Colours May Vary, Unit 1A, Munro House, Duke Street, Leeds, LS9 8AG – Visit Now
A design and print shop in Leeds gives Manchester’s Magma a run for its money.
Being located in Manchester (the beating cultural heart of Britain, people) we’re not used to being bested. We like to think our city has it all. But every so often we come across a place that is, whisper it, slightly better than anything on our doorstep. Colours May Vary is a case in point. A design and bookshop located on the ground floor of an office block in Leeds and next door to a commercial gallery, it doesn’t look much. Step inside, however, and you’ll find a store stacked with contemporary design and photo books, magazines, artist-made and limited-edition goods, illustration, ceramics and homewares that say, very quietly, “Magma, eat your heart out”.
The shop opened in November last year and is run by Becky Palfrey and Leeds City College arts librarian, Andy Gray. They both hold History of Art degrees and have variously worked in record shops, interior and jewellery design, and it is this fairly wide-ranging background that explains a stock that jumps from embossed leather pencil cases by Present & Correct to prints by illustrator Eleni Kalorkoti, via vintage children’s books, one-off felt toys and the sorts of graphically-printed tea towels that make us want to do the washing up. Which is a novel feeling. “We both have a huge passion for the graphic arts, illustration and photography, as well as being magpies for the vintage and unusual, whether that’s stationery, ceramics or printed matter,” says Becky Palfrey. “We felt that Leeds just didn’t have this kind of shop, the kind of shop we love. We’ve been talking about it for about eight years.” After spending 12 years as a jewellery designer, Palfrey was offered redundancy, and it gave the couple the push they needed to stop talking and start doing.
We are magpies for the vintage & unusual, whether that’s stationery, ceramics or printed matter
Living and working together for most couples would be a shortcut to divorce but to Gray and Palfrey it appears to contribute to the ethos and atmosphere of the shop. “We both have to agree 100% on every item we stock,” says Palfrey. “We love books but we find a lot of bookshops so serious and unwelcoming. We wanted to create a space that was warm and made you want to stay and look around.” We can attest to the friendliness of the shop: the guy being served before us was mid-way through a very enjoyable conversation about vinyl when we started our lengthy browsing session (yes, we were listening); clearly, the time Gray spent working in record shops hasn’t been wasted.
The only downside to Colours May Vary is its out-of-centre location; it’s a ten minute or so hike from Leeds’ Corn Exchange. But even that is no big issue: the shop it sits inside Munro House, a building that is home to a gallery, the creative Duke Studios (where our friend, the Culture Vulture, lives) and is close to Leeds College of Music, Yorkshire Playhouse and the Northern Ballet. “We took a gamble but felt that the community that has been building in Munro House and the surrounding area would appreciate what we were doing,” says Palfrey. “Luckily this has turned out to be the case, and people are now making the walk across town – and even from surrounding cities.” That’ll be us, then, though we’re hoping that the imminent arrival of the shop’s website will save a few trips Leeds-bound.
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