General Gallery Reviews

JLife - Lifestyle Magazine for the Leeds & Manchester Jewish Communities.

JLife - Lifestyle Magazine for the Leeds & Manchester Jewish Communities.
Feb 2013

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About Us

FEB 2013

Hidden Gem

Jewish gallery owner, Kath Libbert, sells bespoke jewellery at Kath Libbert Jewellery Gallery at Salts Mill in Saltaire. Kath was brought up in London and her Czech mother is a Holocaust survivor. The gallery is renowned for holding an Alternative Wedding Show which this year is running from 10th February - 5th May launching with an exclusive Meet the Makers afternoon.

How does your family background inspire your work?

I seem to be driven to seeking out the distinctive and the unusual. I come from a strong line of family on my Czech Jewish mother’s side that were also drawn to doing so. My great aunt, who lived in Switzerland, commissioned one of the pioneering masters of modern architecture, Mies van der Rohe, to design a family home, the Tugendhat House in Brno.

My mother worked for Finmar, one of the first companies to bring Scandinavian furniture to the UK. Our north London house was full of Scandinavian furniture some of which is now in my own home.

Running a contemporary jewellery gallery in Salts Mill seems like it was part of my destiny. Another bit of serendipity is that my mother’s family owned woollen mills in Czechoslovakia including the factory that Schindler hid the Jews in. My grandfather came over to Bradford in the 1930s for a summer to learn about aspects of the woollen industry and I like to think he might even have visited Salts Mill.

Have you always been interested in the creative arts?

I grew up in a family that was passionate about art in all its forms, taking us to endless galleries and theatres in London and abroad. This was not always appreciated by me at the time but it was certainly a great basis for developing my own strong taste for the pleasures that fantastic art and craft can bring.

Why did you decide to open the gallery?

I had been with the NHS Psychology Department in Leeds for many years but at the same time I was always thinking up business ideas. In 1994, I decided to set up a table-top at the Leeds Corn Exchange at the weekends selling distinctive handcrafted contemporary jewellery. I enjoyed it a lot and I met some delightful customers who use the gallery 18 years on. It was a start and from this an opportunity came up at Salts Mill in 1996.

What is the main identity of the gallery?

The Times Luxx magazine described us as, ‘For clients who want jewels that push boundaries…the antidote to the high street’, and this seems very apt. Open daily, we specialise solely in contemporary jewellery, silver and metalsmithing, showcasing diverse collections by over 70 renowned designers and emerging talents from Britain and abroad.

What makes your gallery different to others?

We have a very strong house style with much of the work on show crossing the boundaries between fine art, sculpture, fashion and jewellery. Firstly, work has to be very well crafted but then it’s about surprising me, provoking me, presenting me with something intriguingly beautiful that I think our customers will love. Everything is handmade and we enjoy responding to people’s own ideas for special pieces.

What has been the most unusual exhibition?

Most of our special exhibitions feature very unusual work which we take great delight in introducing to our discerning Yorkshire public. We aim to find inventive and playful ways of engaging visitors with the work on display. A good example of this was Choice, an international exhibition, which documented the public modelling and commenting on their favourite pieces in the exhibition.

How do you get local artists involved with the gallery?

I am always on the look-out for new talent and local artists come to us as they know we are a key outlet for contemporary jewellery in the UK. One of our exhibitions majored on local Yorkshire talent in a link up with the Great Yorkshire Show. All the jewellery entries were inspired by the categories of the original show, so there were lots of pigs, cows and sheep!

What work have you done internationally?

Most of our exhibitions feature international talent and every year I go to Munich where there is an international jewellery competition called Schmuck. It is a great place to select radical new work from around the world. We are often the first gallery in the UK to showcase this work. I also initiated an exchange exhibition with a gallery in Barcelona, taking UK jewellers out there and bringing Catalan talent to Bradford, supported by the Arts Council and The Crafts Council.

What does the annual alternative wedding show have in store this year?

A personalised design service is a strong feature of this year’s Alternative Wedding Show. The gallery is addressing the current trend for working heirloom jewels into contemporary designs by specially featuring jewellers who create bespoke pieces for the gallery’s clients. 

Now celebrating its twelfth year, the show is renowned for featuring jewellery by cutting-edge designers including jeweller to the stars, Malcolm Morris, who has made original pieces for the Duchess of Gloucester, Joan Collins and Dawn French

Kath Libbert Jewellery Gallery, Salts Mill, Saltaire, Bradford BD18 3LA. Tel/Fax 01274 599790. For directions see About Us
Open Monday - Friday 10am - 5.30pm. Weekends 10am - 6pm.