Wellington artists launch independent gallery
May 23, 2019
Wellington artists Julia Palm and Kelly O’Shea recently launched their new gallery and store space, Neither.project, where they will be showcasing one-off, handmade clothing and jewellery.
Palm is a fashion designer, under her label, JPalm, and O’Shea designs jewellery for her brand Vague. Both artists dabble in various other mediums.
They converted one-third of their Courtenay Place studio into a designated gallery, each presenting a new collection at the opening event last Thursday.
O’Shea said they wanted to invite people into their work space to see how and where their work was made. “It’s exciting that we make literally everything here, we’re not sending stuff off-shore,” she said.“If we outsource or collaborate, it’s in Wellington”.
Palm said they liked to keep their design processes “ultra-local”. She said she regularly collaborated with her partner, also an artist, who helped her design the prints for her collection. A friend of theirs did the screeprinting.
Both artists focused on crafting one-off, handmade items.
O’Shea said if someone had requested a style she had already sold, she would adapt the previous design, but never replicate it. She did not pre-design works before she began making them. “I just play with stuff until it feels right”.
Palm said she enjoyed the room for experimentation in making one-offs, as it led to unexpected results, happy accidents and “potential muck-ups that are now design features”.
She and O’Shea both began designing out of necessity, because they could not find what they wanted to wear in stores.
“We make, because we make for ourselves,” said O’Shea. Their designs did not fit into the fast-fashion model, neither following seasonal nor trend patterns.
Palm said she grew up immersed in punk subculture, and started making her own clothes, sewing and screenprinting as a teenager. She said this encouraged her to take ownership of her own style, realising “no one else is going to do this for me, so I’ll do it for myself”.
Palm said as independent designers, financing their work had been difficult and often she could only afford to make a couple of pieces, then would have to wait until they sold to make more.
“I have a collection that I want to make, but I can’t afford new fabrics at the moment,” she said.
Cost was a driving factor for opening the gallery space, to offset their high rent by hopefully selling more products.
O’Shea said she had not supplied her jewellery commercially,as she was unable to afford the materials to consistently make enough.
Palm said pricing items had been difficult, because they had not wanted to make them inaccessible to people like themselves, but also had to factor in their own labour.“I’d like to be able to pay myself at least a minimum wage from it, and that’s almost impossible to do right now,” said Palm.
“I have a spreadsheet that tells me how much it should cost, and then I cut it in half. I know how much something will sell for and I don’t want to have it sitting around, I want it to be out there being enjoyed,” she said.
She said whilst New Zealanders had a growing understanding of the value of ethically-made clothing, there still was a long way to come.
Neither.project will be open every Friday from 12-6pm, and sporadically as projects are launched.
Palm said they hoped to also host exhibitions by other artists.