How I Met My Boss - Dilys Gallery's Journey To Christkindl
Despite the fact she has now made her home in Christkindl, the journey of Dilys Photography Gallery didn't begin in Saundersfoot. Some readers may remember when she was in Tenby, in a marquee outside the Five Arches with a spaniel called Harvey. With some hard work on weekends and in the summer holidays, Dilys was selling more and more photographs of the scenic Pembrokeshire landscapes that eventually, she decided to open a gallery - one with brick walls as opposed to canvas sheeting and a garden for Harvey to have a well earned play in. Luckily for us, the location of this new gallery would turn out to be right across the road, on the High Street in little old Saundersfoot.
Five Arches, Tenby
This is where I met Dilys. I was doing some homework for my Art GCSE on local artists and photographers and asked if I could write about her work and take some pictures of her stall. She agreed and I had an A for my work (yes, I was one of those kids)! Going back the following year and Dilys and Harvey were there again. This time I bought my first photograph - Freshwater West in Oak Frame, 16x20 (and I've still got it on my wall today!) And then, later, I bought another... and another. Fast forward 2 years and I had already begun quite the little collection of Dilys' photographs at home.
Growing up, I was always in Saundersfoot during the school holidays and had been going to Christkindl since I was quite young. One day, I came out of Christkindl and looked across the road to see a photography gallery. By this time, I was doing Art A Level, had my own camera and loved photography. This was before phone pictures were much good, so I was always looking for places to go to take my own photographs with my giant Canon camera and get inspiration from other artists.
My mother and I went into this new gallery and who do you think we found? HARVEY!! Oh, and Dilys was there too - with a gallery which had a door, proper walls and photographs everywhere you looked. Having had a nice chat with Dilys for a while, we were ready to leave (with yet another picture!!) when my mother managed to convince Dilys that I would be an asset to her and would love to do some work experience with the prospect of a job for the summer. For some reason - probably not wanting to appear rude - Dilys agreed, said she'd be happy to have me and that I could have a few training days the following weekend. So thanks to my nosy mother for landing me my first job in Saundersfoot!
Gallery in Saundersfoot
That first summer in the gallery was great fun and so busy! With orders coming from both the stall in Tenby and from the gallery itself, we were run off our feet! Working like clockwork, we’d had stations around the gallery: printing, signing, mounting, glass cleaning, framing and wrapping, and through them all Harvey would be there to make us smile. The following summer was similar, with Dilys' gallery becoming more and more popular with tourists and locals alike. In the end, she decided to just focus on the Saundersfoot gallery and leave the Beach Hut Gallery stall. She installed other artists' work in the gallery too, from driftwood cottages to stain glass. More additions came later on: pottery, wood carving, jewellery - all made locally in Pembrokeshire. Customers were returning and delighted to see more in the gallery and every summer, and I went back to help and have fun with Dilys and her next crazy idea - bubble machines and face painting included!
Christmas time and the stall was back out - but this time it was double the size! Dilys, Harvey and myself were all dressed up for our stall in Saundersfoot harbour's Christmas marquee. Lights, camera and action... and action it was! We were now having orders in the stall, running up the hill to the gallery to make up the pictures and bringing them (carefully) back down for visitors to take home. Cold but worth it, as it gave me a chance to see Saundersfoot at a time of year when I was never normally in West Wales. A cold December sunset made for some lovely photographs and we made the stall as festive as possible, for it wouldn't really be Dilys if it wasn't covered in decs and tinsel.
Change is coming!
6 years later and I was still there! Working in summer breaks from university for 5 years and through my operation recovery time which prevented me going back to my regular job, the gallery became my second home and Dil my second mum (which many people still believe to be true today!) The gallery was now an established part of Saundersfoot and people were returning each year to buy more of Dilys' photographs.
Then came 2020! Lockdown was a trying time for all of us. By the time I went back to the gallery in July, both Dilys and myself were expecting a quiet, reserved summer but nevertheless took every precaution to ensure that any visitors would be safe in the gallery. Much to our surprise (again), last summer was incredibly busy! All our lovely customers were so respectful and just pleased to be back in Saundersfoot, almost as pleased as we were to see them. By the end of the summer, we were beginning to prepare for a busy autumn when COVID rates began to rise once again and the village became subdued once more. One day, I came back into work and Dilys had some exciting news. Lesley was a regular visitor to the gallery. Coming back again, this time with her husband Neil, they had been discussing the possibility of purchasing Christkindl across the road. They also asked if Dilys would consider moving the gallery over with them! After lots of discussions and waiting time, you'll never guess what happened? She packed up her camera, frames and Harvey's toys and moved 'over to the other side' - literally, the other side of the road. The rest, as they say, is history... well, actually, the rest is yet to come!
This has been my time with the crazy-lady who's become my friend/rock-mother (more apt than Godmother). I had never expected to be working with Dilys in the gallery when I was doing a piece on her as my local artist for school, so who would have thought I'd have ended up working in Christkindl after going there since I was 5? Who would have thought that we'd have the gallery over there? Not us, certainly. But we are so happy we are! The gallery team joins with the new Christkindl owners and here is to our future together!