Gift shops at art galleries are not like shops at all but are more like little galleries in themselves. This is certainly true of the exquisite gift shop at the National Gallery of Victoria - St Kilda Road. There, they have display cabinets showcasing artisan jewellery, sculpted ceramics and euro-design home wares.
Rather than just filling the shelves with random items, each piece at the NGV Shop is carefully chosen to fascinate with fibres, texture, colour and shape. I coveted the clever ceramics that looked to change the entire experience of drinking tea and admired the heavy macadamia-shell Husque bowls and Mud porcelains.
On my last visit to the gallery, I found that it took an entire hour just to peruse all the fine things in the store. There were postcards, themed journals, mugs, printed playing cards, badges, bookmarks, rulers, desk trinkets, memo holders, pencil sharpeners, decadent soaps and my favourite, the funny post it notes from knockknockstuff.
The jewellery was inventive where artists had worked in brilliant polymers and epoxy resin with hand-mixed pigments so that no two pieces were alike. Many of the necklaces, earrings and pins were locally designed by such artists as Vicki Mason. They were complimented with accessories by Elk and b.Sirius.
I always enjoy looking at the wall of NGV postcards. They come in 4x6 centimetre or 10x15 centimetre sizes and record highlights of the gallery's collection. You can pick up a 'Four horsemen if the Apocalypse', or Fredrick McCubbin's, 'The Pioneer' or any of the other 130 cards to decorate your own walls.
The children's section is a like a specialty store of it's own with educational offerings. It has optical tools, kaleidoscopes, stamp kits, puzzles and Lego's sleek looking architecture range before extending into a whole library worth of picture books. My favourite among those is the a series that the NGV produces itself. It teaches children counting, animals, shapes and the alphabet by using art examples from its own collection.
If you're anything like me and revel in Melbourne's literary side, one of the Gallery Shop's biggest draw cards is their extensive art library. Some sixty-five shelves are crammed with every title imaginable to do with, graphic design, sculpture, ancient and classical art, world art, jewellery, technical drawing, collections, photography, modern art, posters, fashion and more.
The NGV Shop is a lovely place to spend the afternoon. While I was there, I overhead one older lady speaking to her adult son and she said "Let's just have a look around 'cos there's always nice things in here'. I couldn't have put it better myself.