THERE’S only one rule to follow in order to exhibit work at Kula Gallery and boutique: everything must be handmade.

What you buy is jewellery with soul

Kula insists on skilful craftsmanship from jewellery makers, sculptors, ceramicists, illustrators and more; as long as it’s great quality and not mass produced, you’re in.

Kula Gallery is relatively new to the Northern Quarter, having opened three months ago on Oak Street following a stroke of luck (when the ideally located space suddenly became available). Further championing the NQ indie culture, Kula defiantly turns its back on throwaway consumer culture in favour of unique, thoughtfully-made creations.

Best of all, the ‘Made in Manchester’ stamp triumphs over ‘Made In China’ in this store, with the majority of exhibited wares designed and created by Manchester-makers.

Owners of KulaThe three Kula co-owners are all 'makers'

Kula co-owner, Polish-born Maja Piechocka, is also an accomplished ‘maker’, most specifically a jewellery and candle designer. This she takes great pride in, having paid dues studying at Manchester University, exhibiting at local galleries and selling at the nearby Manchester Craft Centre.

Her business partners and joint owners of Kula are makers too; Aleksandra Koziol is a make-up artist and Kula's social media guru, while Ilona Palarz-McDermott boasts a successful jewellery line under the name, Tillverkaren. Together they are three creatives (all who wear beautiful jewellery, naturally) with a genuine love for craft and locally-found innovation, which they hope customers will appreciate.

Each in-store volunteer is also an ‘artist in residence’, with five jewellery designers and one print maker currently working on their own creations while manning the shop floor.

KulaHandmande ring in Kula

“We were approached by someone who wanted to sell their jewellery in store. They claimed to have made it themselves, but we could tell right away that they were imported from somewhere overseas. They had completely missed the point,” says Ilona.

Inside Kula, you more than get the point. There are so many intriguing items throughout the store with a distinctive personality, story and skill. Find beautiful pottery from Northern Quarter ceramicist Wendy Jones and even handwoven satchels by Maja’s mother.

Prominent maker names such as jeweller Hazell Boydell and ceramicist Aleksandra Czapska also exhibit here. There’s also clocks, cool stationary, origami and a David Bowie notebook that we need to get our hands on. 

To further encourage creative innovation, on the ground floor is a studio for local makers to work and create (think Gepetto’s studio). The trio also plan on hosting workshops for jewellery-making in the near future.

So why is it so important for these designers to only sell handmade wares? Isn’t it more expensive to buy handmade designs?

“In Topshop you could spend £20 on a necklace. A lot of this jewellery is not that much more. Yet instead of finding so many women wearing the same thing, you’ll have something unique because no designer can make a piece completely identical than the last. What you buy is jewellery with soul.”

Kula is small but perfectly formedKula is small but perfectly formed

Agreed. And I like the soul of the place. It has more than enough to lure in a magpie like myself. It’s extremely well-curated. The jewellery specifically is a stand-out here; find metals moulded and twisted into beautiful yet unusual shapes wrapped around beguiling precious stones, all equally as distinctive as the last.

It’ll be interesting to see how well Kula fares amongst the independent coffee shops and bars. We've been long saturated with Americana, Scandi-coffee and quirky cocktails in the NQ for a while now, it's more than time for the Northern Quarter to introduce more retail operations with a similar indie feel.

“We’ve already seen profit in the first few months – which isn’t typical,” says Maja, “We’ve noticed that opening next door to Manchester Craft Centre has been beneficial for both places. They too have seen a rise in customers. We are still going to have an online store, you have to these days. Are we optimistic about the store doing well on the high street? Well, we have no other choice but to ride on optimism - that's the only way we could do this. "

Take a look inside Kula Gallery below:

Find Kula on 7 Oak Street, Northern Quarter.


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