffield and therefore to create more jobs in the city:
“& Proud Design and Vintedge & Vintedge Hire are two great new shops that have popped up purely because of what has happened in the Antiques Quarter. I went on the radio with Andy Davidson from & Proud Design the other day and he was saying that he had decided to put his shop in the Quarter because he had seen the flyer in The Vault. He obviously saw that there were other places doing the same thing as him and decided to put his shop here, which I think is brilliant. He is now also helping to maintain our website. So the more people put into the Quarter the more everybody will gain from it.”
Sheffield Unchained will be previewing a number of independents from the Quarter this week, so look out for our insights into the unique people behind these businesses.