Just as dining out prepared me to wait tables, being a tourist prepared Jos and me to own a gallery. Or at least our years visiting Crested Butte as well as other destinations gave us an idea how we wanted to treat our customers. We wanted people to feel welcome when they entered the gallery. We wanted them to feel comfortable browsing and asking quesitions. We wanted families with children to be at ease.
Knowledge of the artwork might have been a plus as well as knowledge of picture framing. We had to learn. Jos had his carpentry skills and his expertise in some European art, especially paintings on porcelain from the 19th century. Me - well I had my bookkeeping skills and my nurturing skills. A large part of running a gallery is nurturing. Artists need encouragement. Our patrons also need direction. So I have learned to transfer my nurturing skills from my children to our artists and our patrons.
In the early days, however, I did not have much knowledge to share. Jos and I attended workshops and learned from Cindy (our employee who had learned from Susan Anderton). We read and we learned by trial and error. At the same time I was busy helping our four children adapt to life in the United States, preparing them for learning in English at school, and keeping track of them over the long summer months.
Cooking is not one of the skills I am noted for. When the fourth of July arrived and we hosted a barbecue, I had to let Jos go home and use his cooking skills to prepare a meal for our family and relatives. This left me in the gallery with my sisters and sister-in-law, enjoying one another’s company and hoping we could handle a customer. It was my first time in the gallery without Jos or Cindy to guide me.
When customers entered, I hid. My sisters and I got the giggles as we feared answering questions. We survived. Eventually, I learned to greet customers instead of hiding from them. I learned the difference between etchings, silkscreens, limited edition prints, watercolors, oils, acrylics, and the like. Whenever customers ask questions, I am happy to share the knowledge I have gained over the past years.
Jos has learned the history of the area and loves sharing his knowledge with our visitors. An art gallery is definitely easier than a restaurant. So glad we’ve had this opportunity to live and work in Crested Butte.