Guts For Garters

Guts For Garters is the new conceptual store which totally transforms its space every time according to its original scheme called ‘Buying Exhibitions’. The store which is located in the underground of The Cob Gallery in Camden has the amazing harmony of avant-garde pieces from fashion, art, furniture and design, which are all handpicked for a theme. Having embodied its own name Guts For Garters by the unique curation, the store with the surprisingly Utopian atmosphere evokes a new perspective for living with art.
Here is the interview with its co-owners Rachel Chudley and Cassie Beadle which was conducted during the second scheme titled ‘Surreal Women’.

―When I came to your shop Guts For Garters, which was in the underground of the Cob Gallery, for the first time, I was so impressed by the fanciful atmosphere in there, which is created by the unique mix of the things such as contemporary art, interiors and fashion. Then I came to know the scheme of the shop is also so interesting that the shop is based on three separate ‘Buying Exhibitions’ which are open for around six weeks at a time and the space is totally transformed every time according to each concept.
Can you let us know a little bit more about Guts for Garters such as its fundamental concept and the ideas behind opening the shop?

Guts for Garters has become a hybrid of our own personal interests and our interest in curation and research nurtured at university. We wanted to create a space to combat the white cube space of the gallery through interactive installation and offer people a chance to invest in fine art without the corporate/exclusive attitude found in other establisments. As well as this, our blend of fine art, design, fashion furniture and objects, we are offering a platform for all disciplines of craftmanship to co-exist and compliment eachother attached to a message that ‘no one discipline has more artistic value than the other’ whilst creating a modern day cabinet of curiosities. Each work of art and design carries a story to why it features in the theme and with our display we hope to offer people a vision into how you can ‘live with your art’. In this sense, we believe, that fashion designs from great designers such as Vivienne Westwood, can be displayed alongside outstanding vintage garments and new young designers in order to create depth to a theme.

―Can you let us know the background of both of you before opening this shop?

Rachel and I are both graduates of History of Art from the Courtauld institute of Art. When we left university, Rachel and I were eager to pursue careers in Fashion and Interior Design respectively.

―How and why did you decide to have the catchy name ‘Guts for Garters’?

Although Rachel and I are naturally drawn to the macabre and the unusual, the phrase ‘Guts for Garters’ is rooted in British culture. It has a Dikensian spirit about it. The building where we are currently based was once a victorian butchers, where supposedly Dickens bought his meat, so naturally, we felt the name appropriate. The name Guts for Garters is also a reflection of the kind tongue and cheek we imbue our approach to curation. Turning guts into garters conjures the idea that something frightening and can be transformed into something beautiful- perhaps we toy with this idea in some ways.

―Guts for Garters is located in Camden, but did you intentionally choose Camden for the venue? Then actually how is being there?

The project was always going to begin in Camden with the COB Gallery. Although we intially had our reservations, on reflection we couldn’t have chosen a better place. Shoreditch is saturated. Camden is a dying breed and deserves a Renaissance. I have grown up in this area, and it has been devastating to watch the glorious Camden Market and weird and wonderful destinations in Camden be systematically wiped out by the demands of the tourist trade. We want to give something back to a part of london that is steeped in a wealth of alternative history and culture.

―I’m not sure that there is any music played in the shop or not, but what kinds of music you really like and will play in the shop?

Rachel and I are big fans of music and enjoy it across all genre’s. In the future Music will play a massive part in the overall curation of the themes where we hope it to be curated in the same way we curate everything else. We play Billie Holiday to Tom Waits to the Velvet Underground to Jack Kerouac to name a few.

―Now the shop is in the second theme ‘Surreal Women’. Can you explain the theme and introduce us some of your favorite pieces which strongly reflect the theme?

No one piece reflects the theme. The pieces and the artists featured work together to create the atmosphere of Guts for Garters. What has been most significant is the difference in atmosphere from the last theme. We deliberately chose a theme so different to the previous one in order for us to transform the space effectively to enhance the concept of the store.

Surrealism was run by men, but inspired that ‘woman’ they felt came in many guises- an aspect of Surrealism that not only baffled Rachel and I in its misogynistic tendencies but is also exciting in its contradictions and its obsession with ‘Dangerous Women’. We have of course taken inspiration from real ‘Surreal Women’ such as the glorious outcast Claude Cahun and the marvellous Marchesa Casati. We have on display works by women directly associated with the Surrealist movement such as Eileen Agar, but we were thrilled with the individual artist response to the theme. The Surrealists were not known for it, but were masters of installation and display and their movement pervaded all disciplines of the arts. When they curated shows they involved all the senses. We wanted to achieve that tension between sexuality and danger that the Surrealists were so obsessed with. As well as this Rachel and have visited Salvador Dali’s house on the Costa Brava in Spain- in my mind his most beautiful achievement.

―Unfortunately I missed the last theme ‘Royal We’ (I know it is not related to the Royal Wedding at all), so can you briefly explain what happened that time and how it was?

The last theme was a great success. What was fantastic was how positively people responded to the concept of the store. From walking through the white walls of the gallery into the decadence of Guts for Garters, people could really engage with the exactly the kind of display and curation we are aim to combat. We collaborated with nearly 20 artists and designers altogehter, but we curated Alexander Mcqueen and Vivienne Westwood next to clothes maker and performance artist Andrew Walker with Victorian costume with bespoke wallpapers lining the walls featuring Jamie Reids, a neon of Queen Elizabeth 1 signature, ceramics from the anarchist Carrie Reichart and especially commissioned works of art from Royal College graduates Martha Todd and Grace du Prez to name a few, all displayed on and amongst antique furniture.

―What are the criteria and essential aspect when you handpick creators for those themes? Particularly, I think the shop has the mix of established designers and emerging young talents, but how do you balance them?

We choose people because we admire their work. That being said, it has been amazing approaching people you admire creatively with a theme and them working outside of their medium comfort zone to create something incredibly unique for each show.

We balance them by offering them all equal status in the show. It is very important to the concept that these established names are blended with the new. Rachel and I wanted to create an atmosphere where you don’t know what is made by the established artist and what is not, what is old and what is new, what is sourced and what is commissioned. It adds to our cabinet of curiosity.

Guts For Garters
205 Royal College Street, Camden, NW1 0SG
Guts For Garters’ next scheme titled ‘Anatomy’ will start from November 15th, 2011.

Interview & Text:Yasuyuki Asano Photo:Wataru Fukaya

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