Clothing with a touch of paint

Gallery and store is a challenge for young owners

Andrea Walker and Lana Selbee walked into their favourite Kensington clothing store as customers then walked out as owners.

Running a gallery or a store was not a lifelong dream yet one amazing door opened and future plans quickly changed.

Roommates Walker 25 and Selbee 24 frequented Eleven: Eleven soon after common-law team Jessica Redditt and Sal Awad opened the doors last November. In the New Year the girls overheard talk of final sales and two-week return policies and realized Redditt and Awad were closing shop. They decided that simply could not happen. The store offered a rare shopping experience says Selbee with so many amazing colours and materials from Redditt’s original clothing designs.

“We had a six-hour meeting upstairs over wine and cheese” says Walker. “It was just a beautiful talk.”

They sat on pillows on the floor beside a makeshift milk-crate table to discuss store plans and possibilities for the dishevelled upper floor rooms — something better than the temporary home of Redditt Awad and their two young children. It was hard for Selbee to see past the half-blue half-yellow patchwork paint old carpet and water-stained ceiling tiles but eventually somebody mentioned art.

“No way” is how Selbee recalls her father’s blunt response to a $50000-loan request. But with a little help from the bank Walker’s mother and sister Eleven: Eleven had proud new owners.

The gallery idea remained in the back of Walker and Selbee’s minds while they focused on Eleven: Eleven and tried to hold onto the loyal customers Redditt and Awad had acquired.

The store supports as many local designers as possible who make original jewelry women’s clothing bags belts toques and other accessories. Redditt’s unique bohemian-style clothes — made from saris and other materials purchased from family travels through India — fill the majority of the store’s racks and shelves. Her design sketches are posted on the wall opposite the cash register.

Before store ownership became a possibility for Walker she was headed towards a psychology degree at Mount Royal University assuming she’d become a social worker. Those plans have been put on hold for the sake of her business partnership but not completely forgotten.

She works part-time at Eleven: Eleven and is also a community support worker at Calgary Scope Society — a non-profit organization that helps Calgarians with disabilities or mental illnesses.

For Walker Eleven: Eleven’s alluring quality is its unique pairing with Resolution Gallery now located on the upper level rather than its ability to create riches. It’s a rare opportunity to combine fine arts and fashion. “I don’t think we ever went into it thinking we want to make tons of money” she says. “When it comes it comes.”

As the focus shifted more towards the gallery it meant intense physical labour for Walker Selbee and family members. They ripped up old carpet removed ceiling tiles sanded and stained hidden hardwood then painted the walls a crisp white.

The name Resolution comes from one year’s worth of life concluding and another beginning not just for Walker and Selbee but customers too.

“I felt really strongly that this is what I was meant to do” says Selbee. Her mother is an artist and had great influence on the family’s activities yet she and her sisters rebelled against art until high school.

“I didn’t realize being an artist meant seeing things differently” she says. “I thought it was just copying pictures.” A good friend at Okotoks’ Alberta High School of Fine Arts set her straight inspiring her to become an artist. And she did. Her paintings now hang in the gallery.

Katie Selbee 20 Lana’s youngest sister is the resident artist with a working studio beside Resolution. She helps out with administrative duties and says Lana half-jokingly janitorial duties as well. After all she has to pay for use of the space somehow.

Resolution Gallery helps emerging artists by taking lower sales commissions than larger galleries and donates a third of it to the Calgary Women’s Shelter.

“We want our art here to be affordable” says Selbee scoffing at the idea of homeowners buying prints instead of original pieces. She sees everyone benefiting from reasonably priced amazing artwork.

One thing Selbee didn’t foresee were the requests by older established artists to have their work displayed in the gallery. These artists no longer want to show in bigger galleries for various reasons and told Selbee they were excited to now have an alternative.

The Gallery’s first official art show reception was Sept. 12 featuring 14 local unrepresented artists — including Lana and Katie — abetting something Walker and Selbee remain committed to — helping their community.

“It’s just something you don’t typically see in retail” says Selbee proudly.