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The Rife Team

Co-LAB-orative: Bristol’s Local Art Scene Gets Business-Minded


Jacob Dyer headed to Bristol Co-LAB to find out how they’re harnessing Bristol’s independent spirit to push the local art scene to higher heights.

A few creative people have told me that making art is hard, but selling it is even harder. Bristol Co-LAB, a shop nestled in the busy Broadmead shopping quarter, recognises the struggle and helps sell the products of local artists. Simone Kidner, the owner, talked to me about the Co-LAB and the story behind it.

What is Co-LAB and why is it important?

Co-LAB is a large independent shop in the city centre supporting over 150 local artists. Co-LAB provides an opportunity for artists to sell their work in the public domain; we bring the essence of Bristol’s independent art scene to the foreground.


Why did you decide to open Co-LAB? 

Co-LAB started life as a simple art exhibition and grew through a number of pop-up spaces to our permanent location in Broadmead. From meeting lots of artists through setting up exhibition spaces, it became apparent that what artists really needed was a platform from which to sell their work.

What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered with bringing Co-LAB to life? 

It’s taken three years of hard work to grow Co-LAB through a range of different pop-up shops across Bristol. We’re really proud to have come from a pop-up background. However, the time and effort that goes into setting up shop after shop can be very tiring. We are now in a permanent location, which is the best thing that could of happened to us.


How did you decide the look of the store? 

I designed the shop’s aesthetic and Dicy, a local artist, painted the walls and display stands to represent Bristol’s vibrant art scene. We get different artists every quarter to design our front window; this artwork acts as an advert for the artists work. Wherever we can we try to provide opportunities for artists to get exposure.

What kinds of things do you sell? What’s your favourite thing in the store right now? 

We sell a range of locally-made products, from art prints to clothing, jewellery and other small gifts. Everything we sell in the shop is designed and produced by independent people from Bristol and the South West. It’s so hard to pick a favourite product when surrounded by such a vast but one of our newest artists Lina Lofstrand’s work has been really popular already with our customers. She’s a very talented illustrator with delicate designs that appeal to many people.


Does competition affect the way you run Co-LAB. if so how, how do you adapt? 

We don’t see our peers as competition. We would encourage more independent shops to move into the area. We recently designed and launched the Bristol Shopping Quarter Independent Shop Map, showcasing the other 100 independent shops in the area to raise awareness of the independents in the area making the city centre unique.

What’s surprised you the most during your time at Co-LAB? 

The best thing about running Co-LAB is the unbelievable range of talented individuals that are always getting in touch with us regarding their incredible designs. The artists we work with are remarkable and meeting the people behind the work is the best part of our job.

You can find the Co-LAB on Facebook, at their website and on Twitter

Do you have your own independent art shop? Want to contribute some good practise tips? Let us know @rifemag