A dramatic career change has seen Mike La-traille take the first steps along the way to achieving his dream of setting up a creative hub for local artists and craftspeople.
Together with his partner Lucy Harvey, Mike opened Pier Road Coffee and Art in Littlehampton at the beginning of November last year and already they have a waiting list of talented folk wanting to exhibit their work there.
“I’d thought about doing something like this for a long time,” says Mike, a skilled photographer who has exhibited his images all over the world for the past 12 years. “When the opportunity arose to take on this shop, which is ideal for our purpose, we decided to go for it and I gave up my job as head of the art and design department at a college.”
Lucy is also an excellent photographer so the couple’s own striking images make an eye-catching display on the walls of the spacious corner premises on Pier Road which are flooded with light from the large windows all round.
There is so much to see that you’ll be tempted to take a seat and relax with a cup of coffee at just £1 and a slice of home-baked cake, perhaps enjoying a chat with one of the exhibitors, another element which helps create the atmosphere of an active hub of arts and crafts of all kinds.
“I wanted to sell my own stuff and Lucy’s and I know quite a bit about art as well as having managed a college catering department, so I’ve tried to create an ambience where the majority of artists and customers would feel relaxed,” explains Mike.
“The artists hire a wall space, the crafters hire shelf space and we take commission on what they sell – it’s a very economical way for them to get their work in front of the public. Word is rapidly getting around, we get at least three people every day asking if they can exhibit here and we are always fully booked more than a month ahead.
“We ask people to apply then go through what they want to put on show before accepting them. Every month we start a new exhibition with at least 50 pieces of new work. We have a wide variety of disciplines and divide them up around the months. We aim to have something for everyone – there are hundreds of original pieces of art of all kinds, all realistically priced and some costing just a few pounds that make lovely and thoughtful gifts.
“Lucy and I work hard to make sure that the artists’ work sells and within a few weeks of opening we had 700 followers on Facebook, with that number growing all the time.
“Opening gallery like this is what I’ve always wanted to do and I’m so glad Lucy and I decided to go for it. We both love what we’re doing now and I think that comes over to everyone who comes in.”