Friday, 27 August 2010

Birds Yard in detail - first floor

Following on from yesterday, it's time to look at the first floor of Bird's Yard, which houses three superb and diverse shopping experiences.

Butterfly Attic

Tiffany Harper is without a doubt the sweetest, kindest hearted person I've ever met. She's also a bit bonkers, and has more mannequins than you would think was imaginable. All the mannequins in the shop are Tiff's, and they are also available for sale in Butterfly Attic, which takes up most of the first floor of the shop. Whenever I go upstairs, I always walk through the shop, even though you're able to get to the third floor without walking through. You'd be foolish not to though, as you never know what you're going to find.

As well as mannequin heads, torsos, legs, arms, and any combination of those you might want, you'll also find vintage furniture, has been altered, primped, decorated, or just cleaned up a bit. Cabinets overflow with all manner of stuff, including wigs, signs, mirrors, hats... it's just a lovely place to have a browse around. Everyone who works for Tiff is friendly, helpful, and always has a smile for you. If you haven't loved Bird's Yard before you go upstairs, this shop will make you love it.

The Beating Arts

Three talented artists, working under one banner. Joy Gilleard, Gemma Gilleard and Belinda Schofield produce a bewildering array of artefacts. This photograph doesn't really do the shop justice.

Firstly, along with ReChord, is the one where the men are going to want to go. The male mannequin at the Leeds Loves Shopping launch was styled by BA, and the look they created was well received by everyone who has seen it: male fit screen printed t-shirts, hand etched leather cuffs, and trilbys. They also produce ladies fit t-shirts and tote bags, so they cover a wide ground.

As well as clothing, the shop has large prints and cards, and much for sale gives 5% to the Haiti fund. By far my favourite part of the shop is the designer vinyl cabinet. I have to be careful not to get too close in case I accidently buy it all.

Beating Arts also provide wall design, such as that seen at Eiger Studios and City Bloc, and all three artists have provided graphic design, store design and photography for other stores in the building. It's a pleasure to work in the same building as this much talent.

Kee Boutique

Gorgeous Keely is delicate and pretty, and her clothing reflects her personality. Kee Boutique declares itself all things vintage, and provides vintage clothing, lovingly restored or restyled, as well as new clothing with a vintage styling.

The shop also includes jewellery, shoes and accessories to complete your outfit perfectly.Most excitingly (for me anyway) you get to see Keely sewing in her little shop/studio. Watching someone working, and actually making the clothes for sale, is surely the essence of independent shopping: you know slave labour hasn't provided your clothing, and you're supporting local designers at the same time.

(Photos courtesy of James Abbot Donnelly - with thanks)

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Birds Yard in detail - top floor

I feel for the people on the top floor. Some people get so sidetracked on their way up the stairs, that they often miss the very top floor of our beautiful building.

This space (at the moment) is dressed for impact. Mannequins from Butterfly Attic, dressed by Bird Shell and Daisy Cutter. This area is an amazing one, and I personally can't wait for a shop to move in, lovely as the mannequins are.

Ruby Soho Boutique

At the top of the stairs, you're greeted by this pink vision. Ruby Soho incorporates Daisy Cutter bespoke fashion design, and Medusa Bijoux jewellery.

Daisy herself is a popular burlesque performer, and as you might imagine creates outstanding pieces using outrageous fabrics. Day of the Dead, tattoo prints, pin-up girls and even parachutes provide the basis, with Daisy's unique vision adding the style.

Sarah creates jewellery as Medusa Bijoux, and they combine so well with Daisy's clothing, it's a match made in heaven. It's a little haven of twisted cuteness, especially her newest collection, which features sugar skulls, Victoriana images and beautiful cameos.

The girls themselves are always happy to chat, and have a love for what they do which isn't often seen (well, not outside Bird's Yard anyway).

Factory 4 Pop-up Shop

Factory 4 Workshop in Sheepscar is a fully fitted workshop for screen printing, woodworking and jewellery making. Members can go along and exercise their creativity at very low prices.

The pop-up shop at Bird's Yard is absolutely crammed full of products. Ten artists from the workshop have their items in stock; Joe Duffield, Jon Simmons, Tim Green, Elizabeth Chadwick, Laura Wellington, Paul Smith, Sallyanne McCrory, Marie Louise Dorrill, Emily Farncomb.

As well as a vast array of original screen prints of varying styles, the prints are also available on t-shirts and tote bags. Other clothing, such as stamp covered trilbys, can also be found. Finally, original furniture by Emily Farncombe can be seen in the flesh, including the most amazing chaise longue on the ground floor of the shop.


Elliot has managed to fit an amazing amount of stock in his little shop, situated right at the back. It's worth finding for any muso, whether you prefer vinyl or CD.

Nina Simone sits happily alongside Peaches and Jimi Hendrix. Music related merchandise is also available, including properly vintage t-shirts (not the fake printed ones on the high street!) and record bags.

If you've got enough music, there are also music related books, some DVDs and even videos for those of us who still appreciate a VHS. Elliot is also a tattoo artist, and has some of his work displayed in the shop.

However, possibly the most special service provided is vinyl to CD transfer. A few places do this, but no one is as good value. £2 for an album transferred to CD? Show me somewhere else that cheap!

(Photos courtesy of James Abbot Donnelly - with thanks)

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Bird's Yard and the burgeoning indie scene in Leeds

Leeds has been needing a new shopping experience for a long time. After the Corn Exchange closed, doing a bit of mooching around looking at handmade and alternative items was always a bit of a treck. Yes, there's Joy in The Light, and Culture Vulture near Oxfam, and a few vintage shops remain around The Corn Exchange area - but there hasn't been a central location, an area like The Village in New York.

The Pannier Markets which started in April at Granary Wharf showcased the amazing amounts of talent in the city. From there, I found out about other workshop events - deserving mentions go to Fabrication for their craft workshops, and the talented Michelle Duxbury, who runs the website Craftsville and Dr Sketchy's anti-art classes.

So after not being able to find a decent craft supply shop in the real world, and meeting all the artisans at the market who couldn't afford their own shops, I was toying with the idea of opening a shop selling craft supplies and handmade items from locals. I mentioned it to a Business Link advisor, and he told me of someone called Michelle who was doing something similar in Leeds City Centre.

It doesn't seem 5 weeks ago that I met Michelle Walton, sweeping the floor in an empty shop in Kirkgate. Having previously owned Bird Shell (that amazing vintage dress shop in the arcade behind BHS) she has the business acumen and knowledge of her market. Amazingly driven, enthusiastic and hard-working, I had no doubt she'd come up with something truly unique. Of course, as she was offering space to rent, it would save me the headache of having to open a shop of my own, knowing, as I do, absolutely nothing about running a business.

Bird's Yard has now been open for three weeks, and I can't believe how quickly the time has flown! The shop is now open, with a vast array of artists and designs (who I'll be doing blog posts on individually - I thought Shell deserved her own post), and without Michelle, it wouldn't have happened. She had the vision, and she's made it happen. Not only has it taken over where The Corn Exchange left a gaping void, it's bringing new designers and artists to the fore, and giving them the attention they deserve.

Opinions and reviews have been good, and last week Bird's Yard provided the goody bags at the Leeds Loves Shopping launch, which have also been well received. After seeing the shop, Louise Atkinson was inspired to create Independent Leeds, an interactive map showing areas of Leeds not usually seen and devoid of big brands.

I'm not a massive part this huge, thriving independent scene, but I hope I can provide some WD40 to help grease the bigger cogs.

Bird's Yard
83 Kirkgate

Facebook - Bird's Yard
Open - every day except Monday

(photo copyright James Abbott Donnelly)