Leeds’ ‘Cultural Quarter’ to the East of the city centre is breathing creative life into an area steeped in industrial heritage. The BBC, Northern Ballet and the West Yorkshire Playhouse are all proud residents and with the area’s sweeping available space and proximity to the city centre it is easy to see why.
The ever-expanding Munro House on Duke Street is home to recording studios, event spaces and Leeds Gallery, an independent commercial gallery that focuses on local contemporary artists. It is also home to Colours May Vary, a new design focused bookstore that was born when owners Becky Palfrey and Andy Gray saw a gap in the Leeds market.
Both Becky and Andy have creative and artistic backgrounds – Becky has 12 years experience designing jewellery and Andy works in Creative Arts at Leeds City College – and the result of their new venture is a mix of books, comics, prints, stationery and everything necessary for someone to free their own creative mind. The bright, open-plan space they have created is a stark contrast to the red-brick facade of Munro House and the colourful displays are a treat for any intrigued customer. Some of the prints on show would be worthy of their own place in next door’s gallery, but they are instead available to purchase and be enjoyed on the walls of the most unpretentious art lover. Here they talk to us about their aspirations for this great arty space and how it fits into the Leeds we know and love…
Who are you and how did you get here?
We are Colours May Vary and we are an independent store stocking art, design, photography, fashion, film and music books and journals. We also stock a range of prints, cards, wrap, stationery and gifts. We focus on contemporary graphic art and design. We had been working on the idea for around 8 years and made the decision to set up the business in June 2012. The store opened its doors in November 2012.
Where did the idea come from?
We have been lucky to travel and to look at shops all over the place, and one thing we always do is visit the little shops in cities that are usually off the beaten track but nearly always offer something that totally delights you. You get to bring something home that no one else has ever seen and they want it too! We knew that Leeds was lacking this kind of shop and we were happy that what we wanted to offer was, as it happened, a gap in the market. We know we will never be millionaires but we love what we are doing and hope that the customers do too
What do you think makes your business unique?
We are the only design focused book store in Leeds and the first independent book store to open its doors in many years. We offer a selection of magazines and books that cannot be found elsewhere in the city and we are also the only store in the city centre with a focus on contemporary graphic art offering a range of prints, wrap and cards selected from local, national and international artists and designers. We also hope to increase our offer of inspirational vintage goods that relate to and compliment the contemporary ranges we stock.
What can customers expect from your business?
They can expect to be welcomed warmly and listened to; we always take note of customer suggestions and can often source specific titles/objects. They will be inspired by the ever changing, hand-picked stock and can rely on us to always have something really desirable, collectable or inspirational. We are magpies and collect stuff that makes us happy.
The stuff that makes us happy is vintage packaging, books, illustration, graphic art, mid century ceramics, stationery and music. We know what we like and we hope the customers like it too.
What does the future hold for Colours May Vary?
We had always wanted to open a shop and create our own range of products and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. Our plan is to develop our own range of stationery, prints and cards, collaborating with artists and local printers. We are building a website and are looking forward to events in the shop. Book signings, exhibitions. We are up for anything!
Whats your most popular item?
Our most popular product to date is Our Garden Birds by Matt Sewell a really gorgeous and funny little book featuring Matts illustrations and observations of British birds. Everyone loves it and it’s 10.
Whats your favourite item?
Our favourite things in store at the moment are:
For Every Minute You Are Angry You Lose 60 Seconds of Happiness by Julian Germain published by Mack Books and beautifully bound in fabric, it is a really gentle photographic portrait of an accidental friendship and is 30.
A letterpress print by Present and Correct called If You Look You Can Find Happiness for 16.
Artbox Design recycled leather notebook in sunshine yellow. It is made in England and retails at 8.50.
Space Race published by Nobrow. An amazing 2 sided concertina fold out book by Tom Clohosy Cole for 10.
What do you think makes Leeds so awesome?
Leeds has a really welcoming independent scene, from coffee shops to gig venues. It has a lot of energy for the new as well as treasuring the old and established.
Where do you like to hang out in Leeds?
The best places in our map of Leeds are Brudenell Social Club, Jumbo Records, The Reliance, The Adelphi, Nation of Shopkeepers, Laynes Espresso, Mrs Athas and our lovely neighbours Cafe 164.
And finally, describe Colours May Vary in 3 words:
Welcoming. Inspirational. Exciting.