local business grows and demands change, some of our favorite spots
make tough decisions to prosper and influence the community they've
helped establish. Such as moving. And while the decision to pack up
and relocate isn't met lightly, the ideal of spreading the influence
and possibly becoming more successful in the process is sometimes too
tempting to pass up. And when the business revolves around local
artwork, how could you not?
Signed & Numbered prospered well underneath Slowtrain for the past year and a half, but last year decided to move themselves to new digs, eventually finding a spot next door to the awesome Blue Plate Diner on the corner of 21st East and 21st South. Now with business in full swing and a new look to the place, I decided to head over and chat with our friend Leia Bell again, catching up from our last interview from when she opened up on Broadway. This time about her found success in the original opening, the process of moving, and what's yet to come for the shop.
Gavin: Hey Leia! How have things been since we last chatted?
Leia: Really good and really busy. Just the way I like it!
Gavin: Getting right to it, Signed & Numbered opened up back in June of '08. How were things for you guys being a business on Broadway as it was flourishing?
Leia: Broadway is an awesome area, I was happy to be a part of it. Being in a basement wasn't ideal for a gallery of course, but I love the dynamic of that neighborhood, and I liked the synergy between the record store offering music and us offering posters for rock shows.
Gavin: How was it for you at the time getting the recognition from both media and the community for the work you were doing?
Leia: We've been lucky to be on the media radar with our past and current endeavors. Ever since Phil started Kilby Court he's been the subject of press from SLUG to Esquire Magazine (seriously!), and I've had the same luck with my poster art... I guess you could say we're "talk-able".
Gavin: What brought on the decision to leave that location?
Leia: Basically it comes down to not wanting to carry on our business in a basement. It's hard to deal without natural light. We also wanted a space with more visibility.
Gavin: How did you go about finding a new one, and what drew you to the spot on 21st?
Leia: We had a lot of long discussions about it and went over several options before deciding. John and Tamrika (of Blue Plate Diner) had offered the 21-21 space to us before, but we didn't think it would work at first because it's mostly windows (not much wall space for hanging art). We were going to have our new location solely at Kilby Court (going back to our roots), but we looked at the 21-21 space a second time and realized that it would be perfect as a custom frame shop. So now we'll have two locations-- the Sugar House frame shop and small gallery during the day, and the second poster shop/gallery at Kilby Court, which will be open in the evenings during shows.
Gavin: What was it like for you converting the place and getting it set up?
Leia: At the moment it's still a work in progress, but it's feeling more and more like OUR space every day. To cope with the lack of wall space, we've added our own walls, including a "Wall on Wheels" that can move around the shop and holds artwork on both sides.
Gavin: Will you continue to produce your own work from here, or will this strictly be a gallery and shop?
Leia: Unfortunately (or possibly fortunately) the space is too small to do my screenprinting from. I am moving my studio back to my house, so I'll be printing my own work in the evenings and on weekends.
Gavin: For those who may not know, who are some of the artists you'll have on display?
Leia: We carry work from incredible local artists such as Travis Bone (Furturtle), Claire Taylor, Mary Toscano, Trent Call, Sri Whipple, and many more who've participated in our group shows. We also feature work by contemporary national and international artists such as Jay Ryan, Dan McCarthy, Emek, Tyler Stout, Dan Grzeca, Strawberryluna and Brian Ewing... and my own work of course.
Gavin: Will you take part in Gallery Stroll every month, or do you feel the location is too far for it?
Leia: We won't be doing Gallery Strolls at the Sugar House space, but we do plan on doing gallery events at the Kilby space--probably not on Gallery Stroll night, but we'll hold gallery events in conjunction with big Kilby shows.
Gavin: As for right now, what are the plans for the Kilby space and the progress you've made so far?
Leia: It's still a go! We're just completing the finishing touches on the frame shop, then we'll dive into completing the remodel on the Kilby space. We had started on it a few months ago, then it was put on hold while we fixed up the 21-21 location. We'll make the focus of this space the prints and have more bins with hand-printed posters for sale.
Gavin: With the history you and Phil have with Kilby, how is it for you putting work back in that area?
Leia: It feels like going home! We lived on the street together for eight years and Phil had been there on his own since the late '90s, so it's near and dear to our hearts.
Gavin: For S&N, are there any other plans for you down the road to either expand or hold exhibitions?
Leia: In addition to shows at Kilby, I am working with Ken Sanders to curate several of his Gallery Stroll shows a year-- these would be our print exchange/themed shows, so we'll still be maintaining a presence on Broadway.
Gavin: What can we expect from over the rest of the year?
Leia: I am currently organizing a "mini" print exchange (mini, as in the size of the prints). There are almost 80 artists from all over the country and beyond creating prints for this show, and all of the prints are 8x10 inches or smaller. Some of the artists involved are Dan Grzeca, Tyler Stout, Magen Mitchell, Matt Lloyd, Justin Santora, Pedini, Strawberryluna, Cricket Press, The Bungaloo, Scrojo... the list goes on and on. We'll showcase these prints SOMEwhere this spring-- either at Kilby Court or Ken Sanders Rare Books. Also, for our inaugural Kilby show, we'll be doing a retrospective of hand-printed Kilby Court posters from 1998 - 2010.
Gavin: Aside the obvious, is there anything you'd like to promote?
Leia: I am very proud of our frames, which are all hand-built and hand-milled by Phil and his awesome assistant, Brent (of Band of Annuals). The finishes are environmentally friendly and water-based. Also, I am very proud of our new work table which Phil built and designed-- his furniture designs area incredible.