Written by Sophie Wyatt
The past twelve months have been turbulent, to say the least. Not only have we not been visit family, spend time with friends or generally do anything that we previously enjoyed, our beloved live events have been stopped almost completely. From music gigs to art exhibitions, we have had to settle with live streams and uploaded photos to get our fix of what we once excitedly anticipated for weeks. However, one very tiny gallery is coming to our much needed rescue. The Dog and Bone Gallery located in the British seaside town of Brighton has kept spirits high over lockdown with it’s running exhibitions. However, this gallery space may not be what you would initially expect. Occupying two restored phone boxes in the middle of a square, the Dog and Bone Gallery is not only wonderful for people intending to visit, but also for passersby that happen to stumble across it. We spoke to the gallery’s curator Amber Elise about how the gallery and with it’s wonderfully unique setting came to be.
So as with all good stories, we started at the beginning. Amber explained to us that Dog and Bone was started up by artist and dog lover Sam Toft. After restoring the phone boxes back to their full potential and inviting artists to create exhibitions that are shown for up to a month, Dog and Bone Gallery was born.
‘The phone boxes were bought by artist Sam Toft (@samtoftartist) a few years ago. Sam had the vision to transform the red boxes into a gallery space. Sam fully renovated them, breathed some life and love back into them, came up with the witty name and set about putting on art shows. I came on board about a year ago and have been enjoying the role as curator ever since with no plans to retire. Locals seem to love the space and are excited for our monthly shows. Whenever I’m changing exhibitions over or showing friends around we always get lots of comments, it’s really lovely to hear. It’s a community space, free to exhibit, art for all is the ethos. We’re never short of artists interested in exhibiting. It feels like we appeal to all ages and styles. I try to make the exhibitions eclectic and interesting.’
After the gallery held it’s first exhibition back in 2017, artists from all over the country have filled the phone boxes with their work. From Ruby Ruth Doll’s Black Cat exhibition
made up of two giant, hand stitched dolls to Sophie Wake’s liberating ‘HOPE’ paintings
. Describing the gallery as ‘The smallest gallery in Brighton, a free exhibition space, showcasing an eclectic mix of artists, a community space – art for ALL’,
it’s clear that all artists are welcome at this beautifully unique gallery. Amber went into a bit more detail about how the artists go about applying to be part of Dog and Bone.
‘Artists can get in touch with me, either by email or instagram. I have a short application form where artists can explain their idea and vision for the space. I love an installation but also diversity, something completely different each month, keep people guessing, smiling and wanting more!‘
Amber started working for the gallery around a year ago, so just as national lockdowns started. The creative industry have taken a massive hit this year, and in turn many art galleries. Also with close to everything shut and people advised to stay inside, inspiration for a large proportion of artists has been at an all time low. However, Amber explained that the Dog and Bone Gallery has not only kept residents and passersby pleasantly surprised, but has also kept artists creating over lockdowns.
‘It was a funny time to start running the gallery. I’d planned a good 6 months of shows, then covid happened and we had to pause a few things, but ultimately we made it work and it felt more important than ever to keep our exhibitions rolling. Something interesting for people to see on their daily walks.
For artists who’ve had shows over the last year, I think it’s given them a creative focus when other projects may have dried up, or been put on hold (for obvious reasons). It’s an interesting space to plan a show for and artists have consistently demonstrated real imagination for their exhibitions.’
While Amber has experienced a great number of different artists exhibitions within the gallery, one particular show stood out to her over the past year. Ruth Faukners’ work brings everyday objects (a landline phone, a jar of marmite, or even a packet of pom bears) to life with her unique papier mache style. For her exhibition at Dog and Bone, she recreated her grandparents kitchen and it’s safe to say that Amber was rapt by this well thought out piece.
‘Ruth Faukners (@rufie_rufe) show was INCREDIBLE. Based on her Grandmother’s kitchen she went to town. It was a fully immersive installation that transformed the inside of the boxes like I’d never seen before. Think Willy Wonka but out of papier mache. Ruth spent most of lockdown #1 making the show, so much work and effort. I was blown away
Finally we asked Amber to give us a bit of insight into what is currently showing in the gallery. And while many of us are waiting for the day when things have returned to normal (well, slightly more normal anyway) and we can travel down to the wonderful, little gallery, Amber explained that there is currently a virtual viewing to get your artistic fix. And the art currently showing is that of her own!
‘I just launched a new exhibition of paintings called ‘Pieces of Hope’. It sits across the Dog & Bone Gallery and The Little Mustard Shop, which is just around the corner. I created the paintings over the last lockdown, they are colourful, optimistic, bright and bold. That’s what my new work is all about – you can watch a virtual tour on my instagram (@ambereliseartist) and view the collection online www.amberelise.com.