FK chats to Bree about her thoughtful & aesthetic shop and gallery space, Mr Kitly. Located in Brunswick, Melbourne. (image credit Laren Bamford).
Tell us a bit about your shop & gallery space Mr Kitly and the concept behind it.
We opened in December 2010 and are super happy to still be here a little over 2 years later. I am not sure of any defined concept per se, it was really just an idea and a dream to have a space that collected together my disparate areas of interest in quality craft, design, plants and art. This upstairs space on Sydney road presented itself after a short search and once we saw the skylight hidden behind some horrible beige office ceilings we knew it would be a really nice space, and in fact the space itself has kind of led the development of the shop & gallery in many ways, which is nice.
What is your background and what lead you to where you are?
I have zero background in any of the relevant areas:) I did Arts at Melbourne Uni ending up with a Philosophy major of all things, but I also studied Japanese and during my 20’s spent around 5 years living in Japan. That experience in Japan definitely proved formulative in building up (totally unconsciously) a very personal aesthetic sensibility that rolls across all kinds of things from ceramics, plants + flowers and maybe an appreciation for the small, humble things in life that, when appreciated and just let be, give a lot of happiness. I started a blog called ii-ne-kore to try and give shape to my vague notions of this aesthetic. The blog definitely helped with deciding to make it real and go offline into an actual 3d space:)
What qualities do you look out for when selecting new stock for your store?
I think it just an instinct as to what fits. I do always try and make sure I research well and know, or even better have met, the artist(s). Most of the things we have in store are small scale production, the majority actually crafted by a single person. I am not sure how to define it, but I am very, very happy to be part of something that ensures that highly skilled artists, designers and makers are able to pursue their craft creating objects that are both useful and beautiful, and often eccentric in the best possible sense. I also think, probably stating the obvious here, that being handmade alone does not give an object inherent value in terms of retail (something that regretsy testifies to:). I am very much into appreciating that in most cases to make something great it takes years and years of incubation, cross-pollination, dedication, skill, and applied theory as well as the flash of brilliance and insight.
What do you love about your shop and what keeps you inspired?
That I am surrounded by wonderful objects, it is good for my soul. Meeting new people and getting to know their ideas and process. I like that we work and live here and so we share the space with the cats and can make a cup of tea during the day and choose a different favourite mug every time. I am currently obsessed with drinking big cups of tea with my Akiko Hirai Still Life mug.
I have a problem with having waaay too many ideas – for collaborations, new installations, new products – and tend to try and put them all in motion at once. That probably means I don’t do everything as well as I would want to, but it keeps up my inspiration and excitement so I can’t see myself changing anytime soon…
Can you tell us about any current or recent exhibitions at Mr Kitly? and how do you go about selecting artists to exhibit?
Recently we showed TORAFU ARCHITECTS in our gallery space. This has been a true joy. The Director of TORAFU, Koichi Suzuno, created a wonderful installation full of light, shape and colour. The walls were pinned with all of the residential, shop, product and interior design work TORAFU is famous for and then personalised with beautiful handwritten notes beside. The way we curate the gallery space is kind of organic, and I guess based on shows that will suit the Mr Kitly sensibility (although that is also sometimes hard to define:) Many of our friends are incredibly talented artists and our first shows were people we know who are doing amazing things. We then grew to inviting both local and international artists and designers we love to exhibit, and it always knocks our socks off when people who we really respect say yes!
What challenges have you faced running and setting up your own business?
I kept my day job during the first 1.5 years, gradually scaling back hours, but working 7 days a week. This was pretty gruelling at times, but worth it to have financial security to not need to go into debt and to be able to take some risk with buying amazing stock (that has happily paid off). Also of course as everyone always says – doing absolutely everything yourself, and the paperwork. Nuts.
What inspires you about your surroundings and what other aspects about Brunswick do you love?
I like they way the sun comes into our house, it is different in every room. And I like how the sun sets over West Brunswick from our back window. The cats are pretty nice to have around as well. Brunswick is just the best, love it. I love how the traders who have been here for a very long time are really established and highly specialised. Also Tabet’s $3.00 cheese and spinach triangle is great for lunch.
What new plans are you working on for 2013?
I am super keen to continue and expand on our focus on indoor plant life, with more plant furniture in development with inspired collaborators and hopefully being able to expand our online store to be able to home deliver plants. Also we have lots of rather amazing exhibitions in the space, stay tuned!