Kaya Gallery has been selling artwork on the historic Southside Street for almost 14 years, but it wasn’t until 2017 when the Warne family decided to take it over from its previous owner. Prior to the ownership of Kaya Gallery, Chris had an interesting few years leading up to this which taught him a thing or two about the importance of life.
After leaving school with a total of one qualification, Chris went to work at the dockyard when he was just 15 years old. At the time, Robert Lenkiewicz was at the height of his career and would always leave his studio door open for aspiring artists to pop in, watch him paint and speak to him. Chris enjoyed spending time in Lenkiewicz’s studio, sharing conversations about other painters and beliefs they both shared an alikeness with. Lenkiewicz was a larger-than-life individual who liked to keep life interesting. When the artist was short of some change to pay off the bills, he would be seen painting quick portraits for £3-£5 on the street where his mural currently stands.
At the enthusiastic age of 23, Chris set up his own copier and fax company supplying photo copiers, fax machines and office equipment which he named ‘The Copier and Fax Co.’ He was able to help supply Lenkiewicz with printers and equipment that he needed for his artwork. The company grew considerably through acquisitions between 1994-’96 where they retained 6 offices across the SouthWest.
Wanting to grow the business, Chris became a serious businessman and a workaholic.
A pivotal point in his life was the birth of their daughter Beth. The precious new life meant more to Chris than anything in the world and within that moment, he realised that being a father was all he wanted to focus on. He took 13 weeks out of his business to help raise Beth and try to provide his family with all they could wish for. So, he entrusted his business to the other directors.
Chris decided that for the 13 weeks, that he was happier being ‘The Family Man’ than a businessman, so offered The Copier and Fax Co. to the other directors who then took up the challenge of running and owning the successful company. So that was it, Chris was now a full-time Dad.
When Beth was 6 years old, Chris decided that he needed to be more secure and became a director of the West Alarms business which Chris and Steve built to another successful business, servicing alarms all over the country. After some time, Steve wanted to go it alone and bought Chris’ shares.
With the successful blueprint of parenting Beth, Chris decided to take another three years off work to nurture their youngest son, Aiden when he was born.
With his diminishing finances on his mind whilst Chris was full-time parenting, after the three years had passed, he decided that it was time to buy The Copier and Fax Co. back. However, it was not to be and he finally had to move onto something else, a new challenge.
Chris has always offered a helping hand, especially with the young people in the community. He volunteered at Nor Pro Training Trust to help young people get into apprenticeships and eventually became the managing director. He believes very strongly that apprenticeships are becoming too difficult to get into and are constantly moving away from their primary objective which was to help young people get into a career who may not have been smart enough for alternative higher education.
Exhausted with the system, Chris took his case to parliament whereby he tried to persuade his thoughts on apprenticeships however, as much as they would have liked to, the board couldn’t help him change the system.
Still keen to help out the young people in the community, Chris had recently spoken to a young man who helped fix his car in the past and he was struggling to get onto an apprenticeship due to his dyslexia. With Chris’ respectable position as managing director of Nor Pro Training Trust, he convinced the exam board to help the young man get the grades he needed by hiring a writer to transcribe for him.
He was working for Nor Pro Training Trust for 6 years until he swapped his job to help look after the Kaya Gallery with the previous owner.
Kaya Gallery is currently manned by Diane and Beth who love the gallery.
You will always notice Chris either in the gallery chatting about Robert Lenkiewicz or any of the artists’ work on display, speaking to the customers with a warm welcome, or finding out what the local bakeries and cafes have to offer.
The amazing work that Chris and the Kaya Gallery team do for the community doesn’t stop there. They sponsor 22 small, local football teams for Drake Football Club, one of which, Aiden plays for. This makes us the official sponsor for Drake Youth Football Club They also sponsor the local boxing scene, Devonport Amateur Boxing Club who Beth fights for and has the kaya gallery logo printed on her boxing dressing gown. They also sponsor a local darts player, and help out with local schools, often getting Brian Pollard, a well-known local artist, to come in and talk about his art to the children.
After spending so much quality time with his children, Chris has built a tight bond with Beth and Aiden that he is so proud of. He has been able to watch Beth win two British Championships in boxing and cheer on Aiden as he won the Plymouth Grand Prix in go-karting, after only going three times before.
The galleries moto is ‘Family first, business a very close second so after his family, comes his love for art. Chris has always enjoyed collecting art and enjoys looking at paintings from L S Lowry, Brian Pollard, Rembrandt and of course, Lenkiewicz. He doesn’t have a particular style that he likes the most which is why he has grown his gallery into ‘The People’s Gallery’. A gallery for everyone. There really is something for everyone with a range of different artists styles, prices and sizes. They exhibit all types of art from oil paintings and surrealist photography to glasswork and illustrations of Plymouth.
They have recently been awarded the hashtag #thepeoplesgallery due to their vast range of artwork available for everyone to purchase.
Often when you enter art galleries, they can feel very exclusive and unfriendly, but with Chris and his families cheerful and warm welcome and the affordable range of artwork on the walls, the stigma is soon left at the door.
Kaya has a great range of budget friendly artwork from a Brian Pollard key ring for £3.50 up to the most expensive piece selling for £54,000 painted by Robert Lenkiewicz himself. The single most popular piece they sell is The Beatles poster which can be framed and glazed for just £65. The two most popular artists work sold at the gallery is Brian Pollard and Robert Lenkiewicz, all with varying prices. They exhibit a lot of local artists currently and will accept more depending on if Diane and Chris like the artwork and if they think it will sell. They would love to exhibit all local artists, but they just don’t have the space available at this time but it is always worth asking!
The gallery is popular with tourists seeking out artwork of the local area as well as locals popping in for a chat with the friendly Warne family and spotting a deal to be done. They are also dog friendly and have made the gallery floor wheelchair and walking frame friendly. Everyone is welcome.
Back in July 2021, they had a Brian Pollard solo exhibition where they kitted out the gallery with the famous work of Brian Pollard for visitors to purchase. It was an amazing exhibition with Brian Pollard also coming in to pick out the lucky winner of his original painting!
You are able to order artwork from their Facebook shop which can be found in the details below. On the Facebook shop, you can browse the artwork and then give them a message or a call to reserve or order the piece. The artwork can either be delivered to your address or you can pick it up in the gallery for no extra cost.
Although Chris thoroughly enjoys looking at the art and watching artwork being sold to happy customers, his favourite part about being in the Kaya Gallery is the people. He is able to connect with hundreds of people every day and listen to their stories which makes him feel a part of something special. Situated on the bustling Southside Street on the Barbican, they are never short of that uplifting energy brought by the people.
In these interviews, we always ask where they’d like to see themselves and the business in 5 years’ time to which Chris replied, ‘I’ll still be here, I love it here!’
They are looking to possibly expand the building behind the gallery and making it a dedicated space for photography however, the building is grade 1 listed and it requires some TLC to restore it into a functional gallery space. Other than that, they are so happy with how it is now, and all they ask of their amazing customers is to keep coming in and supporting our business, even if just for a chat. Chris also says that he is always available should you want to go for some coffee, cake and a chat! (Chris’ favourite hobby.)
Chris’ noticeable family bond and his passion for the community has meant he has become a friendly and familiar face in Plymouth. The family owned gallery is renowned to be one of the best and most varied stockists of art in Plymouth which is how the Warne family would like for it to continue years down the line.
53 Southside Street
Plymouth, PL1 2LB