Going shopping in the centre of Bristol can be a depressing experience with the usual high street shops in Cabot Circus and a load of empty units in Broadmead. But now shoppers have a very special place to visit – a space where they can find amazing items made by Bristol artists. This place is called Co-LAB and it can be found on Merchant Street, just off The Horsefair (opposite BHS).
Co-LAB (which is short for Co-operative Laboratory) was founded in 2012 by Simone Kidner and started life as a pop-up shop – subsequently settling in premises on Nelson Street. This year they moved to their more central location and have wasted no time in developing the Co-LAB project to fit the bigger space available.
Although Co-LAB was originally created as a street art outlet selling books, clothes and other items that reflect the street art culture of Bristol and beyond, they have expanded the range of items they sell to showcase a diverse mix of urban arts, illustration, gifts and accessories , and even baby clothes.
Music is important to Co-LAB and as well as stocking a great range of vinyl, they are involved in music projects such as Scribble ‘N’ Scratch (a monthly battle illustration and turntablism event in Bristol).
So, as you walk around Co-LAB you see some great products by local artists and designers and hear great music, but that is not all!
Move towards the changing rooms’ area at the back of the shop and you find Artists Corner – a great space that is decorated by a different local artist every month. Walk around past the till and you reach an area that is rented out to pop-up shops (on my most recent visit there was a great little vintage pop-up shop in the space). Walk a little further and you reach the PAPER Gallery. This light and airy space is rented out to artists for exhibitions.
Not content with just providing artists with a space to show and sell their work, Simone and her colleagues also run a Community Interest Company called PAPER. PAPER stands for Professional Advice, Practical Education and Recognition. This organisation has space above the Co-LAB shop which has been developed into artists’ studios and a workshop/training room. PAPER also provides artists with low cost printing services from their PAPER Art Printing facility.
Co-LAB and PAPER make an important contribution to the creative landscape of Bristol by offering training sessions to promote entrepreneurialism within the arts and a space to make, exhibit and sell work. To find out more about these projects visit their websites: http://www.bristolcolab.com and http://www.paperarts.org.uk and make a trip to town! If you are interested in selling your work at Co-LAB, contact assistant manager Sophie Bass for more information at email@example.com.