Big thank you from

Jenny Munro talks to Harry Walker

Harry WalkerHARRY Walker, 62, owns The Loft Galley in Railway Street, which opened several months ago.

Born and bred In Lisburn, he is married to Mavis and has two grown up sons, Glen and Darren. He worked as a production operator before taking early retirement. With the support of his wife, Harry decided to open the gallery to enable more amateur artists to have the chance of exhibiting their work to the public.

He has always had interest in drawing and six years ago he started to paint. He enjoys creating landscape water colour paintings and has a love for pastel work too.

Harry is a member of the Pastel Society of Ireland and also was invited to join the prestigious Monday Painters Club.

The gallery doesn't open until 10.30am so I don't have to rush in the mornings.

Before I leave for work I potter about the garden and spend time cleaning out my pond. I breed goldfish and I have to feed them and check the water level regularly. Once I've finished this I'll leave the house and try to be at the gallery for 10am so I can freshen it up before opening time.

Artists bring in their work and I have to rearrange the paintings on the walls ensuring that each exhibitor's work is set in a good place for customers to view.

I regularly have to move the paintings about and if a painting is sold I must replace it so there isn't an empty space. My wife looks after the gallery when I have to pop out to go to collect my own paintings from the framers or when I am buying art materials from the wholesalers.

I like to have art supplies handy so if there is a quiet moment I can do some painting myself.

People regularly call in off the street and have a browse. I don't like to talk to them too much when they first arrive but if they have any questions I certainly give them as much information as possible.

Once a painting is purchased I'll contact the artist and let them know. Usually they will come and collect their payment and bring another painting to hang in the gallery.

A number of artists can exhibit at any one time and the art work usually changes once a month.

As word spreads about more and more amateur artists are approaching me and finding out about having their work displayed.

I'll tell them the commission rate and general information on the gallery People have asked me if anyone ever shows me art work that is horrendous but to be honest in my opinion there is no real bad art - I like to give everyone a chance.

What might not appeal to some may be loved by others - that's the way art works.

The business is still relatively new so I am keen to let as many people know about it and this involves delivering flyers and working on other marketing plans.

So far the response has been great and it's lovely that amateurs can show off their work. If the business takes off I hope to be able to let artists hire a room to exhibit their collections.

The gallery shuts at 4pm and once everything is secure I leave and go home and relax. In my spare time I like to paint. I can be very busy in the evenings, especially in the winter as I go to art classes and as I am President of the Lisburn Youth Football Club but I enjoy it all.

I am delighted that The Loft is proving successful and I hope that people will come along and look at what local artists have to offer.

Ulster Star