Wild & Free Gallery

2014 – 2024 celebrating 10 yrs of creativity

I want to thank you for supporting Wild and Free this year. The Christmas season has been especially good and accordingly I have been able to do more than I hoped in terms of a proportion of our profits, as we are a Social Enterprise and this is the season of good will to all.

This year your support has purchased six places at Crisis Newcastle for local vulnerable homeless people at Christmas. We have also donated £250 to supporting children in Ukraine, as well as a £250 to children in Gaza. Nearer to home the luxury hamper raffle raised £316 for the Bay Foodbank.

I’m very happy to say the oil painting of the robin I made to raise funds for next years community art exhibition has been sold. I can’t say who to, as at this time of year I get to hold many secrets of husbands, wives, partners and their children. It can be quite amusing knowing I need to steer certain parties towards something or in some cases away from.

In the past I wouldn’t normally re-open until the end of January however this year is going to be different. The gallery will re-open on Thursday 28th December and will be hosting a sale with 20% off all items except greeting cards up to and including Saturday the 6th January. Please note the sale is not available online.

The gallery will then close and will not re-open until Thursday 7th March. The reason for the longer than usual holiday is a combination of my 60th birthday and the 10th anniversary of the business in February.

Some days it feels like ten years and others definitely not. I have shared photos previously of the early days of Happy Planet, but not of the place the plan began, which was my wife’s kitchen table in Siberia. The original plan was for us to start this business and a new life in New Zealand, but sadly that couldn’t happen as she was killed in an accident ten years ago this month.

I took the blueprint we planned together and I made the decision to become an artist here in the UK because I knew as an ex social worker creativity would help to support me through a very difficult period of time.

When I first started the business it was about survival but during the past ten years I have done better than that, even though there have been further personal challenges. I have thrived and grown as a person, business owner and as an artist. The success is not just mine. WE have created success stories together that you are probably unaware of, as I don’t always feel it necessary to shout from the rooftops, what has been achieved with my entrepreneurial skills and social conscience in tandem with your purchasing power. There is a shelf of awards at the back of the gallery but they pale into insignificance when compared with the rewards the business has brought to the wider community.

Social enterprises operate with the aim of doing more than making a profit, which is why I chose this business model back in 2014. We don’t operate on grants, we are self sustaining, thanks to lovely people like you who choose to shop with us.

As a social enterprise Happy Planet / Wild & Free gallery has supported a number of local charities and groups over our 10 year history. The Samaritans, Rape Crisis, Acorns, Tynemouth Seal Hospital, Maggie’s Centre, the Bay Food Bank and Crisis to name just a few.

We also sponsor and organise the North Tyneside summer community art exhibition because creativity and well being are central to our aims.

We don’t stop at local though, as we invest in women abroad who are victims of male violence by making micro loans to them to start a business and support themselves and their children. We have been doing this for eight years with loans ranging from £50 to £300 through a third party organisation. All of the women have repaid the loans and are thriving because you supported Happy Planet or Wild and Free. Each year I add to that loan fund in relation to our profits, usually 15%.

We are currently supporting in Tanzania, Rwanda and Malawi. WE have helped to establish 81 businesses in 9 countries that sustain women and their children, with businesses that include clothing alterations, fish farming and bead making. All of the children in these families now attend school. 9 of those businesses now have employees and are making micro loans themselves and so the positive change and support spreads. It doesn’t take millions of pounds to change lives for the better.

So whether you bought a puppet or a painting, a felt parsnip or a print, you have played a part in this cause for good and I thank you for your contribution. Together I believe WE have made the planet a little happier.

Ten Years is a good time to take stock and look to the future but not before I have an extended break to celebrate my own birthday.

I am taking my paints and my best friend on an extended break, to visit some landscapes I’d like to explore as an artist. The trip starts in the New Forest and wanders through Dorset, Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and fingers crossed, the Gower Peninsula (weather permitting)

I won’t be posting on social media, this is my time to slow down and switch off completely from the business for the first time in ten years.

I wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and peaceful 2024 and look forward to seeing you in Spring.

Gail Curry