Meet the stockists: Colours May Vary, Leeds
When Andy Gray and Becky Palfrey opened Colours May Vary in Leeds five years ago, they wanted it to be more than just a magazine shop. They created a place with an event space and a gallery, which could become a hub for the Yorkshire city’s flourishing creative community. We spoke to Andy about how it came together, their favourite magazines and what makes Leeds so vibrant.
When did Colours May Vary open and what inspired you?
We turned five last month! We celebrated by donning a brand new visual identity and launching a new website (thanks to Leeds local heroes Studio Build and Hungry Sandwich Club). My co-owner, Becky Palfrey, and I opened the shop because we both have a passion for design, share an education in art history and a work history in retail. Mostly we wanted to create a place that we’d like to visit, shop in and spend time in. We wanted to create something in Leeds, a city that we both love; we wanted to make something we were proud of and that people would respond to.
What makes Colours May Vary special?
We always set out to make Colours May Vary more than simply a retail outlet. Long before the store existed we’d envisaged a social space, events and happenings, collaborations and independence. Opening our event space three years ago enabled us to realise these dreams and now we have regular exhibitions and workshops, book and magazine launches and all kinds of events, which have ranged from coffee-tasting to talks on modernist housing schemes. It might sound clichéd, but the thing that makes the shop special is the people we’ve met along the way, those we see on a regular basis and those we’ve collaborated with. There are a lot of talented, funny, warm-hearted and industrious people coming through our doors and it feels like we’ve become a place to meet, share, collaborate and plot.
How do you choose the magazines you stock?
Carefully! The publishing scene has changed so much in the last five years and there are so many new titles being produced we cannot possibly open up our shelves to all. We like to sit down with any potential new magazine and spend a bit of time with it, flip through the pages, see how it reads and how it looks (and possibly how it smells).
We want to learn things, be engaged and understand where it’s coming from. We have about 120 titles in stock at any one time and we want to provide as diverse a range of reading matter as possible, so magazines with a clearly defined focus and voice really appeal. Yes, sumptuous paper stock, laminates, lay-flat bindings and debossing can stop you in your tracks, but magazines are for reading and ultimately copy is king.
What are your current favourite magazines?
Aside from Delayed Gratification? Pressing Matters, published by the BIP, is a magazine that knows its audience. We commission prints and have hosted many print exhibitions and knew that there was an need for a magazine that focuses on contemporary printmaking. Pressing Matters have taken up the baton beautifully and are highlighting some amazing talent from these shores and further afield. The Real Review from the Real Foundation is a politicised architecture journal that is always full of insightful and fascinating articles. The beauty for us is in the innovative design, a tri-fold creation which allows text and image to be revealed or hidden. It’s playful, inventive and enlightening. Finally, we love Footnotes, a typography journal self-published by La Police (typographer Mathieu Christe) in Switzerland. This annual publication is all about the details. Footnotes underpin each article, the design is crisp and and sharp, typefaces appropriate to each subject are used and there is a delicate use of green that infuses each page. Writing on typography can be overly technical and aimed at niche audiences, but Footnotes manages to instil enthusiasm in us through Mathieu’s passion for this fascinating subject.
What should our readers should know about Leeds’ design, illustration, photography or indie publishing scenes?
Leeds has a thriving grassroots and DIY scene which seems to have gained momentum in the last few years. Recent additions to the creative landscape include the Art Hostel, founded by East Street Arts, which is the first social-enterprise art hostel in the UK. The Leeds Print Workshop, a new co-operative printmaking studio, is providing city-centre access to printmaking facilities and space to work, which has been sorely needed. As for self-publishing, there is a growing number of producers, printers, venues and, importantly, readers who are creating a rich and varied scene.
We have been lucky enough to help launch several self-published books and magazines over the last few years and the guys at Village Books have collaborated with photographers to publish some fantastic titles. Leeds is able to host zine fairs at venues such as Wharf Chambers and Left Bank and also put on the UK’s biggest comic-con (Thought Bubble) and the annual Artist’s Book Fair at The Tetley. There are local printers like workers co-op Footprint providing affordable Risograph printing to all and bigger concerns like Pressision providing all manner of bespoke print treatments and expertise to organisations and individuals who need it.
What does the future hold for Colours May Vary?
Our new rebrand has ironed out our wrinkles and left us feeling fresh and new. Aside from our new appearance and new website, we will be sitting down in 2018 to discuss the possible production of our own stationery items, looking to commission some new prints with artists we admire and planning some great shows and events. All these new creative ventures will be brought about through collaboration with people who make Leeds such a dynamic, vibrant and independent cultural centre.
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