Image above: Darcy McCrae — Original —Two Figures I (2021) — Acrylic on Canvas — 165 cm H x 180 cm W
Jess Leighton is the Woman behind Gallery Raye, an online art gallery offering bespoke consultation services.
Growing up with a quiet love and appreciation for art, Jess launched Gallery Raye earlier this year. In this interview she shares about her considered approach to art and finding artists who resonate with her, her passion for what she has created and taking the time to find what is right for you.
Visit the gallery via galleryraye.com
Q1: Hi Jess, welcome to the Woman Of Series! Can you tell us what it is you create?
Hi ladies! Thank you so much for having me! I launched my art gallery – Gallery Raye – this year, so I work with emerging and mid-career artists and photographers, very proudly represent a selection of their beautiful works online, and have an art consultancy as part of the gallery (which is an optional service should people wish to use it). I work with a wide range of people – from the art lover looking for a first work for their home, to collectors, designers, architects and all trade clients. Spaces small, medium and large.
Q2: Can you share with us a bit about your journey so far and where it all began?
I grew up surrounded by photography and art – my dad is an architect, architectural and fine art photographer, my step-mum is an artist and fine art photographer, my mum has always had an affinity for interiors and design, my sister is a lifestyle and architectural photographer, brother is a film maker… you get the drift! I’ve always loved art, but had always been quiet about it, knowing I loved it and taking everything in, but observing and quietly learning; admiring and respecting others’ skills rather than pursing art as an artist.
Finding this career has been a very slow burn for me. I’ve worked in so many roles across various fields over the years – from business analysis to hospitality, administration, temping, acting, events management, partnerships and programs management… you name it I’ve probably tried it! I studied a Bachelor of Arts with a major in marketing in my early twenties, and while I enjoyed it, I didn’t pursue a specific role in marketing (however the degree has been invaluable in every role). Then, I did a post grad course in literary editing and publishing, and while I again enjoyed it, decided it wasn’t something I wanted to pursue as a career (though again, invaluable), and then I found working with a gallery sparked a real fire!
So my direction became clearer in my mid to late thirties. When I worked as an art consultant with a brilliant Melbourne-based gallery and with women who I respect deeply, it was such a happy time, and I knew that a job in the art world was the job for me. I loved working with artists, loved getting their work out there – seen and appreciated, loved discussing their practice, and loved dealing with clients – whether new to the art world or experienced. Contributing to residential and commercial spaces and being involved with the local arts community is fantastic.
Q3: What influenced your decision to create an online only art gallery?
After I had my second baby, and as I approach 40, I knew I wanted to launch my own business. I felt happiest when being creative, and when surrounded by creatives. I love talking to, working with, learning from, and supporting local artists.
In terms of Gallery Raye’s online offering, this was the best way for me to realistically make it happen. I had a baby in February of 2020 and was only in a position to work from home. This timing was also the beginning of COVID lockdowns in Australia, so a physical space was not viable as a brand-new business. So those were my initial reasons for opting for Gallery Raye to operate online – necessity due to my new baby, the timing of COVID, a husband who works six days a week, and the realities of life! Plus it’s also of course a wonderful format, and a really great way to reach people in areas across Australia and beyond. We launched in April 2021. I’m so grateful that artists and clients have embraced it – and I also look forward to our first face-to-face pop-up shows.
Q4: What do you think it is that makes Gallery Raye unique?
A flexible and personalised approach. Everything is so carefully looked after by me, end-to-end. For people who prefer to select their artworks online and have no contact or limited contact, the online gallery’s there for them.
Some people are seeking advice – if that’s the case, always happy to have a chat via phone or email and offer suggestions for suitable works. Or, I love a road trip and will quite happily pack works to show interested parties in person, and talk about the artists’ process, ethos and suggest which space/s would suit which works (whether it’s a home, an office, a commercial space). I also really enjoy working with trade clients, and can propose works based on a mood board, a phone call, or a walk through.
Q5: We know you are passionate about supporting local artists and there is truly an abundance of them in the Brisbane region, talk us through your creative process when sourcing artists?
I keep my eyes peeled on everything – magazines, social media, industry events, graduating classes, local community news. I’m working with artists whose work I find has a resonance to me, a considered approach, and speaks to me. Works that can be appreciated and treasured over many years.
Q6: What has been the single most crucial tool or strategy you’ve used to grow your creative business?
Follow your gut. Be realistic about what you can do at the time – for example, if you can offer an online space, and not a physical space, then actually starting is the main thing. Be honest. Be kind. Be authentic. And take risks – put yourself out there and you’ll be surprised – good vibes do attract good vibes. Couldn’t pick a single one there… haha
Q7: What’s been the most challenging lesson learnt so far in your career?
In my career as a whole, and this particular thing refers to my late twenties and early thirties, I think learning that unhappy jobs (or jobs that aren’t a fit for you) affect every aspect of your life. You have to take real ownership for change to happen, and sometimes everything feels crushing – but if you are feeling like an unhappy role or workplace is affecting you on a deeper level, and you’ve given all you can, then take your lessons, and move on. Find another role before you leave – let’s face it, all of us need to do this to pay the bills, but once you’ve found something else, take the leap. Life’s short.
Q8: What’s been the best thing that’s happened to you since you started your career?
Launching Gallery Raye has honestly been such a joy. I can’t wait to introduce it to more people, and to show them the kind of exceptional quality on offer – incredible works by brilliant artists, amazing framing, tailored service, and a genuine passion for our artists and offerings. To know that I’ve launched at this crazy stage of life with two young kids makes me even more determined to get it out there – a joyful, respected, trustworthy, and bespoke offering.
Q9: How are you fulfilling your creative passions this year?
My creative energy is all about Gallery Raye at the moment. Building and nurturing this new small business. So, time with my family, visits with friends, and Raye.
Q10: We’re all about women inspiring women. Who inspires you?
My mum, my step-mum, my sisters, family friends, and friends. Women like Catherine Hamlin, animal activist Lyn White, and soooo many brilliant female and non-binary artists. I could honestly chat for hours about this.
Q11: What advice would you impart on the next generation of women, and women in business?
Be you. Give something you’re passionate about a red-hot crack. Celebrate the achievements of others. Try lots of things if you’re not sure what you want to do. Be good to yourself and others.
Celebrate diversity in all walks of life. Have generosity of spirit, always. Have fun!